Virtuous Sin, The (1930): Cukor’s Second Film, Melodrama Starring Kay Francis and Walter Huston

the_virtuous_sin_posterStill a novice, George Cukor co-directed The Virtuous Sin with Louis Gasnier. When released, the Pre-Code film was appropriately described by the trade magazine Variety as an “average program flicker.”






The screenplay by Martin Brown and Louise Long is based on the play “The General,” by Lajos Zilahy, and the theatrical origins remained all too apparent when the movie was made


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Kay Francis, a major star of the early sound era, plays Marya, the dutiful wife of medical student Victor Sablin, who finds it impossible to deal with military life when he is inducted into the Russian army in WWI. When her husband is sentenced to death by firing squad, due to insubordination, Marya offers herself to General Gregori Platoff (Walter Huston) in order to save him.

The two fall in love, Victor, now that his life has been spared, threatens to kill his rival, but he changes his mind when Marya confesses that she has never been in love with her husband.

Weak on theme, the film stands on the eloquent portrayal of Francis, who especially  excels in the climactic scene, when she meets the general.

virtuous_sin_2However, the film’s weaknesses were blamed on Cukor and Gasnier.  “The directing duo,” Variety complained, “have lingered over scenes which were not constructed to stand the amount of footage allowed. There was no excuse for the picture to run for 80 minutes, when 70 would have been plenty.”

Mordaunt Hall of the N.Y. Times described the film “a clever comedy with a splendid performance by Walter Huston” and added, “There is a constant fund of interest in this picture’s action. It is one of those rare offerings in which youth takes a back seat.

the_virtuous_sin_1Cukor himself thought that “It wasn’t much good. I’d be in great shock if film restorationists and historians rescued this one, but I remember that I enjoyed working with Kay Francis and Walter Huston.”

Cukor would work with Kay Francis once more, and in a better movie, in which he would be solo director, the 1931 Girls About Town.

He knew that he was given the opprtunity to co-direct due to his theatrical background, which was suitable for a film that was dialogue driven. In this respect, the Virtuous Sin was a step in the right direction, having begun his career several months earlier as a dialogue coach on All Quiet on the Western Front.


A German-language versionof the story, titled “The Night of Decision,” was shot at Paramount’s Joinville Studios in Paris.


Walter Huston as Gen. Gregori Platoff

Kay Francis as Marya Sablin

Kenneth MacKenna as Victor Sablin


Music by Sam Coslow and Ralph Rainger
Cinematography: David Abel
Edited by Otho Lovering
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date: October 24, 1930
Running time: 80 minutes