Marlene Dietrich stars as a super-sexy traveling cabaret singer named “Bijou Blanche” in this 1940 romantic-adventure classic. At the opening of the film, we see the after effects of Bijou’s steamy, stimulating performance at a bar in Shanghai, a huge brawl erupts and Bijou has to take off for her next stop. Bijou travels with two companions: Little Ned Finnegan (Broderick Crawford) and a magician named Rubio (Antonio Moreno).
Bijou meets a tall handsome naval officer named Lt. Dan Brent (John Wayne). It is apparent from their first meeting in which Brent picks Bijou up to help her off a boat, that there’s a undeniable attraction between them. Dietrich slinks around and flirts with every man that comes near her. Her natural magnetism seeps right off the screen and you can’t take your eyes off her.
Bijou has ties to a gangster named Antro (Oscar Homolka) whom she encounters at the bar she will be performing at, the bar’s name is: Seven Sinners. Antro is an imposing figure and you can tell that he isn’t the kind of guy people mess with. The actor who played Antro reminded me alot of Bela Lugosi, in fact before I checked out the credits, I thought it was Lugosi! Bijou uses her charms to get Antro off her back for awhile at least. Meanwhile Lt. Brent has fallen for Bijou pretty hard and they begin a love affair but it’s soon interrupted when other naval officers who have talked to Bijou begin bringing her flowers.
One of the highlights of this film for me was hearing Dietrich sing songs like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love Baby”. She has a very deep, sultry voice that immediately reminded me of two other films I love: Howard Hawks’ 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby and Mel Brooks’ western comedy masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974). In Bringing Up Baby, the song is sung to the tiger aka “Baby” and Madeline Kahn’s character in Blazing Saddles was obviously inspired by Dietrich, especially her singing voice.
Seven Sinners is an entertaining little gem from John Wayne’s early career. I liked it very much because it had a really nice mix of comedy, action, drama and romance going on. An interesting thing I noticed about this film was that although it is part of the John Wayne American Icon Collection, Marlene Dietrich is the true star. For fans of early 20th century Hollywood cinema this should be a very enjoyable experience.