(director: Louis Wolheim; screenwriters: Hugh Herbert/story by Keene Thompson & Agnes Brand Leahy; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: George Marsh/Ann McKnight; music: Max Steiner; cast: Louis Wolheim(Captain Sam McVeigh), Mary Astor (Frisco Kitty), Ian Keith (Marsden), Hugh Herbert (Charlie), Russ Powell (Tourist, detective), Alan Roscoe (Dave), Bert Stanley (Cook); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Le Baron; RKO; 1931)

A contrived melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Renown character actor Louis Wolheim directs his only film. It also is his last film, as the 50-year-old died of a heart attack, two months after the film was released, going on a crash diet for a role in the movie The Front Page. The Sin Ship is a contrived melodrama weakly directed by Wolheim. It’s based on a story by Keene Thompson & Agnes Brand Leahy, and is written by Hugh Herbert.Captain Sam McVeigh (Louis Wolheim) is a roughneck, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing skipper of a small cargo ship docked in San Francisco. He’s obsessed with a beautiful woman standing on the pier, but is told by his first-mate Charlie (Hugh Herbert) that she’s out of his league. She’s traveling with a man posing as a minister, Smiley Marsden (Ian Keith). In need of transportation to escape from a Seattle bank heist, the poser gets the lovesick captain to give him and his traveling companion Frisco Kitty (Mary Astor) a free ride to a Mexico stopover. The fugitive couple use aliases, posing as a married couple. When she’s alone on the ship’s deck the captain lures her into his cabin and tries to assault her, but she rebuffs him and verbally dresses him down. In Mexico, convinced he made a terrible mistake with a fine woman of character, the captain writes her a dopey letter of apology and sends her roses. Impressed by Kitty’s words that he should reform, he cleans up his act and puts her on a high pedestal. When he discovers the truth, the captain is angered the two criminals used him and took him for a fool. In an unmerited happy ending, things get worked out as the captain gets rewarded for turning over a new leaf and the chief villain Smiley gets his comeuppance.