Cast & Crew
While docked in San Francisco, Captain Sam McVeigh, the tough-talking, hard-drinking skipper of a small cargo ship, sees a beautiful woman standing on the pier and immediately falls in love with her. Later, the woman and Marsden, the man with whom she is traveling, approach McVeigh and ask him for passage on his boat. Unaware that Marsden is not the minister he claims to be, but a fugitive bank robber, and that the woman is not the refined Mrs. Marsden, but Marsden's moll, "Frisco" Kitty, McVeigh agrees to transport the couple. While sailing to Mexico, a drunken McVeigh invites Kitty to his cabin and tries to force himself on her. To his surprise, Kitty thwarts his desires by telling him that his lechery and drunkenness are beneath his station as a captain and that he should clean up his "mind, body and soul." Upon arriving in Mexico, McVeigh, impressed by Kitty's words, stops drinking and tidies his ship, then sends flowers and a grateful farewell note to Kitty. Worried that the authorities will be suspicious of McVeigh's sudden departure, Marsden orders Kitty to flirt with the captain and stall his leaving. Although reluctant to hurt McVeigh, Kitty continues her kindly impersonation of a reverend's wife, while Marsden sabotages McVeigh's engine to assure his delay. That night, Kitty slips away from a drunken Marsden to keep an on-board dinner date with her lovesick captain. After she leaves McVeigh, his crewmen accuse him of the sabotage and threaten to harm Kitty. McVeigh rushes to warn Kitty at her hotel and is confronted by Marsden, who angrily reveals his and Kitty's true identities. Crushed, McVeigh rails against Kitty and knocks out Marsden just as an undercover police detective bursts into the room to arrest Marsden. While Kitty is being held in the hotel, McVeigh sneaks back to her room and accepts her apology and her declaration of love. After Kitty and McVeigh vow to wait for each other, the detective shoots down an escaping Marsden and grants Kitty her release.
William Le Baron
Agnes Brand Leahy
Hugh Mcdowell Jr.
The Sin Ship
Wolheim cast himself in The Sin Ship as Captain Sam McVeigh, a crusty old seadog with a "love 'em and leave 'em" attitude who reforms when he meets Frisco Kitty (Mary Astor). Kitty and her husband, Reverend Marsden (Ian Keith) need passage to the country of El Salvador and McVeigh agrees to take them there. While on the boat, McVeigh attempts to rape Kitty, but she shames him with religion and he vows to be a better man. However, Kitty and the Reverend aren't what they appear to be. Also in the cast were Russ Powell, Alan Roscoe, and Hugh Herbert - who also adapted the screenplay from a story by Keene Thompson and Agnes Brand Leahy.
The film began production under the working title Sheep's Clothing , on September 8, 1930 at the RKO studios in Hollywood, with location shooting done at Catalina Island harbor, 26 miles off the coast of Southern California. Because sound films were still relatively new, the equipment was highly sensitive, so RKO hired six high-speed boats at the rate of $500 per hour to patrol Catalina harbor to keep other boats and onlookers from making too much noise.
The Sin Ship received tepid reviews, with The Motion Picture Review calling it, "An intense melodrama which is rather serious and heavy entertainment, telling a story of reformation. It is sordid in characters and detail, making it unsuitable for children." Reportedly unhappy with The Sin Ship , Louis Wolheim had no future plans to direct. Instead, he was to return to acting, and was chosen by Lewis Milestone (who directed All Quiet on the Western Front ) to play the lead role of Walter Burns in The Front Page (1931). Before that film went into production and only two months before the release of The Sin Ship , Louis Wolheim died suddenly from stomach cancer on February 18, 1931, at the age of 50.
By Lorraine LoBianco
McCaffrey, Donald W. and Jacobs, Christopher Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema
The Motion Picture Reviews "The Women's University Club, Los Angeles" 1930
The Sin Ship
The working title of this film was Sheep's Clothing. Louis Wolheim, who died in February 1931, before the film's opening, made his directorial debut in this production. RKO borrowed Wolheim from the Caddo Company. A Film Daily news item noted that scenes for the film were shot at the Santa Catalina Island harbor, and RKO rented six high-speed boats at $500 per hour to patrol the harbor and prevent excessive noise during shooting, according to a Film Daily news item.