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A conservative young schoolteacher decides she's wasting her youth, and splurges on some stylish clothes and goes out to hit the town. To avoid the unwanted advances of a gangster, she steals his car unaware that the corpse of a murdered gangster is in the back seat along with some evidence that would incriminate his boss. She encounters a wealthy young man hitchhiking who helps her avoid both the cops and gangsters who are pursuing her. This strange little screwball comedy packs a ton of plot and characters into a mere hour. It's based on a story by Dalton Trumbo.
A schoolteacher takes a walk on the wild side and ends up stealing a car with a dead body inside it. Luckily, she picks up a man who can save her along the way. Outdated thriller heavily marked by romantic comedy. The screenplay is obvious and outdated, the production values are pretty low. Heather Angel is charming as the naïve schoolteacher.
So this was back in the time when gangsters were national icons and robbery, grand theft auto and murder were just what rich people did on the weekend?
When Anne (Angel) comes to fear fear that she is growing old without ever having experienced any excitement, she decides to throw caution to the wind, buys a new outfit, and heads out for a day on the town during which she intends to enjoy herself and live life to its fullest. By the time her wild day is over, she's being chased by gangsters, a frustrated highway patrolman (Elliot), and has struck up a friendship with a rogueish stranger (King)... all while driving a stolen car with a dead body and incriminating evidence that everyone's looking for in the back seat.
"Half a Sinner" is a breezy comedy/thriller with romantic overtones that's more lighthearted than thrilling, despite the deadly gangsters and the corpse in the backseat. The beautiful Heather Angel, who excelled at playing adventuresome women, shines more brightly here than ever before... and in a couple of scenes almost too much so. In some scenes, Angel almost seems to be ovveracting.
However, it's not Angel that's the problem--she's as good in this film as any others I've seen her in, particularly since she's got a well-crafted script and excellent dialog to work with. No, the problem is the fact that her co-star King didn't have the screen presense to hold his own against her. King is certainly handsome, but his acting skills and personal charisma are miserably pale when set side-by-by side with Angel, who really needs to co-star with someone of the calibre of John Howard or Ray Milland (bothof whom she appeared with in the "Bulldog Drummond" series).
Still, the script is fast-paced enough and well-written enough that the weak point that is King's acting abilities is more than made up for. The appearance of the overbearing Madame Beckenridge (Collier) late in the picture also helps, as we finally get to see Angel playing off against someone with more screen presence.
If you enjoy well-done, classic comedies, I think you'll enjoy "Half a Sinner". It's one of the best romps where the girl stays in the front seat of the car ever put on film.
Half a Sinner
Starring: Heather Angel, John King, Constance Collier, and Robert Elliot
Director: Al Christie