Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

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  • Synthetic Sin (1929) - Plot Summary - Silent romantic-comedy starring Colleen Moore as an innocent wannabe actress who tries to fake being wicked to prove her worth in a role! Handsome Donald Anthony (Antonio Moreno) returns to his small hometown after a number of years, now a successful playwright. A local middle-aged mother dreams of having him in her house that evening (while her eldest grown-up daughter dreams of "a house and lot" with him). He does, in fact, come to their house for dinner that night and is encountered by younger sister Betty (Moore), who has visions of being on the stage and INSISTS on showing off her "routines" to him. She dances a shimmy and performs celebrity imitations that are quite well done (but embarrassing to mom and big sis). He is totally captivated with her! Both intrigued and amused by her charms, he casts her in the lead role in his new play "Wicked Woman". But soon enough begins to feel that she's just too innocent for the part and needs to be replaced - ouch. Betty declares she will prove him wrong and heads to NYC to prove she can sin! An actress from the play gives her the name of the seedy joint where she lives in the big, mean city, and Betty heads right on into the "Tiger Lily", a hotel where nothing but gangsters, gunmen, and "loose" women seem to dwell. Given the only room in the place with a piano, she's soon giving open invitation to a whole pack of partying gangsters and their dames who want to "rastle" (she's totally open to it 'cause she's "never seen a wrestling match"). They dance wildly, drink even more wildly, and tell dirty jokes - and Betty pretends she's seen it all before (she quickly hides her shock at one dirty joke by telling them "Oh, I first heard that one from my grandmother"). Back home, Donald Anthony finds out where she has gone and decides to head to NYC and rescue her - before she ends up in "real" trouble.

    Review - This is a fun romp, brightened up by the spunky, charming antics of Colleen Moore - just about as cute a black-bobbed flapper as one can get. Actor Antonio Moreno is given a lot less to do here than he ought to have been. I think the filmmakers could have tightened up the numerous scenes where Moore's character is attempting to become a sinner, and added in more romantic scenes with Moreno's character (which there is really not much of at all). Oh well, as a whole this film features a zippy, quite entertaining plotline -- and the print that was screened of this looked fabulous. To note: I was looking up this film in a news archive to try to confirm my memory of the name of the place she gets rooms at in the city (I did remember correctly!) and I found this newspaper snippet from the movie's original release (written by a female reporter) that makes this catty comment: "Miss Moore is getting a little corded in the neck and a bit saggy in the chin to look her giddy flapper roles. She still acts a young part convincingly but she had better look to her chin straps or have her producers scratch up another type of story for her." Wow, what a strange comment - I think she looked great, and she was still just under thirty when she made this (chin straps, indeed). I saw this film screened at the Cinecon 51 Classic Film Festival 2015, in Hollywood. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

    Director: William A. Seiter
    Film Genre: Romantic Comedy
    Film Runtime: 72 minutes

Links / Resources

film review Colleen Moore in Synthetic Sin


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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