Torch Singer (1933)

Genres - Musical  |   Run Time - 70 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Torch Singer is a not-so-hot "women's picture" (as they were called in the 1930s) that's notable for Claudette Colbert's surprising performance and for its pre-Code acceptance of the fact of unwed motherhood. Suffering mother pictures are by nature soapy, and Torch is a awash in suds almost from beginning to end. At times, the plot gets positively ridiculous, and there is little artistry to be found in the screenplay. However, as a pre-Code film, the script is straightforward about the fact that Colbert's character has a child out of wedlock; it also presents her resentment toward men and her cynical feelings about them in an equally straightforward manner. Alexander Hall and George Somnes direct in the time honored fashion for this genre, playing for emotion and never letting common sense get in the way. Fortunately, Colbert is on hand to deliver a sterling performance that is quite different from the more refined parts with which she is more commonly identified. She gives it her all, and that's saying a good deal. If she occasionally comes across as a bit self-conscious in places, she still makes it work, and much more. She also does her own singing, revealing an unusual but pleasing voice, odd in the contrast between upper and lower register, but winning nonetheless. More important than the quality of her singing voice is the dramatic power she brings to her songs, which is considerable.