Jannings stars as a German waiter working in an American restaurant to support himself and Pitts, his pregnant wife. When the news comes that she has given birth, Jannings becomes so excited he spills gravy on a patron's dress. Surviving this mishap, Jannings becomes the owner of the
restaurant some years later. He falls in love with adventuress Chatterton, a romance which devastates Pitts and leads to her death. Time passes and Prohibition cramps America's nightlife. To fatten his pocketbook, Jannings gets involved in bootlegging, selling poisonous mash to the unsuspecting.
He lives life to the hilt, enjoying all the luxuries money can buy and spending his money on Chatterton, who has agreed to marry him. Tragedy strikes when his son, Norton (who is now of drinking age), gets drunk on his father's brew and is blinded. Janning's problems worsen when he is arrested,
prompting Chatterton to run off with another fellow. After serving a short prison term, Jannings is released. He takes a job as a waiter in a beer garden where he runs into his son, who has since regained his sight. The upbeat ending has the two coming together for a cheerful reunion. Jannings, as
usual, is superb in a taxing role which stretches over a 25-year span, through sorrow and supreme happiness. Unfortunately, SINS OF THE FATHERS suffers from mediocre scripting and direction. Having worked with such greats as von Sternberg, Lubitsch, and Fleming in 1927 and 1928, Jannings did not
benefit from directorial genius in Ludwig Berger. Though a competent director, Berger was far more concerned with film's musical aspects, thereby accounting for the fact that SINS OF THE FATHERS contains an adroitly directed singing sequence (the only synchronized sequence--talking or
otherwise--in the film) of Jannings delivering an aria from "Der Trompeter Von Saeckingham." The film did mark Chatterton's first film appearance, launching her on a short but memorable career which ended only 10 years later. After appearing for a number of years on stage, the 34-year-old actress
was spotted by Jannings during a staging of "The Devil's Plum Tree." He immediately recognized her appeal and insisted that she star opposite him. The following two years had Chatterton receiving Oscar nominations for her roles in MADAME X and SARAH AND SON.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Jannings stars as a German waiter working in an American restaurant to support himself and Pitts, his pregnant wife. When the news comes that she has given birth, Jannings becomes so excited he spills gravy on a patron's dress. Surviving this mishap, Janni… (more)