The Great Sinner
Based in the gambling resort town of Wiesbaden, Germany, The Great Sinner is a 1949 romantic drama that follows the memoires of a talented writer, Fedja, and his interest in the world of gambling and addictions.
The Great Sinner opened in June 1949 in New York and followed a popular theme that warned viewers of the dangers of gambling irresponsibly. The 110 minute film goes back in time, to the 1860’s where Fedja first meets a general’s daughter by the name of Pauline Ostrovsky.
The tale then unfolds after Fedja learns the extent of both Pauline and General Ostrovsky’s gambling addictions.
Cast & Crew
German film director Robert Siodmak directed The Great Sinner and is best known for his 1940’s American films noir contributions, including the thrilling drama, The Killers. It was produced by Gottfried Reinhardt, the original story was written by Ladislas Fodor and the screenwriters were both Fodor and Christopher Isherwood.
The film also features an appealing cast that consists of the popular Hollywood star, Ava Gardner, who plays the lead role of Pauline Ostrovsky and Gregory Peck as the male lead role of Fedja.
Others include actors such as Melvyn Douglas who plays the role of the villainous casino manager, Armand de Glasse, Walter Huston playing the General and Ethel Barrymore, who plays the General’s mother.
The Great Sinner Plot Overview
The Great Sinner begins with Pauline Ostrovsky watching over a talented writer, Fedja, while reading the latest of his manuscripts. In doing so, Pauline is reminded of their history together, and the very first time they met.
The two found themselves travelling on the same Moscow-to-Paris train, where a connection sparked. Pauline invites Fedja to follow her when the train stops in Wiesbaden, and the two go into a gambling casino.
Fedja soon discovers that, much like General Ostrovsky, her father, Pauline suffers from a gambling addiction. In fact, the two are so addicted that the news of the General’s wealthy mother dying came as a cause for celebration, and of course, more gambling.
Albeit repulsed by gambling, Fedja decides to conduct a character study on gamblers and addicts, and chooses to stay in Wiesbaden. One of these characters included that of Aristide Pitard (played by Frank Morgan), who Fedja befriends before getting his bet stolen and lost by him. Fedja still takes pity and lends Aristide money to leave Wiesbaden, however the addict decides to spend it on gambling anyway. After losing for the last time, Aristide shoots himself and gives Fedja a final request to return a religious medal that he stole from a young woman.
It is then discovered the medal belonged to Pauline, and the two begin to fall madly in love with each other. The General, however, has arranged for Pauline to marry the casino manager, Armand de Glasse, in order to pay off his immense gambling debt. Out of both love and desperation, Fedja decides to have a try at the roulette table in order to repay the General’s debt himself. Before you know it, a nasty world of debt, danger and gambling surrounds him.
The original working title for The Great Sinner was The Gamblers, based on the novel by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, The Gambler. Indirectly referred to in the film’s prologue, the writer is said to have inspired the story as “a gambler himself, who played for his life and won immortality.”, though he was not actually mentioned in the onscreen credits.