Assignment—Paris (1952)

vt Assignment: Paris; vt European Edition
US, France, Italy / 84 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Robert Parrish (plus an uncredited Phil Karlson) Pr: Samuel Marx, Jerry Bresler Scr: William Bowers Story: Trial by Terror (1952 Saturday Evening Post) by Pauline and Paul Gallico, adapted by Walter Goetz, Jack Palmer White Cine: Burnett Guffey, Ray Cory Cast: Dana Andrews, Marta Toren (i.e., Märta Torén), George Sanders, Audrey Totter, Sandro Giglio, Donald Randolph, Herbert Berghof, Ben Astar, Willis Bouchey, Earl Lee, Joseph Forte, Pál Jávor, William Woodson.

Although based on a Gallico serial, this Cold War outing becomes a surprisingly tough piece that’s full of noir sensibilities and has a cast to match. It’s set in Paris and Budapest, with filming being done on location in both cities; what the Hungarians thought about the finished product is anyone’s guess.

We open at the New York Herald Tribune’s Paris HQ, where, according to the narrator (Woodson),

“Into the offices early last year came a phone call that made one of the most shocking headlines of the day. This is the story of the man who tried to break through an iron wall of censorship to get the facts behind that headline . . .”

The man in question is hotshot young reporter Jimmy Race (Andrews). The phone call was from the Trib’s man in Budapest, Barker (Forte), and concerned the sentencing there of an American, Robert Anderson, to twenty years’ hard labor for espionage.

Meanwhile the Trib’s Paris editor, Nick Strang (Sanders), has ordered the paper’s other reporter in Budapest, Jeanne Moray (Torén), back to base despite the fact that she’s been hot on the trail of a story that would Continue reading

Laura (1962 TVM)

West Germany / 110 minutes / bw / Bayerischer Rundfunks, Riva Studios Dir & Scr: Franz Josef Wild Pr: Werner Preuss Story: Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary Cine: Günter Kropf Cast: Hildegard Knef, Adolf Wohlbrück (i.e., Anton Walbrook), Hellmut Lange, John van Dreelen, Hillie Wildenhain, Wolf Schmidtholstein, Nora Minor, K.G. Gensichen, Thomas Alder.

A while ago I wrote here about another adaptation of Caspary’s novel, A Portrait of Murder (TVM 1955) dir John Brahm, with Dana Wynter, George Sanders and Robert Stack, and, glancing at that entry just now, I couldn’t help but feel that its opening paragraph, minus a few words, is exactly apposite here:

. . . this is not so much a remake of Otto Preminger’s classic LAURA (1944), which featured Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and Dorothy Adams, as a re-adaptation of Caspary’s novel for the screen. There’s a visible (and visual) awareness of Preminger’s version, but really this is its own entity. Much of the Continue reading

Farewell, My Love (2000 TVM/DTV)

US / 90 minutes / color / Frontline, Montage, World International Dir & Scr: Randall Fontana Pr: Deverin Karol, Eric Weston, William Ewart, David Peters Cine: Rex A. Nicholson Cast: Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Phillip Rhys, Brion James, Ed Lauter, Mark A. Sheppard, Steffen Gregory Foster, Sarah Wynter, Adam Baldwin, Robert Culp, Hamilton Mitchell, Constance Zimmer, Craig Aldrich, Kimberlee Peterson, Catherine McGoohan.

Years ago, the criminous Russian Karpov family—Peter (Foster), George (Mitchell), Natalya (Wynter) and patriarch Sergei (Lauter)—paused in their journey across Europe at the small Pyrenean vineyard of the Fauré family, where they murdered M. Fauré (uncredited), gang-raped and murdered Mme. Fauré (McGoohan) and left the Faurés’ adolescent daughter Brigit (Peterson) severely injured. Brigit was saved by the timely arrival of a neighbor, Renault (James, who is surely rocker Richard Thompson moonlighting; wrong accent, though).

Brion James as Renault.

Now the Karpovs live a life of organized crime in LA, which is where an older, harder Brigit (Fitzpatrick) has just arrived, athirst for vengeance. Renault is Continue reading

A Portrait of Murder (1955 TVM)

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“What a terrible way for a beautiful dame like that to die.”
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vt Laura
US / 43 minutes / bw / CBS Dir: John Brahm Pr: Otto Lang Scr: Mel Dinelli Story: Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary Cine: Lloyd Ahern Cast: George Sanders, Dana Wynter, Robert Stack, Scott Forbes, Johnny Washbrook, Gloria Clark, Gordon Wynne, Robert Williams, Harry Carter.

Done as an episode of The 20th Century–Fox Hour, this is not so much a remake of Otto Preminger’s classic Laura (1944), which featured Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and Dorothy Adams, as a re-adaptation of Caspary’s novel for the screen. There’s a visible (and visual) awareness of Preminger’s version, but really this is its own entity. Much of the Continue reading

Repeat Performance (1947)

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Can we change the past by reliving it?
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US / 92 minutes / bw / Bryan Foy Productions, Eagle–Lion Dir: Alfred Werker Pr: Aubrey Schenck Scr: Walter Bullock Story: Repeat Performance (1942) by William O’Farrell Cine: Lew W. O’Connell Cast: Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Virginia Field, Tom Conway, Richard Basehart, Natalie Schafer, Benay Venuta, Ilka Gruning.

Every now and then one comes across a movie that ought to have the status of at the very least a minor classic yet has somehow been largely forgotten. Repeat Performance is such a movie. It tells a highly intriguing, emotionally involving story and, in so doing, hardly puts a foot wrong.

It’s a few minutes before the start of 1947 and the streets of New York are full of merry celebrants. In her luxury apartment nearby, however, famous Broadway actress Sheila Page (Leslie) stands over the corpse of husband Barney (Hayward); in her hand is the gun with which she’s just shot him. What could have brought her to this pass?

There’s a thunder of fists on the apartment door and a chorus of shouts from beyond it. Casting the gun aside, Sheila flees—out into the streets and to a club where her friend, the poet William Williams (Basehart, whose first screen role this was) is drinking with actress Bess Michaels (Venuta) and English playwright Paula Costello (Field). Sheila tells the sympathetic William what she’s done, and he suggests they go ask the advice of Broadway producer John Friday (Conway), a kind and generous man who’s an angel in more senses than one . . . especially to Sheila, whom he clearly adores from, figuratively speaking at least, afar.

Paula (Virginia Field) tries to pretend she and Sheila are all pals together.

However, as Sheila and William approach the door of Friday’s apartment, she wishes aloud that 1946 had never happened at all, that she could relive it avoiding all the pitfalls that made it such a rotten year for her—and, in fact, for William. She turns on the stairs to discover that William is no longer with her.

And, speaking moments later with a bewildered Friday, she slowly begins to cotton on to the fact that the new year that’s just beginning isn’t 1947 after all: it’s 1946. Just as she wished for, she’s been given the chance to relive the year.

John Friday (Tom Conway) is bewildered by Sheila’s claims that it’s 1947.

What errors will she avoid making? For one, she’ll Continue reading

Paris After Dark (1943)

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Love, death, betrayal and sacrifice in occupied Paris!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Léonide Moguy Pr: André Daven Scr: Harold Buchman Story: Georges Kessel Cine: Lucien Andriot Cast: George Sanders, Philip Dorn, Brenda Marshall, Madeleine LeBeau, Marcel Dalio, Robert Lewis, Henry Rowland, Gene Gary, Curt Bois, Michael Visaroff, Ann Codee, Jean Del Val, Raymond Roe, John Wengraf.

paris-after-dark-0

Paris is under Nazi occupation. Renowned surgeon Dr. André Marbel (Sanders) and his principal nurse, Yvonne Blanchard (Marshall), née Benoit, are secretly the leaders of an underground movement dedicated to disseminating anti-Nazi propaganda in the form of posters and tracts, especially targeting the workers in the nearby Beaumont car factory, repurposed by the Nazis to build tanks and armored cars. The effort is not without its dangers, as we discover in the movie’s opening moments, when young Victor Durand (Gary) is gunned down summarily by a German soldier for the crime of flyposting.

paris-after-dark-1-yvonne

Yvonne (Brenda Marshall).

We assume at first that André and Yvonne must be lovers, but not so: they’re fond friends, no more. Yvonne lives at home with her mother (Codee), her father Lucien (Del Val) and her kid brother Georges (Roe), who works in the Beaumont factory. Yvonne’s husband Jean (Dorn) was a pillar of the Resistance until his capture and imprisonment three years ago. Now he’s among a hundred sick and broken men being released from the labor camp, to be replaced—although this is not yet public knowledge—by five hundred healthy men from the Beaumont plant.

paris-after-dark-2-jean-one-of-many-sick-camp-prisoners-on-the-train-home-to-paris

Jean (Philip Dorn), just one of many sick and broken camp prisoners on the train home to Paris.

The Benoits are delighted by Jean’s return, Yvonne especially, but soon she and her family discover that Jean has changed drastically, thanks to torture and abuse. He now believes that Nazi triumph is inevitable and that the best way forward is to collaborate with the fascist scheisskopfs and just hope to be left in peace to live as well as one can. When he Continue reading

Touch of Larceny, A (1959)

UK-US / 93 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Guy Hamilton Pr: Ivan Foxwell Scr: Roger MacDougall, Guy Hamilton, Ivan Foxwell Story: The Megstone Plot (1956) by Andrew Garve Cine: John Wilcox Cast: James Mason, Vera Miles, George Sanders, Harry Andrews, Robert Flemyng, Ernest Clark, Duncan Lamont, Percy Herbert, Junia Crawford, William Kendall, Peter Barkworth, MacDonald Parke, Mavis Villiers, Jimmy Lloyd, Barbara Hicks, William Mervyn, Dickie Owen, Basil Dignam, John Le Mesurier, Gordon Harris.

Touch of Larceny - 0 opener

In London, ex-submariner Commander Max Easton (Mason), known as “Rammer” Easton in his war-hero days, is now stuck in a seat-warming job at the Admiralty, where he idles his way through his so-called working hours before evening comes and he can practice his main hobby, seduction.

Touch of Larceny - 1 Max, as busy as he ever gets at the AdmiraltyMax (James Mason), as busy as he ever gets at the Admiralty.

One day at his squash club he runs into someone he recognizes, Charles Holland (Sanders), who during the war saved Max’s life at some stage and is now a high muck-a-muck in the diplomatic service; Charles also wallows in his inherited wealth, is a complete snob and prig, and is engaged to a beautiful US widow, Virginia Killain (Miles). On first sight of Virginia, Max is completely smitten, but she’s immune to his various wiles and Continue reading

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

US / 120 minutes / bw / Wanger, UA Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Pr: Walter Wanger Scr: Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton, Robert Benchley (plus several others uncredited) Story: Personal History (1935 memoir) by Vincent Sheean Cine: Rudolph Maté Special production effects: William Cameron Menzies Cast: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman (i.e., Albert Bassermann), Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn, Eduardo Ciannelli, Harry Davenport, Martin Kosleck, Frances Carson, Edward Conrad, Ian Wolfe, Samuel Adams, Charles Wagenheim.

On the eve of war in Europe, Powers (Davenport), editor of the New York Morning Globe, is weary of the lackluster reports emanating from London and his correspondent there, Stebbins (Benchley). He demands that one of the paper’s crime reporters, Johnny Jones (McCrea), be sent to Europe to dig up dirt. First, though, he gives Johnny a posher moniker—”Huntley Haverstock”—and introduces him to one of the people he should interview once he’s in London, Stephen Fisher (Marshall), leader of the Universal Peace Party, which is seeking even at this late stage to avert the outbreak of hostilities.

Once in London, Johnny meets Stebbins and, on his way to a peace meeting at the Savoy Hotel that Powers has told him to cover, opportunistically shares a cab with Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Basserman), a key figure in the peace movement who’s scheduled to address the meeting. They arrive together but, when it comes to Van Meer’s turn to speak, Fisher, as the meeting’s chairman, announces that Van Meer has had to cancel his appearance because of urgent duties elsewhere. Though puzzled, Johnny soon forgets the matter because the substitute speaker is Fisher’s daughter Carol (Day), whom Johnny met in the foyer beforehand and for whom he has fallen hard.

His next assignment is to Amsterdam. As he waits outside the hall, he sees Van Meer approaching; however, the man is assassinated by a supposed press photographer (Wagenheim), who flees. Johnny gives chase, commandeering a car in which it proves that Carol’s a passenger, the driver being her friend, another journalist, Scott ffolliott (Sanders). They follow the getaway car out into the countryside, where it seems to disappear. Convinced the assassin and his accomplice have hidden in a nearby windmill, Johnny sends Carol and Scott for the cops, himself creeping into the structure and discovering that the plotters have secreted the heavily drugged Van Meer there; the man whom Johnny saw shot down was an impersonator (Adams). Johnny slips away from the windmill but, by the time he brings help, the bad guys have disappeared, taking Van Meer with them and leaving only a fake tramp (Kosleck), who claims the mill has been deserted all day.

Foreign Correspondent - 1 Johnny creeps into the windmill

Johnny (Joel McCrea) creeps into the windmill . . .

Foreign Correspondent - 2 He finds the drugged Van Meer there

. . . and finds the drugged Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) there.

Foreign Correspondent - 3 Johnny clings to the outside of the millJohnny (Joel McCrea) clings to the outside of the mill as he evades detection by the bad hats.

Back in Amsterdam, two men claiming to be cops call on Johnny in his room at the Hotel Europe. Smelling a rat, he climbs along Continue reading