Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Rage of Paris (1938)

THE RAGE OF PARIS is another delightful film directed by Henry Koster. I had never heard of this movie until it came up in my Amazon recommendations a few months ago. It caught my eye since it stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and the price was so low I decided to get it. My younger children saw the film shortly after it arrived and loved it, and I finally caught up with it myself this evening.

The plot is the tried-and-true poor girl looking for rich husband storyline, similar to films such as MOON OVER MIAMI (1941) and THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1946). Flat broke but beautiful Nicole (Danielle Darrieux) is dressed up by her friends Gloria (wonderful Helen Broderick) and Mike (Mischa Auer) and moved into a ritzy hotel suite in the hopes she can snag a wealthy husband. Nicole soon has a likely candidate in a Canadian, Bill (Louis Hayward), but Bill's best friend Jim (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is on to Nicole's scheme and is determined to save his friend from a gold digger.

Danielle Darrieux only made a small number of American films, including the 1951 MGM musical RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY. She's absolutely delightful, a gifted comedienne who is very original; her complete uniqueness reminds me of another one-of-a-kind actress director Koster worked with in the '30s, Deanna Durbin. There is a particularly wonderful scene where the recently out-of-work Nicole wakes up in a fancy hotel bed and rhapsodically orders honeydew melon, jelly doughnuts, and a long list of other items as she flops around on the luxurious bed; it's a delightful moment.

I recently noticed a comment by Karen in the "20 Favorite Actresses" thread at Self-Styled Siren which said, in part, that Darrieux's "performance in THE RAGE OF PARIS--the first film I ever saw her in--fills me with a level of joy I can barely contain"; then, after describing the hotel bed scene, she writes "It feels so fresh and genuine and unmannered that you almost can't believe she's doing it."

1938 was a good year for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The same year he starred in three other comedies previously reviewed here: JOY OF LIVING opposite Irene Dunne, HAVING WONDERFUL TIME with Ginger Rogers, and the terrific movie THE YOUNG IN HEART opposite Paulette Goddard. He's a charming leading man and has become an actor whose work I particularly seek out. I also recently picked up the Joan Crawford biography NOT THE GIRL NEXT DOOR so I could learn more about him; Crawford was his first wife. The marriage to Crawford failed after a few short years; his next marriage, to Mary Lee Eppling, was a success, lasting until his wife's death just short of reaching their Golden wedding anniversary.

I just saw Helen Broderick a week ago in SMARTEST GIRL IN TOWN (1936); she's always great fun. The supporting cast also includes Charles Coleman as Jim's butler, Harry Davenport as the caretaker of Jim's country house, and Samuel S. Hinds and Nella Walker as Bill's parents.

The movie was shot in black and white and runs a fast-paced 78 minutes.

The DVD print from Alpha Video is slightly faded and fuzzy, but it's of acceptable quality and does not detract overly much from the film's enjoyment, although one can only imagine how beautiful the movie would look in a crisp restored copy.

Henry Koster films previously reviewed here: THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), FIRST LOVE (1939), and COME TO THE STABLE (1949).


Blogger Irene said...

This does appear to be available through the library though there is only one copy and it is currently checked out. It is a DVD dated 2007. It is one of four films. The others are The Nut Farm, Palooka, and The Perils of Pauline. It is called Family Collection Disc. 33 by Mill Creek Entertainment. I've put myself on the waiting list :) I also found some of the movies you reviewed before I started to read your blog and I've requested them also. Hope they don't all come in at once!

12:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think the movie must have fallen into public domain...I'll be interested to hear how the print you see works out. As you may have noted if you looked at the Amazon link, the Alpha copy dates from 2005.

What fun that you reserved some other movies! As you get a chance to see them, feel free to drop in on any post and let us know what you've watched. :)

Best wishes,

11:38 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I'm having an old movies fest this weekend as four of the movies I requested came in at once, just as I feared.

This was a pretty good copy. Not sharp like the remastered ones and kind of dark but reasonable. This was a delightful movie. I had never heard of this actress before and I agree she was refreshing and natural and her accent was so cute. Looking up her bio I see that she is still living and active and has done tons of movies in Europe. Amazing.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad you got to enjoy this one, Irene! Your old movies fest sounds like a lot of fun. Isn't it something Danielle Darrieux is still acting as of 2008?!?! 70 years after starring in THE RAGE OF PARIS. Amazing.

Best wishes,

5:00 PM  

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