Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Paris After Dark (1943)

PARIS AFTER DARK (1943) is a well-done film from 20th Century-Fox about the French Resistance, released in the middle of World War II.

George Sanders plays Dr. Andre Marbel, who is secretly leading a Resistance group which posts flyers and other anti-Nazi propaganda throughout Paris. Marbel's nurse Yvonne (Brenda Marshall) is also part of the group.

Yvonne's husband Jean (Philip Dorn), himself a former Resistance fighter, suddenly reappears, released after three years in a German prison camp. Jean is a broken man, physically and emotionally, who believes there is no choice but to cooperate with the Nazis and accept their inevitable victory.

Yvonne realizes she cannot tell her husband about her Resistance work, even though he misinterprets her attendance at a late-night meeting as her having a tryst with Dr. Marbel.

A crisis unfolds when it's learned that hundreds of workers from a nearby factory, including Yvonne's brother Georges (Raymond Roe), are about to be sent to work in Germany. Georges tries to escape to England, where he plans to work for France's freedom, but nothing goes as planned, and both Yvonne and Jean make critical decisions about fighting for France.

The film ends with a rousing call to victory over the radio, in the manner of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) or MANILA CALLING (1942). It's interesting to consider what seeing this patriotic film was like for audiences at the time of release in the fall of 1943, when France was still occupied and D-Day months away; it surely must have helped boost U.S. support for the coming invasion of France.

There are a couple creaky bits of dialogue here and there but for the most part it's a well-done film, written by Harold Buchman from a story by Georges Kessel. It was filmed entirely on the Fox lot, but the presence of actual French refugees in the cast, including Madeleine Lebeau and her former husband Marcel Dalio (who were both also in CASABLANCA) lends some authenticity.

Of course, the accents of the cast are all over the place, a mixture of French, Dutch (Dorn), British, and American, but that was par for the course at the time the film was made. The story is strong enough that the viewer is willing to suspend disbelief despite the fact that many of the actors are clearly not French.

I particularly like Sanders and Marshall, so that's an added reason the film worked well for me. I enjoyed watching Sanders in a heroic role as the doctor the Nazis don't suspect is sabotaging them right under their nose.

Marshall will never be classed as a great actress, but she's a beautiful woman and there's something about her I've always enjoyed watching. She does a nice job in this as a woman torn between patriotism and her marriage.

The movie runs 85 minutes. It was directed by Leonide Moguy and filmed in black and white by Lucien Andriot.

I watched PARIS AFTER DARK on a Fox Cinema Archives DVD. While the print quality of some films in this line, especially widescreen and/or Technicolor movies, has been erratic, I've had excellent experiences with black and white films of the late '30s or early '40s; this black and white movie looked great and had a strong soundtrack.

As usual, there are no extras on the Fox Cinema Archives disc.

I especially appreciate that Fox Cinema Archives has made lesser-known World War II films available for home viewing, including the previously mentioned MANILA CALLING, as well as THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA (1943) and THE MAN I MARRIED (1940); the latter title, released 16 months before Pearl Harbor, remains one of the most interesting little-known films of the war era I've seen to date.


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