Sunday, May 11, 2008


An odd duck of a movie, especially for 1940--essentially, it's half a black comedy involving a woman accused of murder, and half a romantic comedy with much of the romance erased and replaced by familial love. Brian Aherne and his wife, Irene Rich, run a bicycle/music shop (yeah, that seemed like a strange combo to me, too) in Paris, and live in the building with their son (Glenn Ford) and daughter (Evelyn Keyes). Aherne, excited to be called to jury duty, sits on the case of a lovely young woman (Rita Hayworth) accused of murdering her benefactor. First, he's convinced she's guilty, but soon he comes around to thinking that she couldn't be, and by asking a question about the timing of events on the night of the murder, he raises just enough doubt among the jurors that she's acquitted. After the trial, Aherne discovers that Hayworth is homeless and he offers her a job and a place to stay. He doesn't tell his family who Hayworth is, and, though at first his wife suspects he has a romantic interest in the girl, Hayworth is soon accepted by the family. Ford, an astronomy buff who has a telescope and huge models of the planets in his work room, knows who she is but becomes smitten with her anyway until he overhears one of Aherne's fellow jurors (Curt Bois) visiting and raising doubts about Hayworth's innocence. There are two running subplots; the major one involves Keyes' finace (Robert Norris), a dance teacher--always a suspect occupation in the classic movie era--who begins a flirtation on the side with Hayworth. The lesser comic-relief plot involves a pudgy man who keeps trading single bikes for tandem ones when he gets engaged, then returns for the single bike when his girl dumps him. All the plot strands come together on a near-tragic Christmas Eve which turns into a happy Christmas Day for most everyone.

Aherne, not quite 40 at the time, is made up fairly well to look older and does a nice job in a part that could have stood a bit more development; in the original French film GRIBOUILLE, there is apparently more ambiguity in the feelings the father has for the girl (father figure vs. lover), though in this version, that possibility is left pretty far in the background, and Aherne's paternalistic relationship with Hayworth is stressed much more than Ford's romantic one. Hayworth is fine, though her character is even less well defined. Ford is very young and boyish and is maybe the best actor in the bunch, though he's not around for a big chunk of the middle of the film. Keyes has a couple of scenes in which she sounds just like the whining Suellen she played in GONE WITH THE WIND. George Coulouris is Hayworth's lawyer and Frank Reicher (who looks a bit like Harry Davenport) is a judge. Even though the story wasn't based on a play, it sometimes feels stagy (not necessarily a bad thing), and I loved the set of the large multilevel house with its many windows from one room into another. [TCM]

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