Thursday, February 06, 2014


At a Warsaw train station, young Lisa (Jane Bryan), a student at a music conservatory, sees her mother off on a short trip and seems a bit at odds over being alone. A handsome stranger slips her and her friend two tickets to see concert pianist Michael Michailow; they go and discover that the stranger is Michael (Basil Rathbone). It turns out he has seen her perform at school and is impressed by both her talent and her looks. He finagles his way into a private lesson with her and kisses her, and despite their age difference—he looks old enough to be her father—she goes out with him that night. At a nightclub, a sultry blond (Kay Francis, pictured) sings a sad song, "One Hour of Romance," and after the song ends, a spotlight catches Michael kissing Lisa. The singer faints and is led backstage, but moments later returns with a gun and shoots Michael dead. At her trial, she refuses to give any reason for her crime until a suitcase with evidence shows up. In the judge's chamber, she tells the sad story of how a misspent evening with Michael led to her marriage breaking up and her daughter being taken from her—and the topper: Lisa is her daughter though she doesn't know it.

This soap opera story is a little more compelling than average, mostly due to the interesting directorial style, mostly gliding traveling shots and odd angles, of German director Joe May who seems to have been influenced at least slightly by Josef von Sternberg. Kay Francis is no Marlene Dietrich, Sternberg's muse, but she's very good here both as the young wife led astray in the flashback and as the sadder but (theoretically) wiser woman in the present day. Rathbone can do a slimy cad in his sleep and he's fine, as is Jane Bryan even though she really only has two facial expressions: mildly happy and mildly distraught. Ian Hunter is Francis' cuckolded war-hero husband; Donald Crisp is the judge; Veda Ann Borg steals a scene without even speaking as one of Rathbone's bimbos. Apparently this is a scene-by-scene remake of a German film called Mazurka. [TCM]

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