The French Line

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The French Line
The French Line.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Produced by Edmund Grainger - Producer
Howard Hughes - Executive Producer
Written by Matty Kemp
Isabel Dawn
Mary Loos
Richard Sale
Starring Jane Russell
Gilbert Roland
Arthur Hunnicutt
Mary McCarty
Craig Stevens
Kim Novak
Music by Walter Scharf
Josef Myrow
Constantin Bakaleinkoff
Cinematography Harry J. Wild
Edited by Robert Ford
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release date(s)
  • February 8, 1954 (1954-02-08)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.9 million (US)[1]

The French Line is a 1954 musical film starring Jane Russell made by RKO Pictures, directed by Lloyd Bacon and produced by Edmund Grainger, with Howard Hughes as executive producer. The screenplay was by Mary Loos and Richard Sale, based on a story by Matty Kemp and Isabel Dawn. It was filmed in three strip technicolor and Dual strip polarized 3D during what many consider 3-D film's "golden era" of 1952-1954.

Gilbert Roland co-stars and Kim Novak makes her first film appearance.

Plot[edit]

Millionairess Mame Carson's (Jane Russell) oil empire spells trouble for her love life. Men are either after her fortune or afraid of it. Her money-shy fiancé Phil Barton (Craig Stevens) has just given her the brush off.

A disappointed Mame heads for Paris on the French Line's Liberté with friend and fashion designer Annie Farrell (Mary McCarty). She swaps identities with Myrtle Brown (Joyce Mackenzie), one of Annie's models, hoping to find true love incognito.

Aboard ship, she falls in love with French playboy Pierre DuQuesne (Gilbert Roland) who, unbeknownst to Mame, has been hired by her zealous guardian Waco Mosby (Arthur Hunnicutt) to keep the fortune hunters at bay. Pierre professes his love for Mame. Is he sincere or is this just a ploy to gain access to her millions? Silliness ensues interspersed with several musical numbers until Pierre's real intentions are revealed.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The French Line captures Russell at the height of her career, the year after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in a splashy musical comedy specializing in costumes so purposely skimpy that it garnered a condemnation by the Catholic Legion of Decency. The outrageous outfits were designed by Howard Hughes and the craftsmen at RKO to display Russell's physique to best advantage. Russell's singing, dancing, and comedic skills are also much in evidence. The film was considered scandalous at the time.

Controversy[edit]

Producer Howard Hughes was no stranger to controversy, especially when it came to Jane Russell. His focus on Jane's cleavage in The Outlaw ran afoul of The Production Code in 1941. The film was held up until 1943 before it was finally given a limited release. The French Line had its own set of controversies. Jane's ample bosom literally popped out of the screen in 3-D. To stress the point Howard used the tagline "J.R. in 3D. It'll knock both your eyes out!" as part of the advertising campaign. He also added the raunchy song and dance number "Lookin for Trouble" performed by Jane in a revealing one-piece outfit with three strategically placed cutouts.

The Catholic National Legion of Decency condemned the film and called for a boycott. The Breen Office refused to give it a Production Code seal of approval. Howard defied both by releasing the film without the seal. After the initial run he made substantial cuts to the offending scene, then re-released the film flat (without the 3D process). Advertising changed the tagline to "THAT Picture! THAT Dance! -- you've heard so much about!" The publicity surrounding the film guaranteed a success for both versions.

The uncensored dance sequence can be seen at The French Line on YouTube. This version appeared in the 3D release of the film prior to the drastic cuts made to appease the censors.

The Critics Speak[edit]

3-D Films[edit]

  • The French Line was filmed in RKO's own 3-D process which they titled "Future Dimension".
  • Bwana Devil - 1952 is often credited as the first 3-D film. Although it did spawn "The Golden age of 3-D from 1952 to 1954" the history of 3-D films can be traced as far back as 1903.
  • Recent advances in 3-D films including IMAX 3-D and Digital 3D are opening a new era of 3-D filmmaking.
  • For an extensive index of 3D films see List of 3D films.

Availability[edit]

  • The only known surviving 3-D print of "The French Line" was screened at The World 3-D Expo 2006 September 15, 2006 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, Ca. The print included the very rare uncensored version of the "Lookin for Trouble" number.
  • Turner Home Entertainment released "The French Line" on VHS in 1989. Although the box claimed the print to be "The Original Studio Edition" it was the re-edited version with the censored "Lookin for Trouble" number. The VHS has been out of print for several years. It periodically surfaces on various auction web sites
  • The Turner Classic Movie (TCM) cable channel occasionally shows the censored version on TV.
  • ABC Television in Australia also occasionally airs the censored version.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955

External links[edit]