Joan of Paris
|Joan of Paris|
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson
James Anderson (assistant)
|Produced by||David Hempstead|
|Written by||Jacques Théry (story)
Georges Kessel (story)
Ellis St. Joseph
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Edited by||Sherman Todd|
RKO Radio Pictures
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
Joan of Paris is a 1942 war film about five Royal Air Force pilots shot down over Nazi-occupied France during World War II and their attempt to escape to England. It stars Michèle Morgan, Paul Henreid, Thomas Mitchell and Laird Cregar.
Joan of Paris marked the U.S. screen debuts of Austrian Henreid and Frenchwoman Morgan. Henreid had previously appeared in some British-American co-productions made in England and had starred on Broadway in the play Flight to the West as Paul von Hernreid. When he was signed with RKO in 1942, the studio changed his surname, dropping the "von" and changing his last name to "Henreid", the name he used for the rest of his film career.
Cregar was borrowed from 20th-Century Fox. Alan Ladd, who played one of the downed airmen, would soon become a star later that year. After his breakthrough starring role in This Gun for Hire (1942), Joan of Paris was re-released with Ladd more prominently featured. This film also features May Robson's last role.
In German-occupied Paris, an announcer reports during a blackout that the Second Front has begun, with British forces invading the Continent, and that Royal Air Force bombers have been shot down. Five downed pilots split up and make their way to Paris to try to get help in returning to England. On the way, they break into a tavern in search of civilian clothes. When a German soldier shows up for a drink, Squadron Leader Paul Lavallier (Paul Henreid), a member of the Free French, knocks him out and takes his money.
In Paris, Paul contacts an old teacher of his, Father Antoine (Thomas Mitchell), who agrees to hide the reunited men in the sewers underneath his cathedral. "Baby" (Alan Ladd) has been shot in the shoulder along the way. When he slumps over in the church, it attracts the attention of a Gestapo agent (Alexander Granach). Paul manages to distract him, allowing Baby to slip away, but then the German starts following Paul. Paul tries to hide in a café, where he is served by Joan (Michèle Morgan), but the agent finds him. In his haste to get away, the airman tears the sleeve of Joan's dress. He then enters the first unlocked room he finds in a nearby building. By chance, it is Joan's. She discovers him hiding in her closet when she goes to change. To allay her fears, he tells her that Father Antoine sent him to give her enough money to buy a new dress. He persuades her to deliver a message to Father Antoine, describing his predicament. As they begin working together, they fall in love.
Later, Paul gets Father Antoine to visit a British spy (John Abbott) who has been caught and is to be executed. The priest is able to overcome the doomed man's suspicions and obtains the name of a contact, schoolteacher Mademoiselle Rosay (May Robson). Because the church is being watched by the persistent Gestapo agent, Father Antoine asks the unsuspected Joan to meet Rosay. However, on the way there, she passes the shop where she bought her new garment. A second Gestapo man (an uncredited Hans Conreid) has traced the bank note she used as payment to the robbed soldier and follows her. She and Mademoiselle Rosay barely escape capture. Rosay arranges for a seaplane to land at night on the Seine River to pick up the men.
Gestapo head Herr Funk (Laird Cregar) plays a cat-and-mouse game with Joan and Paul. When Paul is picked up for not having identification papers, Funk apologizes for the inconvenience and releases him so he can lead the Germans to the others.
That night, Paul finally tells Joan his real identity. He promises to marry her when the war is over. However, he is unable to shake the Gestapo agent, so Joan takes the map of the rendezvous point to the others. While they wait for the appointed time, Baby dies of his wound. Meanwhile, Paul finally manages to kill the Gestapo man in a Turkish bath, but too late to reach the rendezvous in time.
Funk then offers Joan a devil's bargain: Paul's life if she will lead him to the hiding place of the other men. She agrees. Finding Paul praying in the cathedral, she tells him that the others are still waiting for him. She then leads Funk on a wild goose chase, giving the airmen time to make good their escape. Later, she faces the firing squad bravely.
The working title of this film was "Joan of Arc" and was the first war-themed film from RKO Radio Pictures. According to pre-production news items in The Hollywood Reporter, RKO considered Charles Boyer, Robert Morley and Jean Gabin for leads in the film. Producer David Hempstead wanted Julien Duvivier to direct the project because Gabin and Michele Morgan had worked with Duvivier in Europe. Lewis Milestone was initially assigned to direct the film but resigned over differences with the studio.
Joan of Paris used the largest single set constructed by the studio since the making of Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Principal photography took place from mid-September to late October 1941, and although ready for release in December 1941, RKO held the film back for an early 1942 release to capitalize on public interest in films about World War II.
Joan of Paris received a glowing review from film critic Bosley Crowther in The New York Times, " here is a tale of personal valor and selfless sacrifice which is told so simply and eloquently, and is so beautifully played that it might be a true re-enactment of a gallant episode. At least, it cheers the heart and stirs the pulse to think that it might be. "Joan of Paris' is a rigidly exciting and tenderly moving film. It will do as a tribute to high courage until the lamps of Paris burn once more."
Joan of Paris made a profit of $105,000, making it RKO's most successful film of the first half of 1942.
- "Detail View: 'Joan of Paris'." American Film Institute. RetrievedL April 14, 2014.
- Jewell and Harbin 1982, p. 169.
- Miller, Frank. "Articles: 'Joan of Arc' (1942)." Turner Classic Movies. RetrievedL December 15, 2015.
- Churchill. Douglas W. "Out of the Hollywood hopper." The New York Times, October 5, 1941, p. X5.
- "Joan of Paris." AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved: December 15, 2015.
- "Original print information: 'Joan of Arc' (1942)." Turner Classic Movies. RetrievedL December 15, 2015.
- "The Gent Is Alan Ladd, the Calculating Trigger-Man in 'This Gun for Hire'" by John R. Franchey. New York Times June 7, 1942: X4.
- Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: 'Joan of Paris,'.Poignant Drama, Opens at Rivoli." The New York Times, January 28, 1942. Retrieved: December 15, 2015.
- Jewell 2012, p. 252.
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