A SCANDAL IN PARIS (aka: Thieves’ Holiday) (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: Ellis St. Joseph/from the memoirs of François-Eugène Vidocq; cinematographer: Guy Roe; editor: Al Joseph; music: Hanns Eisler; cast: George Sanders (Vidocq), Signe Hasso (Therese De Pierremont), Carole Landis (Loretta), Akim Tamiroff (Emile Vernet), Gene Lockhart (Richet), Jo Ann Marlowe (Mimi De Pierremont), Alma Kruger (Marquise De Pierremont), Alan Napier (Houdon De Pierremont, Police Minister), Pedro de Cordoba (Priest); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arnold Pressburger; Kino Video; 1946)
“Never gets to the comic effects it reaches for.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Douglas Sirk (“All That Heaven Allows”/Has Anybody Seem My Gal?”/Magnificent Obsession”) directs this period piece melodrama as a satire on manners. It’s impassive as a costume adventure and it never gets to the comic effects it reaches for. Taken from the memoirs of François-Eugène Vidocq and dully written by Ellis St. Joseph, it’s narrated by George Sanders to sardonically drip with his debonair wit as he talks mostly in epigrams. The loose interpretation of the autobiography has the adventurous ladies man, rogue and arch criminal becoming French prefect of police during the Napoleonic era and then choosing love over robbing the Bank of Paris of 50 million francs.
It begins with the birth in a country French jail in 1775 of a nameless boy, who will later take the name of François Eugène Vidocq (George Sanders). In a voiceover the grown Vidocq exclaims from his diary Like most great men I came from a poor but honest family, a little poorer than honest. It then follows his colorful criminal life (too bad the film couldn’t duplicate how colorful his life actually was) for his first thirty years, picking up when he’s an adult, after being raised by a now deceased jailbird mom.
While in jail Vidocq gets a birthday cake with a file-in-it that springs him and his dense pickpocket cell mate Emile (Akim Tamiroff), whose aunt sent the cake. On their way to Paris, an artist hires them to pose for a church mural of St. George on horseback slaying the dragon, with Sanders decked out in a blond pageboy wig. After they pose they steal the horse and go to meet Emile’s criminal family, who set them up with forged papers to serve as officers in Napoleon’s army. Before leaving for Marseilles Vidocq, striking a handsome pose in uniform, makes a pass at ill-fated cabaret singer Loretta (Carole Landis) and steals the ruby garter her soon to be hubby Richet, the Paris chief of police (Gene Lockhart), gave her. Returning from two years in the service and committing many heists, the criminals rescue a pet monkey named Satan which lands them as guests at the Paris estate of the wealthy and daffy monkey owner, the marquise (Alma Kruger). Her son-in-law, Houdon De Pierremont (Alan Napier), happens to be the French police minister, who fires the befuddled Paris chief of police, Richet, when he can’t solve the jewel robbery in their house. Vidocq steps in and solves the crime, making everyone glad the jewels were returned and as a reward is appointed chief of police. Now while planning to rob the Bank of Paris Vidocq is confronted by the devout daughter of the police minister, Therese (Signe Hasso), who fell in love with the saint in the mural of St. George hanging in her church and falls in love with Vidocq because he looks just like the saint.
Before Vidocq marries Therese he confesses his criminal past to her, her forgiving father, her live and let live grandmother and then hears Therese’s spunky little sister Mimi (Jo Ann Marlowe) say she always knew that “No man is a saint.” It ends on that sly note, but the journey getting there was filled with too many glass baubles instead of diamonds.
REVIEWED ON 3/11/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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