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CROSSROADS(director/writer: Jack Conway; screenwriter: Guy Trosper/based on the story by John Kafka and Howard Emmett Rogers; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: George Boemler; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: William Powell (David Talbot and/or Jean Pelletier), Hedy Lamarr (Lucienne Talbot), Claire Trevor (Michelle Allaine), Basil Rathbone (Henri Sarrou), Margaret Wycherly (Madame Pelletier), Felix Bressart (Dr. André Tessier), Sig Ruman (Dr. Alex Dubroc), H.B. Warner (prosecuting attorney), Philip Merivale (commissaire), Reginald Owen (Concierge ), Vladimir Sokoloff (Carlos Le Duc); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edwin Knopf; MGM; 1942)
“It teams the 50-year-old William Powell as the hubby of the 29-year-old Hedy Lamarr, and asks us not even to blink.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A weak Hollywood remake of the 1938 psychological French thriller Carrefour, that’s about amnesia and blackmail presented in a much too light manner for this sort of a suspense tale to carry much weight. It’s based on the original story by John Kafka and Howard Emmett Rogers and written with a certain smugness that goodness prevails over evil by Guy Trosper. High school dropout director Jack Conway (“Libeled Lady”/”A Tale of Two Cities”/”Boom Town”) shows his usual technical skills as a craftsman to turn out this glossy star-studded MGM studio pic that is letdown by its unconvincing story. It teams the 50-year-old William Powell as the hubby of the 29-year-old Hedy Lamarr, and asks us not even to blink.

In Paris in 1935, respected and trusted rising French diplomat David Talbot (William Powell), rumored to be in line for the coveted position of the French ambassadorship in Brazil, and his knockout classy wife of three months Lucienne (Hedy Lamarr), are cuddling at home when David receives an unsigned letter addressing him as Jean Pelletier and insisting that he pay his debt of one million francs by throwing the money over a yard fence in order for his criminal past of a robber and a murderer be kept a secret from the authorities. David confides to his wife he doesn’t know what this is about and informs the police, who set a trap for the blackmailer and arrest a party named Carlos Le Duc (Vladimir Sokoloff). He goes to trial and claims that David is really the master criminal Jean Pelletier, someone he knew from 1919 to 1922 who owes him robbery loot and is hiding his real identity by bluffing amnesia. But Dr. André Tessier (Felix Bressart) testifies that 13 years ago David was in a train wreck in France and afterwards because of a brain injury developed amnesia and could remember nothing prior to 1922.

In the courtroom, nightclub singer Michelle Allaine (Claire Trevor) accuses David of really being her criminal lover Jean; but David is exonerated when a wine salesman named Henri Sarrou (Basil Rathbone) swears to the court that the crimes were committed by a completely different man who before he died in Henri’s presence in an African hospital confessed that he was the criminal Jean Pelletier. After the trial is over and Le Duc is sentenced to a year in prison, Michelle and Henri put the squeeze on David and threaten to go to the authorities unless he fork over the one million francs. The blackmailers even get a washed up actress (Margaret Wycherly) to play Jean’s mom.

The cast do the most they can with such a trifle, but the plot has so many holes even a blind person could see through it and find it unbelievable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”