June Allyson and Rossano Brazzi in Interlude (1957)


(director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: from the novel by James M. Cain/Inez Cocke; cinematographer: William Daniels; editor: Russell F. Schoengarth; music: Frank Skinner; cast: June Allyson (Helen Banning), Rossano Brazzi (Tonio Fischer), Marianne Cook (Reni Fischer), Françoise Rosay (Countess Reinhart), Keith Andes (Dr. Morley Dwyer), Frances Bergen (Gertrude Kirk), Jane Wyatt (Prue Stubbins); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ross Hunter; Universal; 1957)

“The way Sirk plays with it, it’s wonderfully subversive when you least expect it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Interlude is a remake of the 1939 Irene Dunne-Charles Boyer melodrama John M Stahl directed entitled When Tomorrow Comes. It’s based on a story by James M. Cain and scripted by Inez Cocke. Douglas Sirk (“Battle Hymn”/”Hitler’s Madman”/”Meet Me At The Fair”) somehow manages to overcome all its romantic clichés by sabotaging the designs intended by the studio heads.

The ordinary dullish American girl-next-door type, Helen Banning (June Allyson), lands a library job in Munich in the American Haus as a life experience adventure. She’s given through family contacts the name of Dr. Morley Dwyer (Keith Andes), from her hometown of Philadelphia, who is finishing up an internship in Munich, to keep her company on foreign soil. He’s a perfect soul mate for her, handsome, dependable, and of excellent character. But wouldn’t you know it, she falls for someone out of her league, famous classical conductor of the Munich Orchestra Tonio Fischer (Rossano Brazzi), who is filled with European “Old World” charm and sophistication. They have a number of innocent dates in a Munich of elegant buildings such as Königsplatz, Nymphenburg and the Hercules Hall, that seem like out of the tourist’s guide book an American would follow. On one such date they visit Mozart’s birthplace home in Salzburg, Austria, and he plays Mozart’s piano for her. On one picnic date a rain storm intervenes and he takes her to his country home, where they kiss and at last get it on. She soon learns he’s married to a beautiful wife Reni (Marianne Cook) he loves very much but who went insane four years ago. It’s hinted that she went insane because she loves him too much, which makes her the story’s most important character and gives us insight into Sirk’s thinking. The shop girl throws a fit that she’s been had, that Tonio should have told her he’s married before screwing her. The charmer retorts that he’s no saint, if he told her that she would have split. Meanwhile poor Morley is making his pitch for Helen to marry him because he’ll be a good provider and they’re the same types who’ll share a good life together. But Helen can’t get the conductor out of her mind and gives it one more shot. The insane wife has enough sense to be jealous and pleads with the shop girl to not steal her man, that she needs him more than she does. Helen realizes she has given the charmer all the ‘naïve’ strength she could muster in his time of distress and it’s time for her to return to her home turf in America and settle down with the one who was meant for her, good ole reliable Dr. Dwyer. She does this knowing she can never forget that she loves the conductor more than she does her future nice guy doctor husband, and that work and a comfortable home will substitute for a love they don’t have. It seems as if the only hopeful person in this love triangle is the insane Reni, whose only undoing was the strong love she had for hubby. The way Sirk plays with it, it’s wonderfully subversive when you least expect it. Also, Brazzi gives a brilliant performance as the ultimate conductor, where every gesture he makes in real life is as if he’s conducting.