LADY IN QUESTION, THE
(director: Charles Vidor; screenwriters: based on a story by Marcel Achard/Lewis Meltzer; cinematographer: Lucien Andriot; editor: Al Clark; music: Lucien Moraweck; cast: Brian Aherne (Andre Morestan), Rita Hayworth (Natalie Roguin), Glenn Ford (Pierre Morestan), Irene Rich (Michele Morestan), George Coulouris (Defense Attorney), Lloyd Corrigan (Prosecuting Attorney), Evelyn Keyes (Francois Morestan), Edward Norris (Robert LaCoste), Curt Bois (Henri Lurette, juror), William Castle (angry juror), Sumner Getchel (bicycle customer involved in exchanges); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: B.B. Kahane; Columbia; 1940)
“It serves as a showcase for Rita.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a remake of the 1937 French film Gribouille (“Heart of Paris”). The stagy droll family drama/comedy is directed by Charles Vidor (“Gilda”/”Cover Girl”/”Ladies in Retirement”). It’s the first teaming up of the charismatic Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth duo. Writer Lewis Meltzer bases it on the story by Marcel Achard.
Andre Morestan (Brian Aherne) is the good-natured, middle-aged bourgeois shopkeeper patriarch of a Parisian family. His stern wife Michele (Irene Rich) looks upon him with disdain that he’s so gleeful about going on jury duty and not being in his bicycle shop. His naive daughter Francois (Evelyn Keyes) wants his permission to marry pretentious dance instructor Robert LaCoste (Edward Norris), while his son Pierre (Glenn Ford) would rather watch his dad on jury duty than mind the store.
When a juror gets sick, alternate juror Andre replaces him on the trial of Natalie Roguin (Rita Hayworth). She’s a young woman of questionable repute accused of murdering her lover who put her up in an apartment. The death, she says, resulted when he was drunk and struck her; in the struggle to knock away his gun, it accidentally discharged. Most of the jury believes she’s a liar and is guilty, but the overbearing Andre convinces them there’s doubt and they acquit her. Andre feels sorry for her, and tells that to her lawyer (George Coulouris). He then offers her a job in the shop and a room, and disguises her identity by saying she’s the daughter of an old friend. Pierre believes his father was fooled by Nancy, but falls in love with her anyway. This leads to many domestic complications that have to be straightened out, including Andre now feeling he made a mistake about Nancy’s innocence.
It serves as a showcase for Rita. But the film veers awkwardly from comedy to drama, and seems vacuous as it’s more about the beauty of Rita causing men to make fools of themselves than anything else.
REVIEWED ON 4/18/2007 GRADE: C+