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Reunion in France (1942)

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kingrat
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Reunion in France (1942)

Postby kingrat » June 1st, 2011, 8:04 pm

Remember how in the 70s Jane Fonda would get radicalized during the course of a movie like COMING HOME and THE CHINA SYNDROME? Well, just imagine a movie that depicts the radicalization of--no, it couldn't possibly be, but it nonetheless is--Joan Crawford. That movie is REUNION IN FRANCE (1942) and definitely deserves its own thread. For the first and only time, Joan is matched with John Wayne. Think about the Diva and the Duke in a screenplay by future Hollywood Ten blacklistee Albert Maltz and directed by future blacklistee Jules Dassin. This is not your ordinary movie.

Joan plays Parisian fashion designer Michele de la Becque, and you won't believe the backless outfit with wide-brimmed hat that has two long filmy streamers trailing down that she's wearing in her first appearance. She's engaged to nice rich guy Philip Dorn. Does she behave like a clueless diva to her salesgirls, including Ava Gardner in a small role? Of course she does. But when she goes off to Biarritz, stuff happens. France falls during a montage and Joan becomes aware of reality for the first time. When she returns to Paris, which isn't the smartest move. the Nazis have taken over her house. The only good thing about that is 1) Joan gets even more of a clue; 2) she sasses the Nazis as only she can do; and 3) an unbilled Natalie Schafer waltzes in playing a German officer's wife, and she and Joan have a good catfight over who's going to wind up with a stylish coat.

Yes, this film does have serious (and to my mind, very successful) scenes dealing with collaboration vs. resistance. Wait a minute--where's the Duke in all this? Do you have the notion that Joan has way more screen time? Philip Dorn probably has more face time than that other guy, too. The Duke literally jumps out of a dark alley one night into the movie and into the heart of our heroine. Crawford and Wayne have good chemistry together, and he delivers a charming performance. He'd probably like to shoot the cinematographer, Robert Planck, however. Guess who gets all the good camera set-ups? Believe me, you may never see John Wayne's brow look so furrowed again. And what's with the shadow of a leaf falling on a shot of Philip Dorn's face? Is this a fancy artistic effect, or were they too cheap to re-shoot?

Jules Dassin is not yet the director he will become in BRUTE FORCE(1947), but I did enjoy REUNION IN FRANCE, and not just for the special Joan moments.

Imdb says that Keenan Wynn reportedly appeared in the film but was cut out of the final version. So who's one of the guys tailing Joan when John Wayne leaps into her life? Sure looks and sounds like Keenan Wynn.

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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby movieman1957 » June 1st, 2011, 8:51 pm

I saw it forever ago. I remember it being rather dull. Maybe I was expecting more John Wayne and at the time not really aware that this would have been rather early in his stardom, if it even qualifies for that title.

I've never really liked Joan and I suspect this was early enough in my movie life that it was part of the basis for it. But, since it has been 25+ years it has certainly bound for a review. Frankly, never thought much about it until now.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby moira finnie » June 1st, 2011, 9:35 pm

I caught Reunion in France (1942) for the umpteenth time recently and found myself feeling sorry for Philip Dorn more than the Duke, who seemed to spend most of the movie in heavy chiaroscuro while trying to become a bigger movie star than he already was in 1942. I would love to know what Jules Dassin thought of Wayne and Crawford, (who looked way too gorgeous in this movie in those Irene creations). My favorite sequence comes early in the movie, when we see the invasion and fall of France in 1940 from the aristocratic POV of Michele de la Becque (that's our Joan) in a great montage (courtesy of spec. fx by Warren Newcombe and editing by Elmo Veron) that begins and ends at the train station in Paris. There she is! Startled on the beach at Biarritz as a Messerschmidt flies overhead! There she is! Yanking off her sunglasses and glaring at the tanks that are pushing cars off the road. There she is! Stunned and flummoxed as she watches refugees with baby carriages careening out of control as they try to escape from invading Huns. There she is! Alighting from a train back in Paris in a neatly pressed suit, with her hair loosened and an expression that dares any passing Nazi to ask her for her papers.

Oh, the humanity.

I never thought that being conquered could look quite so glamorous. Only at MGM.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby JackFavell » June 2nd, 2011, 8:04 am

John Wayne had great chemistry with all his costars. He's very underrated as a leading man. I have yet to find a woman he didn't work well with.

The fact that he and Joan had a good rapport in this movie speaks to his talent for making women comfortable with him. He's very supportive of his co-stars, treating each one differently according to their personality. I can't imagine the two of them together, but I'm sure he made it work.

I really enjoyed reading your review, kingrat! It makes me want to go and find a copy of the movie - especially because Dassin was directing.

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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby ChiO » June 2nd, 2011, 8:54 am

Having had one of the hottest streaks in filmdom -- BRUTE FORCE (1947), THE NAKED CITY (1948), THIEVES HIGHWAY (1949), NIGHT IN THE CITY (1950), RIFIFI (1955) -- I make a point of recording every other Dassin movie that TCM airs. For me, none of them -- those before and those after the streak -- come close to that level, and for the most part are fair to middlin'. Another one of those directors who tests the auteur approach.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby JackFavell » June 2nd, 2011, 9:54 am

That may be true about Dassin, but I think it's worth watching the fair to middling works too. I like to see how directors got to the point where they can make a brilliant movie likeNight in the City. For instance, Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich last night showed very little resemblance to Reed's string of later masterpieces, it was a workmanlike film with a nice pace. And yet, there were flashes of something fascinating in it - I like to see how time creates the director.

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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby moira finnie » June 2nd, 2011, 10:42 am

I agree about the early works by a director like Jules Dassin, which are sometimes more playful and less self-conscious than their "important" movies. This August 23rd on TCM you can see his first feature film with Conrad Veidt in the MGM B movie, Nazi Agent (1942), which is very enjoyable since it gives Connie a chance to play twins (he did the doppelganger bit very well and often, starting in silents). Initially, Veidt was reportedly not happy to have a neophyte behind the camera trying to breathe life into a formulaic script, but, as Dassin acknowledged, cinematographer Harry Stradling, Jr. made him look good (and fast), helping enormously. From what I've read in interviews, Jules Dassin seems to have been one of the few directors who readily acknowledged the contributions of others to his success.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby JackFavell » June 2nd, 2011, 12:23 pm

Love Nazi Agent....anything that gives Conrad Veidt more screen time....even if it means he plays twins - is alright by me.

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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby Gary J. » June 2nd, 2011, 3:19 pm

JackFavell wrote:John Wayne had great chemistry with all his costars. He's very underrated as a leading man. I have yet to find a woman he didn't work well with.


Vera Ralston in DAKOTA - (45), but then she didn't work well with anyone.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby Gary J. » June 2nd, 2011, 3:28 pm

Crawford's other great contribution to the war effort was ABOVE SUSPICION - (1943).
It was designed to be an espionage thriller but MGM's trailer plays it up like a screwball comedy.

"Watch Joan & Fred honeymoon across Europe while bedeviling those crazy Nazis...."
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby moira finnie » June 2nd, 2011, 3:30 pm

Gary J. wrote:
JackFavell wrote:John Wayne had great chemistry with all his costars. He's very underrated as a leading man. I have yet to find a woman he didn't work well with.


Vera Ralston in DAKOTA - (45), but then she didn't work well with anyone.

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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby intothenitrate » June 2nd, 2011, 7:34 pm

Not being very up on the Dassin, I never looked at the two war pictures--Nazi Agent and Reunion in France--as directorial efforts. But I like them both a lot and have watched them multiple times. And I'm with you movieman, I really have to be in the right mood to appreciate Joan Crawford.

What's kind of icky for me about RIF is the elevated level of sass Crawford gives the Nazis. Not that I know what things were really like at that place and time, but it seems that her character ought to have been taken out back and shot on multiple occasions for her over-the-top insolence to the occupying forces. Why is that icky? Because it makes the conflict a vehicle to elevate Crawford's stature, rather than dramatizing the gravity of the situation. At that time, nobody knew how things would end up. Other stars in other films during that period--like Bogart--were in the fight with their performances. In this film, the real-time Nazi threat is just a backdrop to set her up and make her look good.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby moira finnie » June 2nd, 2011, 7:49 pm

intothenitrate wrote: In this film, the real-time Nazi threat is just a backdrop to set her up and make her look good.

I agree, but I like Joan, even when she's ludicrous and way too movie-starish. I feel that the real-time Nazi threat was a dramatic prop in many films of the period, (Once Upon a Honeymoon, Golden Earrings, and Gilda come to mind). The Nazis in Reunion in France were too tame by half. These guys couldn't have invaded anything more daunting than Schwab's Drug Store, much less most of Europe.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby intothenitrate » June 3rd, 2011, 6:55 pm

Good one. Sig Rumann..nonplussed!!!

Didn't Myrna Loy sit out the war (acting-wise)? I'd like to learn what she was thinking during all that.
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Re: Reunion in France (1942)

Postby moira finnie » June 3rd, 2011, 7:10 pm

Didn't Myrna Loy sit out the war (acting-wise)? I'd like to learn what she was thinking during all that.

Myrna Loy worked for the Red Cross throughout the war. MGM was not pleased, but she told them that was tough, (and promised to come back). She also worked to make the United Nations a reality at the end of the war through the American Association for The United Nations to keep the public informed about the formation of the organization. She also became involved in UNESCO for the rest of her life. I don't think that Myrna cared about looking good as much as being of some good.
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