Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reunion in France (1942)



“I’m not at war with anyone. I’m in love.”

            Never have Americans been more patriotic than they were during World War II. Films from the time scream American ideals and morals. In Joan Crawford’s 1942 film Reunion in Paris, American ideals and morals are shouted even though the story takes place in France and is about a French woman who loves her country very much.  
            Michele de la Becque (Crawford) is a rich Frenchwoman who is used to having all the luxuries in the world. She has a very handsome fiancée named Robert Cortot (Philip Dorn). On the eve of the Nazis taking over Paris, Michele refuses to believe the Nazis will invade because she feels France is strong enough to keep them out. Against the wishes of Robert and others she leaves for vacation in the south.
            While Michele is on vacation the Nazis invade. She becomes a refugee trying to make it back to her home in Paris. After days of struggle she arrives at her home to see it has been taken over by the Nazis as an office. They let her stay in the house downstairs in the servant’s quarters. When Michele finally sees Robert she finds him to be in cahoots with the Nazis. He has been manufacturing bombs and cars for them. Robert wants Michele to stay at a hotel where she will be taken care of. A man takes her up to her room where she can see the Louvre from her window. The man tells Michele mentions that the grand museum is being sacked and the Nazis have been causing so much destruction. After hearing this Michele would rather stay in her small living space under her home.
            The next day Michele goes to her former dress maker seeking employment since she does not have access to her money anymore. The designer’s maison has been taken over by big fat German women who all the girls make of. On the way home her first night of work a man jumps out from a doorway and wraps his arms around her. He tells her not to worry he needs to pretend that they are together to throw suspicion off of him. They get back to her place, at first Michele does not want to let him in but he collapses from exhaustion and hunger then she finally brings him. The man’s name is Pat Talbot (John Wayne). His plane was shot down, he was thrown in a concentration camp, and he escaped and is now trying to get back to England. Pat passes out on her bed. As Michele takes off his shoes she finds a medal saying that Pat is an American working in the RAF.

            In order to help Pat Michele goes to see Robert. She tells him that she wants papers to leave for Lisbon and that Pat is an American student who has now become her chauffer. Robert offers her passage so she can see her parents and possibly head for America herself but all she cares about is helping Pat escape. Pat becomes her chauffer. He asks her why she is helping him out and not thinking of herself. She replies that he can do more to help save France than she can.
            Unfortunately the Gestapo figure out who Pat is and they take him into custody. When Michele leaves she refuses to go without Pat. Robert betrays Michele and has her taken by the Gestapo. They drive into the country where a checkpoint is. On the radio comes an announcement saying that three English soldiers have beaten up Nazis and are now in disguise. The men who took Michele are the Englishmen. They get Michele and Pat away from the Nazis. Michele learns from one of the soldiers that Robert is a good man he is part of the underground helping to try to destroy the Nazis manufacturing system. She comes to the plane where Pat is leaving for England. Michele does not get on plane but goes back to Paris to be with Robert and to help fight for her beloved France.
            Joan Crawford was excellent. This was the first film that I have seen of hers where she is not a shop girl or the other woman. She was the strong determined female lead who had everything her heart could desire then when she lost it all she found her true patriotism. Crawford was so good that it is hard to imagine any other actress giving a better performance in the role. John Wayne was really good as well. Sometimes his acting can seem really stiff and mechanic but here he was very good. Wayne and Crawford in their scenes together had great chemistry. Philip Dorn played the perfect French gentleman even when he was made to seem like a traitor.
            Although she is uncredited, look for Ava Gardner playing a shop girl when Joan Crawford goes for a job at the designer’s maison. Gardner only has one line and not that much screen time but she is not hard to miss.

            I really enjoyed Reunion in France. At the time the film was made interest in France and their occupation was high. The story is good all around, the characters were very well written and the acting was very good by the entire cast.  Reunion in France is a great rousing, patriotic film even if it is not dealing with Americans.