I never thought that any movie would make me want to stick up for the French, but this one did it. 'Out of the Ruins' depicts the military affairs of a squad of French poilus, but was made in Hollywood by a largely American cast and crew -- Frenchwoman Rose Dione lends conviction in a supporting role -- and scripted by Philip Gibbs, an Englishman who saw action in the Great War as a member of the British Expeditionary Force. Gibbs and these Yanks seem to feel that they can attribute all sorts of outlandish behaviour to fictional characters if they're French, and therefore will behave in some bizarre Gallic manner.
Richard Barthelmess portrays a French lieutenant in the trenches, but he'd rather be in the wenches. Whilst ensconced in No Man's Land, he deliberately raises his hand above the revetments. A German sniper most obligingly puts a bullet through Barthelmess's hand. This is exactly what Barthelmess wanted, and now he applies for a sick ticket: medical leave that will return him to Paris for a few weeks of R&R. However, his captain is sceptical about how Barthelmess got wounded.
The lieutenant manages to meet a French ma'mselle ... played by Marian Nixon, who utterly failed to convince me that she was French. All of her body language in this role is strictly 1920s American. Nonetheless, she and Barthelmess swiftly fall in love. But then duty calls, and Barthelmess's regiment must leave at dawn. What to do? He gives a Gallic shrug and utters a few intertitles about how love must take precedence over war. Oh, yes.
Next thing we know, Lieutenant Barthelmess has gone AWOL ... or whatever the French term is for AWOL. Naturally, he gets caught and then charged with desertion. His captain sentences him to the firing squad. (This is the only part of the movie that I found remotely believable.) It's a beautiful summery day, so Barthelmess receives a summery execution. Ready, aim...
VOICI LES SPOILEURS, OUI-OUI! Lap dissolve to Ma'mselle Nixon after the Armistice. We're given to understand that Barthelmess was shot dead by his own regiment, and serves him right too. But wait! Here he comes! Turns out that the French firing squad, in a spirit of pure toujour l'amour, deliberately diverted their aim so as merely to wound Barthelmess rather than kill him outright. (Wasn't that nice of them?) His commanding officer then blithely assumed he was dead. Pardon me, scriptwriter, but firing-squad protocol involves a little detail called the "coup de grace" to address precisely this situation. Anyroad, the wounded Barthelmess was captured by some passing Germans, but now he's free to romance Miss Nixon. Vive le France!
Oh, blimey! I've never been a Francophile, but even I have to protest this movie's depiction of French people. I can't imagine anyone trying to fob off this same plot line with American or British characters. Oh, well ... at least this movie's film editor, with the very un-French name Cyril Gardner, was raised in Paris. Eugene Palllette (please fix this spell-check so I can spell his name properly) is cast as a Frenchman named Volange but he looks more like Blancmange. I'll rate this rubbish just 2 points out of 10. Toot sweet? More like toot bitter.
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