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A Parisian sewer worker longs for a rise in status and a beautiful wife. He rescues a girl from the police, lives with her in a barren flat on the seventh floor, and then marches away to war. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
James Stewart's first film assignment for 1937 was a loan out from MGM to 20th Century Fox for a remake of their silent classic Seventh Heaven that starred Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor and won for Gaynor the first Best Actress Oscar. Based on a play by Austin Strong that ran for 704 performances on Broadway during the 1922-24 season, the silent film also boasted the classic film theme Diane which was one of the biggest selling instrumental recordings during the Twenties.
The Diane theme was retained for the sound version, the movie-going public would have not paid a nickel to see this film if it were otherwise. In keeping with the French location of the film, French import Simone Simon took Janet Gaynor's place and gave a luminescent performance.
But why Darryl F. Zanuck couldn't get Charles Boyer for the male lead is beyond me. If I had been Zanuck I'd have waited until Boyer was available. He would have been perfect for the role. The very American James Stewart, try though he does, just doesn't cut it as the French sewer worker Chico. Even Zanuck's two best male contract players, Don Ameche and Tyrone Power, would also have been better than Stewart.
The plot is essentially the same with sewer worker Chico rescuing Diane after she's been thrown out of a brothel managed by her sister Gale Sondergaard. Simone's heart just is not in the job of sex worker. Sondergaard gives one her patented bad girl performances, she really has some bite in her role. Also to be noted is Jean Hersholt in the role of sympathetic priest.
The sound version of Seventh Heaven might have been a classic had a player who was French or one who was cast as foreign types been in the lead. Jimmy must have wondered what he was doing in this film.
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