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In 1939, American Tom Martin, who fought in the Spanish Civil War, awaits execution at the hands of the Fascist victors when reporter Augusta 'Gusto' Nash, for a scoop, aids him in an audacious escape. Of course, Tom tries to romance Gusto; but though she likes him, her career comes first, and Tom himself prefers freedom-fighting to settling down. Comedy becomes drama as their mixed feelings lead them on a circuitous path through the deepening chaos and catastrophe of the early days of World War II. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Claudette Colbert stated that Ernst Lubitsch was "by far" her favorite director, but this film, directed by Mitchell Leisen, she stated to be her favorite movie. Released in 1940, it marked her fourth collaboration with Leisen (he'd co-directed without credit sequences of the 1932 Cecil B. DeMille production "Sign of the Cross," the movie which made Claudette a star), the man who directed her in more films than any other director.
One can see why Claudette liked this film the best: it gave her a meatier role than the parts she'd played over the preceding several years. Ever since 1934's "It Happened One Night" Claudette had mostly done comedy films. This isn't a complaint the lady had better comedic timing than just about any other actress in Hollywood. But here in Arise My Love she was able to cover the gamut of her talent, from comedy to drama, something she hadn't gotten to do since the Pre-Code years (check out her 1933 "Torch Singer" for an example). Indeed it's this mixture of genres which seems to offset the critics of today. For Arise My Love answers the unasked question: "What if Casablanca had been done as a screwball comedy?"
Produced so in-the-moment that the script was rewritten daily to encompass the latest events, Arise My Love was released in 1940 and covers the hectic events of one year, starting in the summer of 1939. Claudette is Gusto Nash, a no-nonsense newspaper reporter who dreams of scoring big headlines. She frees Tom Martin (Ray Milland), a Nazi-hating pilot who's imprisoned on death row in Spain, part of the Liberty battalion of US soldiers who helped that country fight the encroaching Nazis (and lost). The first thirty minutes of this movie are 100% action, with escape via land and air. After this the film moves into screwball territory, with Tom hot for Gusto and Gusto trying to reign in her feelings; she wants to focus on her career. After this we move into drama; together at last, Gusto and Tom are soon separated, Gusto to cover the Nazi menace in various points of Europe, Tom battling the Germans in the Polish air force.
Everything hangs together despite the mixing of genres. If I had any complaints it would be that the film ends a bit too weakly, Claudette delivering a passionate soliloquy to a silent Milland. Doubtless this gung-ho speech was intended to stir patriotic fervor in the audience of the day, but now, decades after WWII, it seems a bit anticlimactic. Indeed, the opening thirty minutes of the film are more climatic than the ending. But there are a lot of enjoyable moments. Claudette and Milland have good chemistry and both get a chance to display comedic and dramatic skills.
The Sturges/Brackett script is up to the level of their previous Claudette productions ("Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" and "Midnight"), though, again, they don't get as much chance here to unleash their trademark comedy. Leisen's direction is good, too, as is the cinematography and production values. Claudette and Milland traipse about Europe in a variety of locales, from Paris to countryside inns deep in France; all of it done on a set, all of it featuring that Classic Film glamor.
Released well after the enforcement of the puritanical Code, Arise My Love still gets in a few surprises first, there's a delightful scene where Gusto comes up to Tom's room to snap his photo for her article. Tom however thinks she's coming up for sex. This develops into a scene filled with hilarious misunderstanding, with Gusto arranging the setup and Tom becoming increasingly bewildered: "So where shall we do it? How about the chair?" "What?" "Right too conventional." All of it like "Three's Company," but still very funny. Also, shortly after this scene Gusto and Tom talk in a restaurant; Tom's pretending he's waiting for a (nonexistent) Swedish girl, but really he just wants to be with Gusto (who thinks she's just getting material for her article). There's a moment where Tom asks Gusto to pick out some flowers flowers he pretends to be buying for the Swedish girl but are really for her. As Tom purchases the flowers she picked out, Gusto looks at him with a dawning understanding that turns into a look of longing and then, very abruptly, she puts her pen in her mouth. Dr. Freud calling!
Despite Claudette's preference for this film, it's never been officially released not even on VHS. You'll need to scour the sordid world of online DVDR trading/sales to find yourself a copy, one which most likely will have been sourced from a cable TV broadcast.
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