French farce comes to the New World in 1840 as Claire Ledoux convinces the middle-aged banker who is her fiance that she is two different women -- a deception made necessary by the arrival of a man acquainted with the swath she cut across Europe. Giraud has been about to foreclose on a $150 loan made to a sea captain who needed the funds to court Claire. Get Claire's "cousin" out of New Orleans before the wedding, Giraud tells the sea captain and the debt will be paid. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
Sandwiched in between some of her great films at Universal with John Wayne is this modest programmer for Marlene Dietrich that depends considerably on her charms to carry it off. Perhaps it might have been a much better film had the two leading men she wanted been available.
According to a recent biography of Marlene Dietrich, the two men she wanted for The Flame Of New Orleans were Cary Grant and Adolphe Menjou. She had worked with both before, Menjou in Morocco and Grant in Blonde Venus. She liked Menjou and sad to say MGM wouldn't make him available. At the time she and Cary Grant did not get along all that well, he played the other man in Blonde Venus. But in the interim he had gotten superstardom so Dietrich thought that Grant might prove to be a good screen partner now. Alas, that screen team was never to be.
Marlene and her maid Theresa Harris arrive in New Orleans where from the outset it's made plain to the viewer that Dietrich is out to hook a rich fish from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. The one she looks to land is rich and fussy Roland Young and she does bait a trap for him. But a roistering sea captain played by Bruce Cabot spoils it all for her though eventually Young falls for her as expected.
Now if you can't figure out who she winds up with, there's something terribly wrong with you.
Cabot does give a strong performance as the captain, I'm sure he was a rougher type than Cary Grant would have been. Of course as was usual with Marlene and her leading man, the obligatory affair was had. But she also said she found Cabot to be something of a boor and dropped him quickly.
Theresa Harris had a very interesting and unusual role for a black actress of the time. She might be a maid, but she functions more like a partner in crime with Dietrich's schemes. She's nobody's fool in this film and even gets a love interest of sorts in Young's driver Clarence Muse.
The film did get an Oscar nomination for Best Art&Interior Direction and the sets were grand. Rene Clair did a very good job of conveying New Orleans of 1841. Still the film is minor league Dietrich and it could have been a lot better if she had gotten the players she wanted as co-stars.
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