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William A. Seiter
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
The absolutely gorgeous color cinematography and the Academy Award winning sets are the main reason that you should Frenchman's Creek today. The players definitely take second place to those outstanding features.
The plot at least as it has been altered by the Code is handled with as much skill as the cast can muster covering up some glaring holes. Joan Fontaine is one unhappily married lady of the manor with two small children and a husband who seems more intent on advancing his career in Restoration Great Britain than in her. As was the fashion of that bawdy era husband Ralph Forbes even encourages his wife to pay attention to the courting of his rakish friend Basil Rathbone to Fontaine. When at court many men even pimped their wives for Charles II, this behavior in that era isn't surprising.
Well Fontaine can't stand Rathbone so she and the kids take off for the summer place on the Cornwall coast. There's a servant there with a French accent, Cecil Kellaway and later she learns it's been inhabited discreetly by French pirate Arturo De Cordova. He's quite the charmer, if the film were done at Warner Brothers Errol Flynn would have had the part.
Joan and Arturo as a couple look like they come right out of one of those romance novels. She even takes up the cutlass with him and she proves to be every bit the swordsman he is.
The title of the film comes from a hidden cove near Fontaine's manor where De Cordova's ship lays anchor.
Other more recent versions of the story by Daphne Du Maurier have been made that are closer to the original. I can't reveal it, but the ending makes absolutely no sense at all. And it is NOT as Du Maurier wrote it originally.
Maybe that was part of the reason that Mexican film idol Arturo De Cordova never got stardom north of the border. He appeared in this film, in a supporting role in For Whom the Bell Tolls and another Paramount feature and then went back to Mexico where he was a leading figure in Latino cinema for the next quarter of a century. De Cordova reminds me a lot of his fellow countryman, Gilbert Roland.
Rathbone is a nasty villain and there's also a nice performance by Nigel Bruce as a fatheaded earl who is a Cornwall neighbor. It's the only time that Basil and Nigel did a film together not as Holmes and Watson.
Mitchell Leisen directed this film and did a good job given the Code restrictions he operated under. Leisen early in his career worked on several Cecil B. DeMille films and his photography and sets definitely have a DeMille look to them.
If you like romantic tales, despite the problems, Frenchman's Creek is one for you.
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