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The autobiography of elegant criminal, François Eugène Vidocq, from his birth in a French jail in 1775 to his appointment as chief of police of Paris where he intends to rob the city bank. Along the way, he escapes from jail with Emile, who becomes his partner in crime, poses as a lieutenant to rob a showgirl of her ruby garter, and steals the jewels of a marquise in whose home he's a guest. He's also posed as an artist's model for a portrait of St. George (Emile's face is the dragon's), and the marquise's granddaughter falls in love first with his visage and then him. Can she help him slay his own dragons, especially when the showgirl reappears and the bank vault beckons? Written by
George Sanders is an eloquent thief who becomes a police chief
I wanted to see some George Sanders, and so I watched "A Scandal in Paris", which I'd never seen. I found the movie pleasant, a good diversion, quite witty and a good vehicle for the talents of Sanders. Here are some further impressions.
First off I saw that it was an independent production by Arnold Pressburger. This was a good sign. He was a major independent producer who had a long career. His films may not be as high quality or well-known as those of Samuel Goldwyn, who was top notch, but they can be counted on as good quality. He pulled together a good cast here, headed by Sanders and including Akim Tamiroff, Carole Landis, Alan Napier, Gene Lockhart, Alma Kruger, Vladimir Sokoloff, Fritz Leiber, Pedro de Cordoba, Signe Hasso and Jo Ann Marlowe.
Tamiroff plays a crude cutthroat who teams up with Sanders for burglaries after they escape prison with help from Tamiroff's family of thieves, forgers, and crooks. Tamiroff provides some of the darker element in the film, needed to give it some life. Landis is the spirited wife of Lockhart, but she fancies Sanders. Landis provides some sparks too. Napier appears fairly briefly as a rich Marquis. His wife is Alma Kruger in an effective role as the Marquise who has jewels that become a target for Sanders and Tamiroff who insinuate themselves into their mansion. Hasso and Marlowe are the daughters of Napier and Kruger. Hasso attracts Sanders. Marlowe is first rate as a precocious younger sister. Hasso's part is fairly dull, as she is quiet and innocent for most of the picture. Lieber is in support as an artist who has used Sanders and Tamiroff as models, after which they stole a horse. The local priest is Pedro de Cordoba. Lockhart uses his comic talent to portray a frustrated police chief and husband.
Hollywood was simply awash with talent in these years and it shows in the cast. In the golden era of television, much of this talent went into TV dramas.
The movie uses sets and sound stages. They are well done and look nice, but their sound quality gives them away a few times and undermines the movie subtly when this happens. It's not a fatal defect by any means but it's noticeable sometimes. The best thing to do is get into the spirit of the play and forget about it, or even appreciate how well the sets look.
Sanders has many witty lines and also narration that he delivers in his customary smooth, cynical and sophisticated way. The story is quite well put together. It has some surprises.
Basically, "A Scandal in Paris" is a light comedy of wit, situations and manners, with some touches of farce. It was easy to take but it is not always "smooth". There are some places where it could have used more polishing or takes.
I came away thinking that Hollywood has to be given a lot of credit for its being able to produce films of this quality for mass consumption, even if they were not top notch. The average was still quite good. This is what made it world famous and why its films would go global. This is why we're seeing so many older films brought out on VHS tape and now DVD. There's still demand to see these movies.
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