In 1848 NYC, a Frenchwoman visits exiled former French Marshal Thevenet to ask for his financial help in behalf of his French grandson but Thevenet's house staff schemes to kill him and take his fortune.
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In 1848, a young Frenchwoman, Madeline Minot, goes to New York City to see Thevenet, the grandfather of her fiance. Thevenet had been with Napoleon and may be sympathetic to the political aims of his grandson. She finds the old man in very bad spirits, living in a large house with a housekeeper and a butler who are just waiting for him to die (and perhaps helping him along a bit) so they can inherit his fortune. They see Madeline as a threat to their plans. She is aided in her dealings with these strange people by a mysterious man in a cloak. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After the first meeting with Madeleine, Charles Theverner addresses his pet raven named Villon, after the French poet François Villon, and quotes from Villon's "Ballade des dames du temps jadis" ("Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past"): "Où sont les neiges d'antant?" ("Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!"). Later, Dupin quotes the same Ballad in English. He also reads from the book a few lines of Edgar Poe's "The Raven." See more »
Barbara Stanwyck, running the household for wealthy French ex-patriot Louis Calhern, is waiting with the rest of the staff for the old man to die while perhaps helping to speed things up a little. Things get complicated when the grandson's fiance (Leslie Caron) shows up expressing need for the old man's money. It doesn't take long for mysterious stranger Joseph Cotten to get involved. An erudite alcoholic with no money but clearly superior breeding, he takes the young woman's side and proves to be a formidable match for the devious household.
The movie appears to be uniquely conceived as a film-noir mystery put into a Victorian time frame. The opening scenes, the plot structure, and the character conflicts all clearly fit the film-noir style, and this is further enhanced by putting Stanwyck in a familiar role as the femme fatale. Aside from an embarrassing few minutes of singing, she is as excellent as her somewhat limited role allows her to be, and the rest of the cast performs excellently as well.
Unfortunately, the story turns out to be not as much of a mystery as it could be and the film-noir stylings are greatly watered down in order to create the type of Victorian atmosphere which would meet the expectations of most of the viewers. It's an enjoyable, well-made film, but it definitely lacks the bite it might otherwise have had.
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