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Mark Steven Johnson
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When In Rome finds Father Van Johnson on a pilgrimage to Rome during the declared Holy Year of 1950 when Catholic priests from all over the world will be heading to Rome as Moslems do to Mecca once in a lifetime. It's somebody's good or ill fortune depending on your point of view that pairs conman Paul Douglas with Johnson on the ocean liner going to Italy.
Before docking in Genoa, Douglas steals Johnson's priestly garments and identity because the Italian police are waiting for him. Now in this day and age a telex would have been sent with a picture and Douglas couldn't have done what he did. I'm not sure why even in the primitive international communications of 1950 that a photograph of convict Douglas wasn't sent to the Italian cops. Still they don't and before Douglas can shed the priestly attire, he's caught up in the identity.
Douglas is an escapee from San Quentin, no easy task and that escape will put years on his sentence. And Johnson is rather reluctant to help the Italian police.
Van's a priest in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown, more concerned with Douglas's standing before God as the Roman Catholic church teaches it than for any of man's temporal justice. The film plays like Father Brown going after master crook Flambeau which would come out in fact a couple of years after When In Rome.
Some newsreel shots of the Holy Year in Rome give us the Roman identification and the film was obviously done in black and white to blend those in. If you're a fan of G.K. Chesterton you will absolutely love this film.
Who triumphs, God's justice or man's law? In a way a little bit of both.
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