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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film opens on the eve of Jane Russell wedding day to Craig
When Jane discovers that Craig broke with her just for fearing to marry a cheery Texas oil heiress, she takes a trip to France - incognito - on board of the S.S. Liberté, following the advice of her protégé Arthur Hunnicutt...
In New York, she meets an old friend Mary McCarthy, an interesting woman of the 'fashion world' who was about to give on the same ship, an ostentatious arrogant international show of elegant and stylish costumes once believed 'subject to censure.'
Switching and masquerading identities during the voyage as a fashion model with Joyce MacKenzie, Jane falls in love with Gilbert Roland, a good-humored playboy with 'no' money, hired secretly by Hunnicutt to look after her during the trip...
Once arriving to France, everything is cleared and unclouded by the couple, who affirms their deep affection and true love, living happily ever after...
"French Line" is thinly plotted but quite attractive light musical with a star first seen in her 'bubble of excitement' bath scene, then in a daring and gorgeous gown... Russell performs a dance of the 1920s singing "Lookin' for Trouble."
For your record, Kim Novak appears, for the first time, as a model...
1982, a small neighborhood theatre in my hometown. A double feature of "The French Line" and a Universal film (both Technicolor and 3-D). "The French Line" was a hoot and a half! When the posters outside of the theatre proclaimed "JR in 3D!", they really meant what they said. During several musical numbers, when she would turn from profile and face the camera with her chest thrust out: watch out! You almost felt you should move away from the screen. It's not "Gentlemen to Prefer" blondes, but the total 1950s of it, the tacky musical numbers (no tackiness on Russell's part, though, as she was a capable singer) and that "just hold on feeling" you got from an RKO production when the studio was going through it's death throes, came through. A delightful movie, and, although, I am not a Jane Russell fan, I admire her as a performer and a very capable actress. She carries the movie through on star power. A couple of costumes in the movie caused the movie to be condemned by the Catholic League of Decency in the USA as "unfit for all". How times have changed! Like a previous reviewer said, it could not only be shown on the Disney Channel, but probably already has, and on a Sunday morning, too! I've seen the movie on AMC, and the video transfers are horrible, but if you ever, EVER get a chance to see it in a theatre in 3-D, run, don't walk. You'll have a great time.
I just saw this movie at the Egyptian theater yesterday and I enjoyed every minute of it. All of Jane Russell's musical numbers were great!! I admit I didn't like the songs Gilbert Roland sang, but other than that the movie was awesome!! The story line was great and it was really funny. I also enjoyed all of her costumes. I love the girl that played her designer friend, she was goofy. I am proud to say that I was actually really lucky to have seen the real Jane Russell at the 3D showing of the movie. She had a lot of funny stories to tell about the filming of this movie as well during her interview. I recommend this movie to anyone!!
The British publication "Radio Times" in a recent review said that Jane
Russell was past her prime in this movie. Were they watching? She looks
great, her singing is fantastic and she seems to really enjoy herself in
In my book this is one of the best musicals of the 1950's, but it's strength is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Irreverent and vulgar, the plot is a feminist's nightmare and Jane Russell's "talents" are exploited to the full. As the picture was released originally in 3D, the tagline was "Jane will knock BOTH your eyes out!"
One of the most censored movies in American history, the film was cut to shreds in many states. The final musical number "lookin' for trouble" is truly outrageous. But the overall spirit of the film is goodnatured and full of energy.
Watch this film again and again!
I am so stunned by the hilarious vulgarity of THE FRENCH LINE it is all I can rave about. Stacked to the hilt with personally supervised costumes and showgirl extras by bra master Howard Hughes, notorious for making glamorous RKO into a burlesque production line, the casting couch there must have needed new springs by the time this technicolour-3D extravaganza hit screens Nationwide in 1954. Seemingly made for the knee slapping amusement of rich Texan hicks and crafted by trapped RKO professionals who must have sighed at having to work on such hillbilly antics, THE FRENCH LINE is an oceangoing girlie show wrought into some semblance of a farce. Jane Russell is as usual her spunky insolent self and gets to showcase her famous torpedo talents in outfits leaving nothing not spangled. Her two main numbers near the end of the film are the ones that caused the outrage in '54 and today are probably the best drag queen numbers one could imagine. A masterpiece of tawdry tinsel, swim outfits and frocks. You'll titter all through THE FRENCH LINE, rather like Howard must have all through production. Hilarious! Republic must have realized RKO wanted the bumpkin musical films and realized Judy Canova was no Jane Russell.
"The French Line" was a Howard Hughes-produced opus in 3-D, designed to
showcase star Jane Russell (you can make your own guesses what the
purpose of putting this innocuous musical in 3-D was...I'll give you
two!). To be kind, its no "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", to which it has
Jane plays a Texas girl who is a reluctant millionairess - she has inherited her late father's ranch, which happens to be sitting on copious oil fields. But poor Jane only wants a man who will love her for who she is, not her money. She bewails her lot to her friend and guardian, ranch hand Arthur Hunnicutt, when her latest beau, Craig Stevens, jilts her before heading to the altar because he, like all the others, can't handle having a rich wife. Hunnicutt talks her into not canceling her planned wedding cruise to Paris on the French line, the Liberte (as pronounced by Jane, the Li-burr-tay), only she decides to go incognito so she can catch a man who knows nothing about her money.
Well, first of all, do you really think a millionairess who happens to look like Jane Russell would have such problems? This is purely a confection of a film and not worth worrying about plot lines, but its all just pretty damn silly. And unfortunately, someone decided it should be a musical except all the blah numbers are staged very awkwardly. Jane is beautiful, but hasn't much to work with here and leading man Gilbert Roland seems both a bit too mature as a match for her and definitely too Spanish to play a Frenchman (they try to pawn it off by giving him a Spanish mother). It all ends with a fashion show which just may be the most ludicrous of many far-fetched Hollywood fashion shows. And by now, all the naughtiness which got this opus condemned by the League of Decency and denied a Production seal (Jane's skimpy costumes and bumps & grinds) seem fit for a toddler to watch.
"The French Line" is a musical comedy about love and romance. It
contains no sex scenes and no nudity or even toplessness. There is no
violence, no foul language and no drug references. It is so square it
even features a heterosexual male fashion designer. It seems like the
sort of film that could be enjoyed by all the family without offending
Wrong. When it was released in 1954 it was condemned as immoral by the Catholic League of Decency who, apparently, took exception to the supposedly revealing costumes worn by its star, Jane Russell. Ironically, Russell, herself a devout Christian, had been unhappy about wearing a bikini in the film and had been allowed to exchange this for a one-piece swimsuit, but even this gesture towards modesty failed to placate the League.
The film is essentially a remake of a comedy from the thirties called "The Richest Girl in the World". In that film the heroine, Dorothy, was the heiress to a large fortune. She was worried that potential suitors would love her for her money and not for herself, and therefore changed places with her attractive secretary Sylvia. If any man showed an interest in the supposed 'Sylvia' (really Dorothy in disguise), she would suggest that the supposed 'Dorothy' (really Sylvia in disguise) had fallen in love with him and would welcome a proposal of marriage. The real Sylvia was happily married and had no interest in any of Dorothy's suitors; the point of this charade was that a man who showed any interest in the fake 'Dorothy' had failed the test and proved himself unworthy of the real Dorothy's hand.
In "The French Line" this situation is given a new twist. The heroine, Mary, is also the heiress to a large fortune (from ranching and oil in Texas), but she has precisely the opposite problem. Whereas Dorothy was worried about attracting unscrupulous fortune-hunters, Mary (somewhat improbably for a girl who combines great wealth with the looks of Jane Russell) is unable to attract men at all, as potential husbands are actually deterred by the thought of all that money. (Well, this is a work of fiction). The film begins with Mary's third fiancé in succession breaking off their engagement.
Mary is travelling to Europe on a luxury French liner, and swaps identities with a young fashion model named Myrtle in order to conduct a romance with a smooth French designer named Pierre. In the fifties models were presumably less well paid than they are today, when supermodels will not wake up for less than $10,000. Today a fashion model would probably have more in her bank account than a Texan oil millionairess. (Actually, that famous quote from Linda Evangelista dates back to the early nineties. Allowing for inflation, it must now cost at least $20,000 to get a supermodel out of bed).
This is one remake that is rather better than its original. "The Richest Girl" is a very short film, and seventy minutes were not sufficient either to develop the characters or to bring out all the comic possibilities of the situation; the conclusion, in particular, is rushed and muddled. "The French Line" is a very light-hearted, frothy confection (in many places seeming to double up as an extended advertisement for the fashion industry), but at just over 100 minutes it does have more developed characters, not just Mary and Pierre, but also Myrtle and Mary's old friend Annie, also working as a fashion designer. The one character I did not like was Mary's guardian Waco Mosby. He was supposed to be a larger-than-life, tough-talking Texan, but because he seemed to be the sort of American who treated the Declaration of Independence as also being a declaration of war on the English language, I found it difficult to understand a word he was saying.
Although the music is nothing special when compared to the likes of, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein, the song and dance numbers do add to the charm of the film, as well as showing off Jane Russell's charms to their best advantage. And any film which annoys America's narrow-minded Puritans cannot be wholly bad. 6/10
This is one of those obscure musicals that RKO made in the 40's and 50's. But in its day it was a box office winner. The publicity behind this picture was fantastic. Jane Russell was a knock-out in 3D but without this new screen process it was still enjoyable. Wonderful charactor Arthur Hunnicut steals the show as was his custom. Gilbert Roland is good as Jane's romantic interest in a different role for him. The songs are good for the most part. Give "The French Line" a try. If you are a Jane Russell fan, you'll love it.
Oil heiress from Texas, tired of being a one-woman corporation and falling for men who are allergic to her millions, takes a cruise to France posing as a fashion model. Tatty romantic comedy with musical interludes does have some smart lines, Gilbert Roland trying his best as a lovestruck playboy (of French descent!), and Jane Russell in the lead, alternately beaming and scowling, her tall frame self-consciously hunched to make up for everyone else's shortcomings. Russell is very natural and appealing on screen, yet she has a bad habit of filling in the blanks by making silly, exaggerated faces--some of which are funny intentionally as well as unintentionally! A blowsy piece of fluff, the movie does have its pleasures, particularly in the writing department, which is a notch above the fashion show norm. ** from ****
Before Howard Hughes managed to destroy his play toy, RKO Radio Pictures,
with one production after another that fared rather dismally at the box
office and, certainly, with the critics, his sexual preoccupations were on
full view in "The French Line"
The Roman Catholic censorship body, the Legion of Decency, did a great deal more to boost receipts than the first-run 3-D presentations ever could when they "Condemned" this one, for all the usual sex-related reasons, since even then the depiction of excessive violence was given a pass. Once a year those of us who attended Sunday Mass regularly found ourselves trapped into taking the L. of D. Pledge (Very few dared remain seated, lemmetellya!), which required us to promise that we would not patronize theaters which made a practice of booking "Condemned" films. Since only foreign films, usually those originating in France, managed to get the "Condemned" accolade and they rarely made it beyond the few New York theaters willing to book them, the stricture about avoiding those lascivious pleasure palaces that dared book a "Condemned" film was interpreted to mean that just one disgraceful example of cinematic lechery could get them placed on the list of verboten venues.
When the Picwood Theater in West Los Angeles (which had a massive auditorium with a huge screen), not far from where we lived in Pacific Palisades at the time, was selected to show "The French Line" in 3-D, I was darned if I was going to have to wait until a neighborhood theater showed M-G-M's "The Swan", Grace Kelly's Hollywood curtain call, on a much smaller screen than when it was booked onto the Picwood's CinemaScope eye-stretcher, only a couple of years after management had dared book Jane Russell's eye-popping embarrassment. Eventually I managed to see "The French Line" on television, by which time our standards of taste had slipped somewhat, and I was sure hard put to understand what that big stink had all been about.
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