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Charles Marquis Warren
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Dick Van Dyke,
Paris when it fizzles: The one about the priest and the cabaret singer
The suspense in Bedevilled turns out to be whether Steve Forrest will break the vow of celibacy he hasn't yet taken. (Maybe he was following in the footsteps of his brother Dana Andrews, who played a priest in Edge of Doom.) As an American off to Rome to study for Holy Orders, Forrest gets three days to kill in Paris. When his buddy Robert Christopher, nauseous after their bumpy transatlantic flight, takes to bed, Forrest decides to explore the city on his own. But, like nuns, those seminarians travel in pairs for good reason: They might run smack into Anne Baxter.
Forrest's attempts at cool politeness seem wasted on the mercurial Baxter, who either clings to him for comfort or tells him to clear out of her life ('I don't know you from AC/DC,' she snaps at one point). When the police show up at the Elephant Blanc, a cabaret where she sings, she names Forrest as her alibi for the past several hours, even though they've just met. She tells him she just witnessed a murder and may soon wind up a victim herself. When some thugs start following her, Forrest helps her hide out until she can flee the country (no easy task, since her passport has been stolen).
Meanwhile, Forrest is seriously A.W.O.L. from his vocation. When Christopher, hunting the fleshpots of Paris, locates him in a garret in the slums, he offers his help. But Forrest, operating under the constraints of Hollywood's thick-headed male code, rebuffs him. He rebuffs Baxter, too, whose feelings for him have started to stir. (Why won't he tell her of his vocation? Is he ashamed?) Finally, after a chase over rooftops and up and down countless steps, Baxter and Forrest take refuge in a church. There, humbled in the presence of the Absolute, she starts to reveal a little more of her story....
If there was a good way out of the plot she welded together, scriptwriter Jo Eisinger didn't find it. (Her career started strongly, with benchmark noirs like Gilda and Night and the City, but petered out into the sentimental and far-fetched - The System, Crime of Passion.) The suspense mechanisms of Baxter's plight stay sketched in only roughly, while Forrest's drab dilemma (theology versus biology) takes top priority; that a woman's life is at stake seems less momentous than whether he might succumb to temptation. The ending satisfactorily resolves neither character's problem. Bedevilled closes on a chord of attempted uplift that strikes a gratingly sour note.
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