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Legionnaires in Paris (1927)

 -  Comedy  -  23 December 1927 (USA)
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Cast overview:
Al Cooke ...
Al Cooke
Kit Guard ...
Kit Guard
Virginia Sale ...
John Aasen ...


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Release Date:

23 December 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

French Leave  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Half-baked doughboys
15 February 2006 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'French Leave' has enough good laughs to fill a one-reel comedy short; unfortunately, those laughs are spread out over six reels of tedium.

IMDb's cast list has got Al Cooke and Kit Guard credited(?) as playing 'themselves'. That's not quite accurate. In the same way that Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy played two stumblebums named Stan and Ollie who did *not* resemble their real-life selves, Cooke and Guard are cast here as two idiots named Al and Kit, whom -- I sincerely hope -- are fictional characters, not self-portraits. I well and truly dislike it when actors play characters with the same names as themselves. In this case, 'Kit' was an extremely uncommon name in 1927, so -- when a man named Kit plays a man named Kit -- everything is more self-conscious and 'meta' than it needs to be.

Right, here goes. Al and Kit are doughboys from the town of Pratt Falls ... and that's the funniest joke in the movie. They're in Paris on Armistice Day, where some contrived events lead them to believe they've accidentally killed a man. Do they go to the police and straighten it out? Of course not! So, when the gendarmes start chasing them, Al and Kit naturally go on the lam. We know (but they don't) that the French government intend to honour Al and Kit for their bravery in combat ... and the police only want to escort them to the award ceremony.

This briefly amusing movie is infuriatingly unfunny. True humour arises when a protagonist is in genuine trouble, preferably physical danger. (Think of Harold Lloyd, dangling from that clock.) In this case, Al and Kit *think* they're in trouble but we know they aren't. There's no build-up, no suspense, because we know that the misunderstanding will eventually sort itself out.

Remarkably, the screenwriters manage to magnify the misunderstanding into a climax, when the two legionnaires are 'caught' by the flics and escorted to the awards ceremony. We know that these two idiots are about to get a gong, but they think they're for the chop. Their distress is only mildly amusing. Now, if it were just the other way round -- the two of them are eager to accept medals, unaware that they're actually heading for the guillotine -- it would have been hilarious.

Louise Lorraine and Virginia Sale have little to do as a couple of mam'selles. The funniest performance in this film is given by 8-foot-tall John Aasen, cast as a Legionnaire named Shorty ... who accidentally smashes everything he touches, due to his immense bulk. (Aasen was famously the giant in Lloyd's film 'Why Worry?'.) Most of the furniture and props destroyed by Aasen in 'French Leave' are obviously 'breakaway' fakes, and yet the huge Aasen brings a genuine note of pathos to his slapstick performance: he really was an immense and enormous man, and watching him here we can't help wondering about the genuine plight of a real-life giant.

Watching this pathetic movie spawned by Joe Kennedy's FBO studio, I was shocked that the grossly unfunny intertitles are credited to Jack Conway. There was an excellent director of that name at MGM at this time; was he possibly moonlighting for Joe Kennedy? I was relieved to learn that they're two entirely different Jack Conways. I'll rate John Aasen 10 out of 10 for his splendid performance, but 'Legionnaires in Paris' just barely rates 2 out of 10. Au suivant!

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