Denise Baudu, an orphaned girl in need, decides to go to Paris where her uncle Baudu keeps a small draper's shop, "Le Vieil Elbeuf". The young woman hopes her kinsman will be able to give ... See full summary »
Denise Baudu, an orphaned girl in need, decides to go to Paris where her uncle Baudu keeps a small draper's shop, "Le Vieil Elbeuf". The young woman hopes her kinsman will be able to give her a position. Unfortunately Octave Mouret, Baudu's visionary competitor, has just opened a giant department store nearby, "Au Bonheur des dames", which now attracts customers like a magnet. Denise, realizing that "Le Vieil Elbeuf" is dying away, crosses the street to offer her services to Octave Mouret... Written by
Emile Zola, as the Warner Brothers graphically demonstrated some years back, was a handy man with a lance, splintering quite a few in just causes. And the French film makers, not unaware of the scope of the novelist's jousts, have taken another, albeit one of his less notable indictments, "Au Bonheur des Dames," and have fashioned it into an interesting, often satiric although sometimes shallow delineation of the ills that beset the nineteenth-century Paris working girl and small business men.
For, "Shop-Girls of Paris," the adaptation of "Au Bonheur des Dames," speaks an honest, angry piece but occasionally employs the obvious, heavy-handed approach of slick dramas to make its points.
The shopgirls of M. Mouret's department store, who not only work but also live and eat there, are entirely at the mercy of the young, grasping and forceful owner, as is Baudu, the aged, irascible proprietor of Le Vieil Elbeuf, the tiny, moribund emporium next door. Mouret, a visionary who sees himself as the boss of the world's largest store, is not averse to cutting prices, surreptitiously buying up his old competitor's shop, introducing white sales and the return of purchases to make good his planned, merchandising colossus. He is not averse also to a sly, pseudo-romantic liaison with his rich neighbor, Mme Desforges, and indiscriminate dismissals among his staff, to attain his ends. It is only when Baudu's niece, who has gone to work in the new largest business of its kind, scathingly denounces the boss and his practices, that Mouret, who has fallen in love with his spirited clerk, institutes sweeping reforms.
Michel Simon, bearded and craggy-faced, as the embittered Baudu, who has never been able to accumulate enough of a dowry for his daughter and clerk to marry on, gives a convincing portrayal except for moments of rage, when typical Gallic shouting and arm waving supplant true histrionics. Blanchette Brunoy is an appealing and beautiful figure as his niece, while Albert Prejean is expert as the suave store owner with an eye for the ladies and business.
Jean Tissier, as his oily and hard lieutenant, and Suzy Prim, as the designing dame who has a way of combining sharp realty practices with romantic flings contributes deft, humorous portrayals in heading the large, supporting cast.
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