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In winter of 1938, Paris is crowded with refugees from the Nazis, who live in the black shadows of night, trying to evade deportation. One such is Dr. Ravic, who practices medicine illegally and stalks his old Nazi enemy Haake with murder in mind. One rainy night, Ravic meets Joan Madou, a kept woman cast adrift by her lover's sudden death. Against Ravic's better judgement, they become involved in a doomed affair; matters come to a crisis on the day war is declared.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lewis Milestone scored his greatest film success when he did the classic adaption of Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front in 1931. It seemed a natural for him to do an adaption of another Remarque book, Flotsam, retitled here as Arch of Triumph. I guess that United Artists didn't want the audience to think the film was about sea refuse.
Unfortunately while All Quiet on the Western Front stayed very much on its anti-war message, Milestone opted to make one of those tragic romances that Frank Borzage was more noted for. The problem of all the refugees from all the political turmoil up to THAT time collecting in places like Paris was left very much in the background.
Charles Boyer is one of those refugees, a Czech who can't go back to his own country because of Hitler's bloodless takeover. He's a doctor who's been serving in Loyalist Spain and got run out of there. With no passport, he's an illegal alien in France in 1939 and subject to deportation which he is by the way at one point in the film.
He meets Ingrid Bergman who's also a refugee of sorts from a series of bad relationships. He saves her from suicide and a relationship develops. In fact when Boyer is deported, she does what she has to do to survive.
Louis Calhern may have the best role in the film as Boyer's friend and counselor, an exiled Russian Lieutenant Colonel of the Czar's guard who is a doorman at a swank Russian café. Charles Laughton is in here to as an S.S. officer who Boyer remembers killing his old girl friend back in Spain and who he hunts without mercy. Laughton has one of the smallest roles he ever did in a film and I wish there were more of him here.
Laughton is seen briefly at the beginning doing the torture in his best Inspector Javert manner. Later on when Boyer spots him and makes his acquaintance to lure him for the kill, he's an avuncular tourist, but clearly on some kind of mission. He's good in both sides of the same character.
It's a real downer of a film, Arch of Triumph. Good thing we know how history turned out because it sure doesn't look good for the good guys when this film ends.
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