FERNANDO’s CORNER ~ posted August 26th, 2017
(1937) (Walter Wanger/United Artists) (Dir: Frank Borzage)
She did it again! My friend Theresa Brown, whom I call Tess, did it again. Her great write–up on this wonderful film made me want to see it again, right away, in spite of the fact that there were many other films on the queue before it to see…many indeed 😉
This is the second time I have seen this grand Frank Borzage oeuvre, one of my very favorite directors of all time; the master of Romance and sentiment and of human feelings. And now, after I knew what it was all about I was prepared not to be flabbergasted like the first time, with the blending of romance, drama, touches of comedy and disaster film. This time around I was able to concentrate more on aspects that eluded me the first time I watched such potent work.
The sincerity of the performance of the great Jean Arthur, was warmer and more a living flesh human being than ever before. Borzage extracted qualities out of her performance that no other director achieved quite in the same way, before of after. Yes, she was brilliant under Capra’s direction, George Stevens’ and many other talented directors, especially in comedy; but the Jean Arthur we see here is something else, in my opinion. She portrays this character, sensitively, luminously, almost with an ethereal quality, but at the same time with very much the quality of a human being. She’s simply terrific.
Great chemistry with Charles Boyer who was the master of romance, setting female hearts aflutter all over the world as a man determined to find the woman of his life. After watching him in this 1937 film, one understands why he became the continental lover, the epitome of the romantic and sensitive heartthrob. Sadly they never worked together again.
The story is very unique. Jean Arthur plays Irene Vail, who is married to Bruce Vail (Colin Clive, also brilliant) a psycho, an obsessive, insanely jealous, megalomaniacal husband who does not know how to be happy and can’t make anyone happy, least of all his wife. They are divorced, but he can’t let her go, so he tries to frame her to get her back. The scheme does not work when the dashing Paul Dumond (the best headwaiter in Paris) comes to her rescue. A great love story begins, and it’s all so perfectly made and timed. Every little detail of their encounter, every charming moment: the restaurant, the lobster, the dancing, she in slippers because she was rushed from her bedroom and Leo Carrillo ~ Cesare, the greatest chef in the World is wonderful. Did he ever play such a charming friend again? I doubt it. Borzage transforms him into a human being as well.
I could go on talking and talking about this great film and about all its wondrous vignettes ~ a movie which also has scenes reminiscent of the Titanic disaster ~ which moved me all over again as if it were the first time I was watching them, and in spite of the fact that I sort of remembered the ending. Marvelous. Two human beings meet by absolute chance and the story unfolds…like life itself.
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