Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1939. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, based on a story by Edwin Justus Mayer, Franz Schulz. Cinematography by Charles Lang. Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.. Music by Friedrich Hollaender. Production Design by Hans Dreier, Robert Usher. Costume Design by Irene. Film Editing by Doane Harrison.
There’s a reason why they call it the silver screen: the images here literally glisten as Claudette Colbert arrives in Paris in the middle of the night, finely dressed but lacking a dime to her name. She befriends a cab driver (Don Ameche) with whom she has an immediate attachment, but then gives him the slip and finds herself in the company of aristocrats to whom she presents herself as a baroness. John Barrymore plays an incredibly wealthy member of the leisure set who hires her to woo a rich playboy away from his own philandering wife (Mary Astor). Colbert sees it as a great opportunity to marry into a fortune, but her plans become complicated when Ameche shows up again pretending to be her “baron” husband. Lots of Depression-era politics about the moral superiority of the working class, but lots of laughs too in the dazzling screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder. Mitchell Leisen’s direction is perfectly effortless, moving seamlessly from situation to situation without breaking a bead of sweat, backed up by bubbly performances, beautiful sets and costumes and a palpable sexy chemistry between the leads. It’s one of the prime examples of thirties filmmaking, and one of Colbert’s greatest performances.