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|Joan of Paris|
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
James Anderson (assistant)
|Written by||Jacques Théry (story)|
Georges Kessel (story)
Ellis St. Joseph
|Produced by||David Hempstead|
|Edited by||Sherman Todd|
|Music by||Roy Webb|
RKO Radio Pictures
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
Joan of Paris is a 1942 war film about five Royal Air Force pilots shot down over Nazi-occupied France during World War II and their attempt to escape to England. It stars Michèle Morgan and Paul Henreid, with Thomas Mitchell, Laird Cregar and May Robson in her last role.
Joan of Paris marked the U.S. screen debuts of Austrian Henreid and Frenchwoman Morgan. Henreid had previously appeared in some British-American co-productions made in England and had starred on Broadway in the play Flight to the West as Paul von Hernreid. When he was signed with RKO in 1942, the studio changed his surname, dropping the "von" and changing his last name to "Henreid", the name he used for the rest of his film career.
Cregar was borrowed from 20th-Century Fox. Alan Ladd, who played one of the downed airmen, would soon become a star later that year. After his breakthrough starring role in This Gun for Hire (1942), Joan of Paris was re-released with Ladd more prominently featured.
1941. In German-occupied France, five downed RAF fliers make their way to Paris in order to seek help returning to England. Their leader, Paul (Paul Henreid), contacts a former mentor, Father Antoine (Thomas Mitchell), who agrees to hide them in his cathedral. Later, after eluding German agents, Paul enters a café. There, he meets with Joan (Michèle Morgan), introducing himself with a coded message from Father Antoine. As the film progresses, the two become close.
Later, Father Antoine obtains the name of a contact, a schoolteacher (May Robson) who agrees to a secret meeting with Joan, where she promises to arrange for a seaplane to land at night on the Seine River to pick up Paul and the fliers. However, Paul is subsequently arrested by the Gestapo for not carrying identification papers. But his interrogator, Herr Funk (Laird Cregar), apologizes for the inconvenience and releases him. Funk actually wishes to lull Paul into leading his agents to the other fliers. But that night, Paul discovers he is being followed.
Unable to shake the Gestapo agent who tails him, he contacts Joan. He asks her to deliver a map of the rendezvous point to his comrades, still hidden in Father Antoine's cathedral. Later, Paul finally eliminates his Gestapo tracker. But soon after, Joan is confronted by Funk in her flat. He offers her a devil's bargain: Paul's life, if she will lead him to the hiding place of the others. She agrees. Once in the cathedral, however, she double-crosses Funk and his soldiers, leading them on a wild goose chase through the Paris sewers. Thus, Paul and the fliers are allowed enough time to make their escape. In the film's final scene, Joan bravely faces a German firing squad.
The working title of this film was "Joan of Arc" and was the first war-themed film from RKO Radio Pictures. According to pre-production news items in The Hollywood Reporter, RKO considered Charles Boyer, Robert Morley and Jean Gabin for leads in the film. Producer David Hempstead wanted Julien Duvivier to direct the project because Gabin and Michele Morgan had worked with Duvivier in Europe. Lewis Milestone was initially assigned to direct the film but resigned over differences with the studio.
Joan of Paris used the largest single set constructed by the studio since the making of Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Principal photography took place from mid-September to late October 1941, and although ready for release in December 1941, RKO held the film back for an early 1942 release to capitalize on public interest in films about World War II.
Alan Ladd's performance helped him get cast in This Gun for Hire. Paul Henreid says that after working with Ladd he felt "Ladd couldn't die properly and Stevenson shot and reshot the episode. Ladd's eyes showed no expression. They were like glass balls no matter how much Stevenson worked on him." Henreid says he and Stevenson both predicted that out of the young men in the film it would be Dick Frazier who had the best chance of stardom.
Joan of Paris received a glowing review from film critic Bosley Crowther in The New York Times, " here is a tale of personal valor and selfless sacrifice which is told so simply and eloquently, and is so beautifully played that it might be a true re-enactment of a gallant episode. At least, it cheers the heart and stirs the pulse to think that it might be. "Joan of Paris' is a rigidly exciting and tenderly moving film. It will do as a tribute to high courage until the lamps of Paris burn once more."
- "Detail View: 'Joan of Paris'." American Film Institute. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- Jewell and Harbin 1982, p. 169.
- Mank, Gregory William (2018). Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy. McFarland.
- Miller, Frank. "Articles: 'Joan of Arc' (1942)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- Churchill. Douglas W. "Out of the Hollywood hopper." The New York Times, October 5, 1941, p. X5.
- "Joan of Paris." AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- "Original print information: 'Joan of Arc' (1942)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- "The Gent Is Alan Ladd, the Calculating Trigger-Man in 'This Gun for Hire'" by John R. Franchey. New York Times June 7, 1942: X4.
- Henreid, Paul; Fast, Julius (1984). Ladies man : an autobiography. St. Martin's Press. p. 87.
- Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: 'Joan of Paris,'.Poignant Drama, Opens at Rivoli." The New York Times, January 28, 1942. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- Jewell 2012, p. 252.
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