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Monday, 23 September 2013

Classic Film Review: The French Line (1953)

The French Line stars Jane Russell as Mame Carson, a millionaire who's just been dumped by her fiancée for being too rich. Under the advice of partner Waco (Arthur Hunnicutt), she takes her honeymoon trip alone and incognito, persuading someone else to take on her name so she can find a man who falls in her with her and not her fortune. Unfortunately, Waco has paid Pierre DuQuesne (Gilbert Roland) to keep an eye on Mame on board. While keeping an eye on who he thinks is Mame, Pierre falls in love with the real deal but the situation gets even more complicated.

This lacklustre film is saved from complete mediocrity by Jane Russell and Mary McCarty who plays her friend Annie Farrell. The songs are fairly forgettable, one exception being their joint number, 'Any Gal From Texas', and the rest of the cast is uninspiring. The plot is very convoluted and there is absolutely no chemistry between Russell and Roland. In fact, his character comes across as one of the most slimy, irritating love interests I've ever seen.

That's not to say The French Line has no redeeming features. There are some amusing scenes, most notably when Pierre gets Mame drunk under the guise of curing her seasickness although, again, the best part of this sequence is when she goes back to her room and sings to Annie about it. The film relies too much on its own credentials: it was Russell's follow-up to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), is also set on a ship crossing to France, involves two women and a bit of a conspiracy and has a screenplay written by the niece of the writer Anita Loos (whose story Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was based on). It essentially tries to live up to its predecessor but without the power of Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn or a decent script and set of songs.

I enjoyed parts of the film because there's no stopping my Jane Russell adoration. But, on the whole, it's a lacklustre piece that doesn't have as many laughs as I thought it would.

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