Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed by the often great Mitchell Leisen, this is one of the best American romantic adventures with comedy. Written by the terrific team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder from an original story (Academy Award) by Benjamin Glazer and John S. Toldy. With Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Dennis O'Keefe, Walter Abel, Dick Purcell, George Zucco, Frank Puglia, Esther Dale, Ann Codee.
Leisen said that he made this film day by day from headlines, waiting to improvise as things changed. In 1939 , when the Loyalists have lost the Spanish Civil War, reporter Augusta ("Gusto") Nash (Claudette Colbert ) rescues American volunteer flyer Tom Martin (Ray Milland ) from a Franco jail and execution, in a great, suspenseful , farcical and black-humorous sequence.

They hijack a plane, escape to Paris, have a wonderful interlude there. The sequence of Colbert in her hotel room, trying to be a professional first and resist her attraction to Milland is a gem. That's when, to force herself not to meet Milland who's waiting in a cafe across the street, she has the astounded hotel's night clerk lock all her shoes in the safe.

Later, Gusto and Tom, respectively on their way to Berlin and Warsaw, don't make it as Hitler attacks Poland. Returning home on the S.S. Athenia which gets torpedoed, they survive and return to the Continent, she to cover the war, he to fly against Germany. Re-reunited after the fall of France they now will go to America to prepare flyers and appeal for an end to America's isolationism. There's definitely a resemblance between the end of this film and the pep-up broadcast to America by Joel McCrea Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" of the same year, 1940.

Walter Abel, in one of his best supporting roles, plays Colbert's harried, frustrated editor who keeps repeating "I'm not happy; I'm not happy at all..." He has superb comic timing.

Good, sophisticated touches of humor and sentiment abound, on a then-delicate, tricky and ever-changing political background. The camerawork (Charles Lang) and the score (Victor Young) were Academy nominated.

In 1988 Miss Colbert said it was her favorite film because "it started out as a farce and became very serious." Joel McCrea was the original choice for the male lead and might have been better than Milland, whose harsh voice and sometimes monotonous acting are a mild liability. But Colbert is superb and the film is a delight.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel