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The opening credits appear across the window shade of a Paris hotel room that has been drawn against the afternoon sun. At the end of the opening credits, a picture of Paris is shown, followed by a brief montage narrated by Maurice Chevalier, who introduces his character, private detective "Claude Chavasse" by stating, "This is the city, Paris, France." He then narrates a montage to illustrate his point that, in Paris, when it comes to making love, "everyone does it," from "the butcher" and "the baker" to the "friendly undertaker."
The montage ends at the Place Vendme, where Chevalier is standing at the top of the central column, using a camera with a long-range lens to shoot pictures of "Madame X" and her lover, "Frank Flannagan." At the end of the film, Chevalier is seen in the train station, with his voice heard offscreen stating, "On Monday, August 24th of this year, the case of Frank Flannagan and Ariane Chavasse came up before the superior judge in Cannes. They are now married, serving a life sentence in New York, state of New York, U.S.A." Chevalier's narration mimics the style of the popular 1950s television series Dragnet, in which the date, city and case were described at the beginning and ending of each episode.
As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot entirely in Paris. Interiors were filmed at the Studios de Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris, with exterior and background shots of the Ritz Hotel, the Place Vendme and various Parisian streets. According to an August 1957 American Cinematographer article on the production written about director of photography William Mellor, the picnic sequence was shot on the grounds of the historic Chteau de Vitry outside Gambais, France. Although the film's pressbook claimed that the scenes set inside Paris' famed "L'Opera" were actually filmed there, the American Cinematographer article clearly stated that, because filming would have been too difficult at the real site, it was recreated at Studios de Boulogne.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, French radio comedienne Minerva Pious was to have a featured role, and actresses Lyn Thomas and Anne Fleming were cast in the picture, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Twins Leila and Va
lerie Croft were cast in the film as "the Swedish Twins" according to news items. Although a photograph of the twins with Flannagan is briefly shown, and they are discussed at various points in the story, the actresses did not appear in any scenes in the released film. According to a January 23, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, the original running time of the film was 137 minutes, but reviews list the length at either 130 or 125 minutes, the approximate length of the print viewed.
"Fascination," the film's main theme, was based on a European waltz, according to various contemporary sources. Although it was not sung in the picture, composer Matty Malnick wrote words for it, as well as the film's gypsy melody, "Hot Paprika." "Fascination" subsequently became a popular song, recorded by Chevalier and many other artists. Another melody in the film, "C'est si bon," also became an international hit for various artists.
According to various news items, the National Catholic Legion of Decency had threatened to give the film a "C," or "Condemned," rating, then eventually granted it a "B" rating, indicating "morally objectionable in part," because of the addition of the final voice-over narration by Chevalier, which stated that the two lovers subsequently married. Other news items indicate that ads for the film, which featured the drawn shade motif used in the opening credits, implied an "illicit" afternoon tryst, thereby drawing objections from the industry's Advertising Code. Some ad copy was also deemed objectionable; however, the ads did appear in many contemporary source.
Love in the Afternoon marked Chevalier's first non-singing film role and his first appearance in an American film since the 1947 Franco-American co-production Man About Town (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Chevalier, who had been one of the top stars of American musical films in the early 1930s, appeared in several singing and non-singing film roles following his appearance in Love in the Afternoon, both in the U.S. and France, until his death in 1972.
Love in the Afternoon marked the American feature film debut of character actor John McGiver (1912-1975). McGiver had previously appeared on Broadway, on television and in short films. He also had a small role in the French film L'Homme l'impermable (The Man with the Umbrella), which was made in Paris at approximately the same time as Love in the Afternoon, but was released in France earlier, in February 1957.
Several reviews mentioned the film's similarity to romantic comedies directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a director for whom Wilder had written several scripts in the 1930s, including the 1938 Paramount film Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), which has some thematic similarities to Love in the Afternoon, and starred Gary Cooper in a role similar to that of Frank Flannagan. Although most reviews highly praised the comedy and the onscreen pairing of Cooper and Audrey Hepburn, many modern sources have commented negatively on the age difference between Hepburn and Cooper who, at the time of filming, were twenty-seven and fifty-five, respectively.
The film, which was director Billy Wilder's only production for Allied Artists, did not receive any Academy Award nominations, but Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond shared a WGA award for Best American Comedy. Love in the Afternoon was the first of many films co-written by Wilder and Diamond, who became lifelong friends, as well as writing and producing collaborators. Wilder also received a Best Director nomination from the DGA. As noted in a Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was re-released by Allied Artists in 1961 under the title Fascination. Within the story, among Flannagan's many business dealings, was his position as an executive of Pepsi-Cola. In 1961, Wilder made the main character of One, Two, Three, an executive of Coca-Cola (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
In 1931, Paul Czinner directed three adaptations of Claude Anet's novel Ariane, jeune fille russe, all of which were set, like the novel, in Moscow, but made in Germany: the German-language version, Ariane, starred Elisabeth Bergner and Rudolf Forster; the French-language version, Ariane, jeune fille russe, starred Gaby Morlay and Jean Dax; and the English-language version, The Loves of Ariane, also starred Bergner, with Percy Marmont.