Cast & Crew
In 1805, twenty-nine-year-old Eugene-François Vidocq is serving time in jail after a life of petty crimes and romantic conquests. After Vidocq and his cellmate, Emile Vernet, escape from jail, they take refuge with Emile's family in Paris. Later, posing as soldiers in Napoleon's army, the men leave for Marseilles. There, in a waterfront café, Vidocq meets singer Loretta, but their romance ends when Vidocq steals a jeweled garter from her. A short time later, Loretta marries Chief of Police Richet, the man who gave her the garter. In a cemetery on the road back to Paris, Vidocq and Emile rescue a pet monkey belonging to the Marquise de Pierremont. After catching a glimpse of the marquise's jewels, Vidocq wrangles an invitation to her castle. The marquise's son Houdon, the Minister of Police, has two daughters--beautiful Therese, who becomes infatuated with Vidocq, and precocious Mimi. Learning from Houdon that Richet is on the trail of the "Casanova" bandit, Vidocq decides to steal the jewels immediately and hide them on the castle grounds. When Richet fails to capture the thief, Houdon fires him. Vidocq then pretends to discover the hidden jewels and is appointed to Richet's vacated position. Vidocq reveals to Emile his plans to use his new position to rob the Bank of Paris and, in preparation for the robbery, hires Emile's relatives as bank guards. One day, as he leaves the bank, Vidocq encounters Loretta, who recognizes him and pressures him into meeting her that night at a modiste's shop. Worried that Loretta will expose him, Vidocq orders Emile to carry out the robbery that night. Later that day, at the marquise's request, Therese and Mimi, accompanied by Emile and Vidocq, deposit her jewels in the bank. When they are alone, Therese tells Vidocq of her love for him and also reveals her knowledge that he stole her mother's jewels. She then begs him to remain in his job as an honest policeman. Because he returns Therese's love, Vidocq agrees to her request. After he tells Emile's family that he will not participate in the robbery, Vidocq leaves for his meeting with Loretta, followed by an enraged Emile. When Vidocq arrives at the modiste's, he discovers that Loretta has been killed by her jealous husband, who then committed suicide. Emile tries to kill Vidocq but is himself killed in the ensuing struggle. Vidocq confesses his crimes, and is pardoned when he agrees to make reparations. His name cleared, Vidocq marries Therese and begins a new life on the side of the law.
Jo Ann Marlowe
Pedro De Cordoba
Ellis St. Joseph
F. Paul Sylos
A Scandal in Paris -
After escaping Nazi Germany in 1937, he eventually arrived in Hollywood and directed a string of films in the 1940s with European settings and flavors: Hitler's Madman (1943), Summer Storm (1944), and A Scandal in Paris (1946), one of his personal favorites. Released by United Artists, it is the almost surreal tale of a criminal so proficient in the ways of the underworld that he rises to become head of the Surete, the French police, in early nineteenth-century Paris. It's based on the true story of Eugene Francois Vidocq, with a screenplay adapted from Vidocq's own memoirs.
Playing Vidocq in the second of three collaborations with Sirk is George Sanders, a master of roguish parts. Sirk later said that he appreciated Sanders's inherent ambiguity as a performer, that it was perfectly suited to this role. Vidocq, Sirk said, was an "in-between" character -- "a crook turned policeman, but still a crook." And Sanders, Sirk continued, "had a great capacity for understanding in-between values, being an in-between person himself. He had just the right degree of arrogance and aplomb for the part... It was a very happy time on this picture." The two men became good friends, connecting over a shared European background and attitude. Sirk said that Sanders "had irony, which I missed in America."
A Scandal in Paris ranks among Sirk's most ironic and complex films, recognized now as a positive trait, but in 1946 the film did not make much of a dent with audiences or critics. The New York Times called it a "pedestrian adventure" with a "trite and static script." Sirk attributed the lackluster reception to his use of irony, "[which] doesn't go down well at all with an American audience.... [Americans] want a cut-and-dried stance, for or against. But the nuances which handle both at the same time and make Europeans smile are completely foreign to Americans."
Signe Hasso is the film's leading lady, but a secondary female role drew more attention: the part of Loretta, played by Carole Landis. She's first seen singing the racy "Flame Song" in a Marseilles cabaret. "I've got a flame that's too hot to handle," she sings, as she appears to be naked in a silhouetted frame. The sequence landed her much publicity, including a photo feature in Life, but it also drew the consternation of the Hays Office, which said she was clearly naked and demanded the scene be deleted. Producer Arnold Pressburger countered that she was actually "wearing a form-fitting costume and black tights." In the end, the scene stayed in, along with a new sequence showing Landis getting dressed before performing the number. Landis herself gleefully told a reporter at the time that "I go around practically stripped to the waist!" She later said this scene-stealing role was "the best part I ever had."
In the cabaret scene, Vidocq steals Loretta's ruby red garter, and the studio latched onto this as a publicity angle. They sent perfumed garters to hundreds of reporters, along with a note from Landis that said "This is your pass to our movie set and I hope you'll come by and let me put it on." The ploy led to a swarm of mentions in the press.
Censors weren't the only ones riled up by the film. According to a March 1946 article in the Los Angeles Times, officials from Paris, Texas, complained about the film's title, thinking it was an affront to their town.
By Jeremy Arnold
E.J. Fleming, Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood
Eric Gans, Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl
Jon Halliday, Sirk on Sirk
A Scandal in Paris -
The film's working titles were Vidocq, The Story of Vidocq and Thieves Holiday. The above credits were taken from a cutting continuity. Opening credits state that Ellis St. Joseph's screenplay was "based on the life of Eugene-François Vidocq." Eugene-François Vidocq (1775-1857) was a French police officer and adventurer. After serving in the army, he created and directed a specialized detective force in Paris, which was the forerunner of the police de sûreté. Vidocq was dismissed from the police for an alleged role in a robbery and then formed a private police agency. Several books, including Mémoires de Vidocq (1828-1829), Les Voleurs (1837), and Les Vrais Mystères de Paris (1844), were published under his name but May have been written by others.