This Was Paris
Cast & Crew
In Paris in 1940, American dress designer Anne Morgan meets Bill Hamilton when she bumps his car while parking in front of Madam Florien's dress shop. Bill, a soldier who has been assigned to the British security organization MI5, is waiting for the dithery Lady Muriel, the sister of his commanding officer. After he drops Lady Muriel at her home, Bill retreats to a bar, where he meets Australian reporter Butch, who is hiding from his editor, J. B. Entwistle. When Entwistle finally finds him, he is so angry to learn that the French censors have killed a story on fifth column activities in Eastern Europe that he gives Butch 500 francs to pay for drinks. Butch buys Bill a drink, and later, Bill drives Butch to his girl friend Blossom Leroy's apartment. After Butch and Blossom leave, Bill discovers that Blossom's roommate is Anne. Delighted to see her again, Bill invites Anne to dinner and spends the rest of the night with her. The following day, Bill is summoned to the office of steel magnate Forsyth, who explains that his business is a front for anti-fifth column work. Also working with Forsyth is Lady Muriel, who tells Bill that Florien's is financed by Nazi agents. She then shows Bill some sketches that Anne made of large French guns and asks him to investigate her possible involvement with pro-German forces. Bill, who is in love with Anne, turns down the assignment. Meanwhile, Anne's employer, Count Raul De La Vague, meets with Van Der Stuyl, a German spy masquerading as a Dutch clothes buyer. Van Der Stuyl informs De La Vague that his hopes for a French-German alliance are about to be realized, although Dutch and Belgian neutrality will be violated in the process. Butch overhears their conversation and is sure that he recognizes Van Der Stuyl's face. That afternoon, Bill meets Anne for lunch. When he questions her closely about her drawings and her friendships with German supporters, she believes that he only dated her because he was investigating her. Brokenhearted, she later informs De La Vague that she wants to become involved in war work. De La Vague has just donated the money for an ambulance and promises her that she will be the driver. Butch's inquiries about Van Der Stuyl fail to turn up any proof of wrongdoing, and he reports this to Bill, who is convinced that Anne has been falsely accused. After Germany invades Belgium and Holland, however, Forsyth again expresses his belief that Anne is working for the Germans and challenges Bill to disprove it. Unknown to Anne, a message from Madame Florien, ordering the German soldiers to prevent the destruction of a certain bridge over the Rhine has been hidden in her ambulance. Bill, who believes that De La Vague has an ulterior motive for his donation, begs her not to drive her ambulance to the Rhine, but Anne ignores his pleas. Bill then stows away in the ambulance. At the front, they narrowly avoid being killed when the ambulance is destroyed by a bomb. Later, a German soldier discovers the hidden message in the wreckage. Bill overwhelms the soldier and reads the encoded message. Later, the soldier escapes with the message, but Bill is able to remember it and relays it to a French commandant. The commandant is unable to reach his soldiers, however, and the Germans cross into France. Later, Anne reveals that she sketched the guns as a possible hat design. A disillusioned De La Vague kills himself. After Butch's paper is confiscated by the Germans, he, Blossom and Entwistle leave for London. As refugees pour out of Paris, Bill and Anne, who are reconciled, wander the streets together.
George E. Blackwell
Ernest A. Royls
This Was Paris
Produced by Warner Bros. at Teddington Studios in 1941, This Was Paris was one of several made in support of the war effort for both British and American audiences. Top-billed were two expatriate American stars who were both living in London, and had been stars in American films of the 1930s. Ann Dvorak had been a chorus girl in early talkies, when Howard Hughes put her under contract and cast her as Paul Muni's sister in Scarface (1931). Hughes sold her contract to Warner Bros., and Dvorak began getting some strong dramatic roles in such films as Three on a Match (1932), but she was unhappy with the contract. Newly married to British actor-director Leslie Fenton (her co-star in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, 1932), she went to England until the studio offered more money. She returned, but after that she rarely got the choice roles, and in 1937, after years of battling and suspensions, her Warners contract was terminated by mutual consent. When the war in Europe began, Dvorak and Fenton went to England in 1940, where Fenton joined the Royal Navy. Dvorak joined the Women's Land Army, drove an ambulance during the Blitz, wrote newspaper articles, and broadcast on the BBC. She also made This Was Paris and three other British films supporting the war effort. In 1944, Dvorak and Fenton returned to America. They divorced in 1946. She retired in 1951, and died in 1979.
Ben Lyon was second-billed in This Was Paris, but his role is a supporting one. His long career had begun in silent films, and he was best known for playing one of two pilot brothers in Howard Hughes' early talkie aviation epic, Hell's Angels (1930). In that film, he piloted his own plane -- he had trained as a pilot in World War I. That same year, he married actress Bebe Daniels. In the mid-1930s, their film careers declining, the couple began touring with a vaudeville act. After a kidnapping threat (their daughter was born in 1931), they took their vaudeville act to England, and were such a success that they decided to move there permanently, appearing in vaudeville and on radio. They began their enormously popular radio show, Hi Gang, as entertainment for the troops soon after England went to war in 1940. When the U.S. joined the conflict, Lyon, a reservist, joined the U.S. Air Force, and Daniels also did war work. After the war, they had a television show, Life with the Lyons, which ran from 1950 to 1961 on British TV, and featured their two children, Barbara and Richard. The format was similar to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Lyon also was a talent agent for 20th Century Fox, and later an independent talent agent. After Daniels' death in 1971, Lyon returned to America to live, and married former actress Marian Nixon. He died in 1979.
The leading man in This Was Paris, Griffith Jones, enjoyed a remarkably long and distinguished career in British theater and film, which began at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the early 1930s and ended at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1999, when he was in his late 80s. Along the way, he managed to fit in a film career, appearing in the British-made MGM film, A Yank at Oxford (1938), as well as dozens of British films, including Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944). Jones died in 2007, at the age of 97.
Also worth noting in This Was Paris is the marvelous British character actor Robert Morley, early in his career, playing the villainous Van der Stuyl with a mad gleam in his eyes. Morley had earned an Oscar® nomination for his striking film debut just a few years earlier in Marie Antoinette (1938), playing the awkward King Louis XVI. Another expatriate American living in London makes a brief appearance in This Was Paris. Elisabeth Welch, the singer in a nightclub sequence, had moved to London in the 1930s and became a major nightclub and theater star both there and in Paris. Besides musical cameos in films, she also co-starred with Paul Robeson in two films, Song of Freedom (1936), and Big Fella (1937). Like Lyon and Dvorak, Welch also did her bit during the war, entertaining British troops in Gibraltar and the Middle East.
The romance during wartime story of This Was Paris was soon eclipsed by the superior hokum of Casablanca, released later in 1942. But with its fast-moving story, excellent production values, good performances, and in-the-moment urgency, This Was Paris is an interesting time capsule and good entertainment.
Director: John Harlow
Producer: Max Milder
Screenplay: Brock Williams, Edward Dryhurst, Based on a story by Gordon Wellesley and Basil Woon
Cinematography: Basil Emmott
Editor: Leslie Norman
Costume Design: Norman Hartnell
Art Direction: Norman Arnold
Music: Jack Beaver
Cast: Ann Dvorak (Ann Morgan), Ben Lyon (Butch), Griffith Jones (Bill Hamilton), Robert Morley (Van der Stuyl), Harold Huth (De la Vague), Mary Maguire (Blossom Leroy), Harry Welchman (Forsyth), Frederick Burtwell (Entwhistle), Vera Bogetti (Mme. Florien), Marian Spencer (Lady Muriel).
by Margarita Landazuri
This Was Paris
The film ends with the following written statement: "This was Paris-but France will live again." The British version of the film ran 89 minutes.