Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur, Leo Carillo. Dir: Frank Borzage
For two reasons, I would present this film with an alternate title. First- there was no actual history made in this film, though they did mention the Hindenburg making a transatlantic flight and the film was released two months before the zeppelin’s disastrous demise, but it doesn’t count as making history. Second- and this is the really big one- the alternate title that I would give it is In Defense of Monsieur Boyer, and the reason that I would give it that title is that nowadays, if anyone watches a Boyer movie, they’re probably watching Gaslight, in which he is completely evil. They cannot imagine Boyer any other way, but I submit that this is because he was fabulous.
Boyer was a philosophy student before he took up acting in 1920. He started off doing silents (because that was how they made movies back then) and, I promise this is true (it’s not at all true)- the reason they invented sound in movies was so that we could hear Boyer speak. He was always placed in roles where he played serious and/or romantic types, but what he really wanted to do was take off his toupee and play character roles. He didn’t go out and party like other Hollywood stars, in fact, he liked to stay at home and read. Monsieur married Pat Paterson in 1934 and stayed married to her until she died in 1978. When I read the following about him, I got sad: Two days after his wife’s death, he took his own life because he could not bear being without her.
I paused in case you needed to take a moment.
Okay, on to other things.
The non-history-making, vague plot summary thingy goes like this: A woman (Jean Arthur) is married to an abusive jealous maniac who accuses her of infidelity. When she leaves him, he devises a plot to do evil to her which is foiled by a dark handsome stranger with a French accent (Monsieur Boyer). The French accent part is hardly surprising since they were in France. Things happen, credits roll.
I love Jean Arthur always, and I have spoken of her before, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on her here, except to say that she turns in her typical (awesome) Jean Arthur type of performance.
The film is described as a romantic drama with elements of comedy, but I lightly disagree. I feel like it’s more of a romantic comedy with strong elements of drama. Not several elements of drama, just the ones that are there are heavy. I’m in love with Paul (that’s Boyer’s character). I’m just going to leave that there. I enjoy the playfulness of Boyer’s and Arthur’s relationship above anything else in this movie. It’s great fun.
Make a point to find out that there is more to Monsieur Boyer than unmitigated, sinister, disturbingly deep-rooted cruelty and evil by watching In Defense of Monsieur Boyer. Or that other title.