Gordon Parry (director)
86 min (length)
02 May 2022 (released)
30 April 2022
‘Innocent’ is the right word for this charmingly old-fashioned French-English co-production from 1953 which not only boasts big names such as Alastair Sim, Claire Bloom, Ronald Shiner, Claude Dauphin and Margaret Rutherford to name but a few and in addition it also offers just about every stereotype and cliché in the book. If that’s your thing then this newly restored rom-com is certainly for you.
Although there isn’t a continuous plot as such, the film depicts a motley crew of British travellers on a weekend break to Paris although for one flight passenger, namely English diplomat Sir Norman Baker (Alastair Sim) the trip is work-related as he’s tasked with obtaining an agreement with his Russian counterpart Panitov (Peter Illing). Other Brits include Royal Marine bandsman Dicky Bird (Ronald Shiner) who enjoys a night out in the French capital after having a money-win, Gwadlys Inglott (Margaret Rutherford) – an eccentric amateur artist who hopes to find creative inspiration among fellow artists scattered about the Left Bank, pompous Captain George Stilton (Jimmy Edwards) who is a typical example of the ‘Rule Britannia’ brigade, innocent Susan Robbins (Claire Bloom) who has practically nil experience when it comes to traveling abroad (not even across the canal to France) and last but not least Battle of Normandy veteran Andy MacGregor (James Copeland – dad of GoT actor James Cosmo) who, fitted out in kilt and Tam o’Shanter bonnet, is subjected to much ridicule and laughter the minute he sets foot on French soil. The film tells of the experiences of these characters over the course of one weekend and of the difficulty they experience as back then, Brits were only allowed to take £25 abroad.
Things don’t go that smoothly for diplomat Baker who suffers from chronic stomach pains and initially doesn’t see eye to eye with his Russian counterpart Panitov. Only over god knows how many vodkas in a Russian bar, in which Tzigane-chanteuse Ludmilla Lopato performs the original Russian version of ‘Those were the Days’ (a later hit for 60s songstress Mary Hopkin) do the two men finally bond although at the end of the night it’s Baker who is presented with the hefty bill… Still, he may have lost money but at the same time he’s managed to secure an agreement.
On the romantic front we have young Susan Robbins who makes the acquaintance of elderly Max de Lorne (Claude Dauphin) who offers her a lift into town after she has missed her transfer bus from the airport. A true Parisian ‘charmeur’ with impeccable manners he offers to show Susan around town and later on takes her out for dinner (no prices for guessing it consists of escargot and wine). Despite their difference in age both Max and Susan spend the next day together and as a ‘merci’ for his hospitality she offers to cook him a British lunch (consisting of chops, mash and soggy cabbage) in his apartment… which he finds so revolting and bland he empties the plate into a large flower pot when Susan temporarily vanishes into the kitchen.
At the other end of the spectrum, wannabe painter Gwladys doesn’t seem to find the inspiration she’s looking for, well, not straight away. However, her luck changes when a group of tourists pick her painting of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica over the artwork painted by a local man and pay her handsomely for it. Later on she makes the acquaintance of fellow artist and Englishman Arbuthnot (Stringer Davis – Rutherford’s real-life partner) who charms her into buying his portrait of Mona Lisa. Of course later on at the airport’s customs declaration desk she is challenged for smuggling a valuable artwork out of the country – they even have it professionally inspected! Returning to the desk they confirm it’s only a fake to which Gwladys exclaims the fake painting possesses more grace and elegance then the original!
Royal Marine bandsman Dicky Bird spends most of the time flirting with the ladies (and they with him or so it would seem) until he meets a pretty blonde who returns his advances but when she turns out to be a single mum his enthusiasm wanes…
Meanwhile, Scotsman Andy has a tough time shaking off the laughter which follows him wherever he goes thanks to his traditional Scottish outfit – clearly, the French are not accustomed to seeing a man in a tartan skirt. When, during a visit to a revue show, his kilt splits, a well-meaning French woman named Josette (Gaby Bruyére) takes pity on him and quickly fixes the tear. As a ‘thank you’ Andy takes her to a dancehall. The two seem to get on like a house on fire despite linguistic setbacks until at the end of night when Andy notices his wallet and passport have gone missing. Immediately he accuses poor Josette of theft and of being a woman of easy virtue like most French women. Deeply insulted, she storms off. It’s only hours later and in fact just a couple of hours before his flight back to England that a taxi driver notifies Andy he lost his wallet and documents on the back seat the other night. Deeply ashamed he urges the taxi driver, a short-tempered individual named Célestin (French comedian Louis de Funés) to drive him to Josette’s abode, which he does in his usual frantic style. Not wasting any time he drags Josette into the taxi to accompany him to the airport for a heartfelt adieu though not before buying her a gingerbread heart and inviting her to his native Glasgow (for some haggis and bagpipes). As the plane lands on British soil a poster with the caricature of a typical Frenchman exclaims that a weekend in Paris is a weekend to remember… for our motley crew of travellers that much is true!
The film (with a screenplay by Anatole de Grunwald) furthermore has cameos from Joan Benham (‘Lady Prudence Fairfax’ in UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS), Laurence Harvey, Christopher Lee and Kenneth Williams though blink and you’ll miss them.
INNOCENTS IN PARIS (although TWITS IN PARIS may have been a more appropriate title) is presented in a brand-new restoration and available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Platforms. Bonus includes Trailer, Still Gallery and ‘A Weekend to Remember’: Agnés Poirier discusses the film.