Paris is preparing to welcome Charles Lindbergh, American aviator, who is completing a historic transatlantic flight. Expats and journalists Pat Wells (Robert Young) and Sam Colt (Otto Kruger), rather than joining in on the fanfare, are drinking together at the Brass Monkey, a bar known as the place to be for Americans living in Paris.
Pat admires Sam, the much more experienced and well-respected of the two journalists. Sam is also somewhat of a war hero, having lost an arm during World War I. Pat’s admiration leaves him blind to the fact that Sam is a skeevy womanizer… and that Sam is using Pat to advance his own career.
After Lindbergh makes his landing, Sam heads off to China, leaving his gal Julie (Madge Evans) and his pal Pat in Paris. Pat falls for Julie, but complications get in the way of him wooing her — the least of which is her enduring affection for Sam, the man she hopes will return for her.
Paris Interlude was directed by Edwin L. Marin. The screenplay was written by Wells Root.
Paris has a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, and with Robert Young starring, I fully expected Paris Interlude to be a romantic comedy. It is, instead, a melodramatic tale of expats and unrequited love, its Parisian backdrop reduced to a bar full of Americans. Even the bartender is American. There are no scenic walks along historic streets or charming, French-accented banter here!
I’m the type of viewer who usually likes to go into a film knowing little about it. Sometimes this leads to pleasant surprises, and other times it works against the film. I wouldn’t say that this film was a pleasant surprise or a total disappointment. The tone was different than I expected, but it’s still a Robert Young film. His characters can sometimes seem indistinguishable, but he’s a likable actor and I usually enjoy watching him, as I did here.
Paris Interlude‘s problems lie not in the fact that is misses an opportunity for sweet romantic comedy, but in its lack of focus and sluggish pace. It seems there should be a lot going on here, with so many characters living in Paris for so many reasons. They add up to an interesting ensemble which could be mined for a full, varied portrait of the early 20th century expat experience. The film instead focuses on a series of relatively minor conflicts, only a couple of which truly grab the viewer’s interest.
On a brighter note, the performances beyond Young’s are quite good. Una Merkel has a small but well-acted role, and Madge Evans is very good as Julie, a woman stronger than she gives herself credit for. (Her fiance leaves her, for example, and instead of sulking, she decides to stay in Paris and becomes a star fashion writer.) The cast chemistry is also very nice, making them easily believable as a group of friends brought together by their shared “American in Paris” status.
So, good performances, but shaky writing and a too-slow pace. If you usually enjoy Robert Young’s films and aren’t too bothered by a film’s pace, this may be worth a watch for you. Otherwise, I can’t say I’d recommend it too highly.