|cast: Marlene Dietrich, Ray Milland, Bruce Lester, Murvyn Vye, and Dennis Hoey
director: Mitchell Leisen
95 minutes (12) 1947
|I last saw this movie on a Sunday afternoon on BBC1, when my Gran was still alive, and I was pleasantly surprised that something that threatened to be a ‘lurve’ thing had quite a bit of action and the reasonable amount of killing that a Sunday afternoon’s telly demanded; still you knew where you were with Ray Milland.
The film opens, just after WWII, with the writer Quentin Reynolds, as himself, enjoying a drink in an officer and gentleman’s club before his flight to Paris. There he observes for himself the curiosity of retired war-hero Ralph Denistoun (Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend) and his pierced ears. Reynolds is told that Denistoun used to be a bit of a stuffed shirt but came back from occupied Europe a thoroughly amiable chap. Meanwhile Denistoun has received a pair of golden earrings in the post, and manages to get himself on the same flight to Paris as Reynolds to whom he is persuaded to relate the tale of his pierced ears.
In Germany in 1939, along with young Richard Byrd (Bruce Lester), Denistoun was directed to obtain a formula for poison gas from Professor Otto Krosigk (Reinhold Shunzel), to prevent it falling into Nazi hands before the inevitable outbreak of war. The men are captured but escape and split up to avoid detection, intending to rendezvous to keep an appointment with the professor. Denistoun stumbles upon the gypsy Lily (Marlene Dietrich, Just a Gigolo, Touch Of Evil, Blue Angel) who persuades him to adopt the guise of a gypsy, complete with earrings, to travel incognito; Denistoun renames his saviour Lydia (less common than Lily?) and they set out to complete Denistoun’s mission.
Both stars show an easy affection and a real flair for comic touches, Marlene is superbly coarse, insofar as the Hays Code allowed, in her declarations of lust for her co-star, and Milland cleverly underplays the stiff upper lip. A rather corny song and dance routine in a gypsy camp spoils the mood somewhat, which is a shame as it follows a neat camera shot following Denistoun, Lydia, and their wagon as they enter the camp, and a decent fistfight between Denistoun and Zoltan (Murvin Vye, who had a fantastic career in American TV throughout the 1950s and 1960s) the singing gypsy chief.
This is perfectly acceptable entertainment with excellent professional performances from the two stars; the portrayal of gypsy life might be inclined to stereotype.
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But they are shown to be an honest and loyal people, and Marlene’s character predicts that the Nazis will attempt to wipe them out, which of course in 1947 was what was known to have occurred.
There are no DVD extras, just a choice of language, subtitles, and a scene selection menu.