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  Innocents in Paris La Belle France
Year: 1953
Director: Gordon Parry
Stars: Alastair Sim, Ronald Shiner, Claire Bloom, Margaret Rutherford, Claude Dauphin, Jimmy Edwards, James Copeland, Gaby Bruyere, Monique Gerard, Peter Illing, Colin Gordon, Kenneth Kove, Frank Muir, Peter Jones, Richard Wattis
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's another day at The London Airport, and the Brits are lining up to visit Paris where they plan to spend a weekend in the city of romance and adventure, or so they have been told. Some, like Captain George (Jimmy Edwards), will make no concessions to the fact they are going to a foreign country and will expect it to accommodate him at every turn, while others, like the young lady Susan Robbins (Claire Bloom) simply wish to immerse themselves in the culture and hope to see the sights and come home much improved. Travel broadens the mind, after all, but is there any hope for these Brits?

A sort of "hands across the water" exercise to promote a good neighbour policy not unlike the ones America had with its borders, Innocents in Paris was evidently intended to persuade those stay at home British that there was more to life than holidays at the nearest seaside, and they could splash out on a weekend on the Continent. Of course, many of the men of the United Kingdom had been to Paris, but in a military capacity as they had been stationed there, however briefly, during the Second World War, but they had not taken their wives or girlfriends and there was a new generation coming of age who had never been.

As the popularity of package holidays increased throughout the sixties and into the seventies, a foreign holiday was regarded as a rite of passage for many, though often the Mediterranean was the destination, places like Greece or Spain. Paris held a more sophisticated reputation, somewhere you would visit for a holiday romance rather than somewhere to eat ice creams or sunbathe with a knotted handkerchief on your head, though the Jimmy Edwards character here makes a beeline for an "authentic" English pub in the capital and apparently spends his whole vacation there, not even leaving for the reason he was there in the first place.

Which was to attend a horse race. This was an all-star cast for British audiences back in 1953, though the enterprise has the air of an instructional film somehow extended to feature length: "What to Expect When You're Abroad", that sort of thing, and it appeared to have been sponsored by airline B.E.A. Their advertising tops and tails the vignettes, which goes further and makes it resemble a corporate training effort, the kind of business project where a celebrity would be roped in to sweeten the pill of being told something important but not very exciting. Yet this was a story of a holiday, multiple holidays, in fact, so surely it should be light and frothy, not self-consciously authoritarian?

Well, it wasn't as bad as all that, it was just that for the cast they assembled, you really needed a bit more pep to make it zing, and Anatole de Grunwald's screenplay mixed with Gordon Parrys direction was pedestrian for the most part, leaving it for the actors to breathe a little life into some very stock characters. Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford probably fared the best, as they played a diplomat and an amateur painter respectively, but for the most part all these folks were kept separate when if they had been given the opportunity to mingle, they could have had more fun playing off one another. Claire Bloom gets to be courted by actual Frenchman Claude Dauphin, and has a great time, but the way that he was double her age renders their scenes a little less wholesome these days, while bandsman Ronald Shiner asks for a pint of bitter at the Moulin Rouge. It's nice enough, but feels like it could have been more. Music by Joseph Kosma.

[ON DIGITAL, DVD & BLU-RAY FROM MAY 2 2022.

The film has been fully restored.

Extras Material:
A Weekend To Remember - Agn├Ęs Poirier Discusses Innocents In Paris
Stills Gallery - Images Preserved and Supplied by the BFI Archive]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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