For Reel

Reunion in France (1942)
February 10, 2012, 12:10 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jules Dassin

Joan Crawford’s long-standing career at MGM was on the downswing in 1942 as the studio ushered in a new era of stars like Judy Garland and Greer Garson. Her second-to-last picture for Louis B. Mayer was Jules Dassin’s Reunion in France, a tonally confused propaganda effort in which the French Crawford harbors a downed American pilot played by John Wayne. The picture has promising moments early on, including a rapidly-cut montage sequence that mixes newsreel footage with staged elements, before it ultimately sinks with Crawford’s performance. Her scenes with Wayne are good (even if Crawford later joked, “we hit it off like filet mignon and ketchup!”), but as the espionage plot takes over in the third act, she appears to give up entirely. In a car chase, she can’t bring herself to do anything but widen her eyes and clench her jaw. The script is partially to blame, sure, as it reduces the star of the picture to a passive observer, but Crawford doesn’t have it in her to overcome the weakness on the page and maintain her character’s dignity. She later acknowledged the film’s poor quality and admitted that the only reason she made it was in hopes to get budding star Wayne in the sack. That they never hit it off is a tragedy – at least somebody would have gotten something worthwhile out of the picture.

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