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Song of Paris (1952)

Courtesy of Adelphi Films

Main image of Song of Paris (1952)
35mm, black and white, 80 mins
Directed byJohn Guillermin
Production CompanyVandyke Picture Corporation
Produced byRoger Proudlock
Screenplay byAllan MacKinnon
Additional Dialogue byFrank Muir
 Denis Norden
Original Story byWilliam Rose
PhotographyRay Elton
Music byBruce Campbell

Cast: Dennis Price (Matthew Ibbetson); Anne Vernon (Clementine); Mischa Auer (Comte Marcel de Sarliac); Hermione Baddeley (Mrs Ibbetson); Brian Worth (Jim Barret); Joan Kenny (Jenny Ibbetson)

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A famous French cabaret star is rescued from embarrassment by a passing Englishman, and sets out to marry him.

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Adelphi may have been a small, family-run film company, but the Dents - the men behind it - never lacked ambition. Song of Paris, "a comedy with music", was to be a frothy French fancy for the international market, with a fair amount of the action set on the other side of the Channel. However, a pricey sojourn to la belle France was out of the question. Nettlefold Studios, in Walton-on-Thames, would have to do.

An international cast provided overseas appeal: suave Englishman Dennis Price, recently seen in Frank Launder's Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951); Parisian actress Anne Vernon, fresh from the success of relationship comedy Edouard et Caroline (France, 1951), and prolific Russian-born American actor Mischa Auer, playing his first role in a British film.

A fluffy farce about an archetypal Englishman forced to duel with a French count for the hand of a beautiful mademoiselle, it was adapted from a story by William Rose, later to write screenplays for Genevieve (d. Henry Cornelius, 1953) and The Ladykillers (d. Alexander Mackendrick, 1955). Allan MacKinnon's script received an extra sprinkling of continental spice from Frank Muir and Denis Norden, the writers behind popular radio comedy series Take it From Here (BBC, 1948-60).

Impressed by his handling of the Adelphi crime thriller Torment (1949), the Dents enlisted John Guillermin to direct. Described by the Song of Paris press release as "Britain's Youngest Film Director", he certainly seemed dedicated to his art: "A bachelor, John Guillermin has only one interest: the cinema. He reads Eisenstein as some people read their bibles."

Released early in 1952, the film garnered positive reviews. Innocuous now, it was perceived as slightly risqué then, with the News of the World reviewer breathlessly enthusing: "Pretty blondes suddenly lose their skirts and pompous aristocrats are deprived of their pants. Such fun! But meanwhile, when no lingerie or trousers are involved... the film slips over some slick and deliciously funny dialogue."

By January 1953, Song of Paris had taken more than £30,000 in Britain alone. Though Variety described it as "completely unsubtle in its approach", it played in France and across the Atlantic, thanks to a US distribution deal with producer Richard Gordon's company. It was later unexpectedly honoured when the British Film Institute programmed the film at the National Film Theatre in its 100 Clowns season of November 1959. By then, Adelphi had ceased film production - but critical respectability had come at last.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. The publicity stunt (3:11)
2. Apartment for rent (2:18)
3. Challenge to a duel (2:55)
Baddeley, Hermione (1906-86)
Norden, Denis (1922-)
Price, Dennis (1915-1973)
Adelphi Films