A SCANDAL IN PARIS (1946) B/W 100m dir: Douglas Sirk

w/George Sanders, Signe Hasso, Carole Landis, Akim Tamiroff, Gene Lockhart, Alma Kruger, Alan Napier, Jo Ann Marlowe, Vladimir Sokoloff, Pedro de Cordoba, Leona Maricle, Fritz Lieber, Skelton Knaggs, Fred Nurney, Gisela Werbisek, Marvin Davis, Barbara Bates, Cindy Garner, Mary Icide, Daun Kennedy

From the Turner Classic Movies website (www.tcm.com), this article about the film by Jeremy Arnold: "Director Douglas Sirk is best known for such glossy 1950s melodramas as Magnificent Obsession (1954), Written on the Wind (1956), and Imitation of Life (1959), but he was a prolific and important director long before then -- even before he started working in Hollywood in 1942. Throughout the 1930s, Sirk had worked at UFA studios in his native Germany, honing his craft and learning how to express emotion visually. At the same time, he balanced his sensitivity to emotion with an overall intellectual approach to art and storytelling. 'Camera angles are a director's thoughts,' he said. 'The lighting is his philosophy. I learned to distrust language as a true medium and interpreter of reality.'

"After escaping Nazi Germany in 1937, he eventually arrived in Hollywood and directed a string of films in the 1940s with European settings and flavors: Hitler's Madman (1943), Summer Storm (1944), and A Scandal in Paris (1946), one of his personal favorites. Released by United Artists, it is the almost surreal tale of a criminal so proficient in the ways of the underworld that he rises to become head of the Surete, the French police, in early nineteenth-century Paris. It's based on the true story of Eugene Francois Vidocq, with a screenplay adapted from Vidocq's own memoirs.

"Playing Vidocq in the second of three collaborations with Sirk is George Sanders, a master of roguish parts. Sirk later said that he appreciated Sanders's inherent ambiguity as a performer, that it was perfectly suited to this role. Vidocq, Sirk said, was an 'in-between' character -- 'a crook turned policeman, but still a crook.' And Sanders, Sirk continued, 'had a great capacity for understanding in-between values, being an in-between person himself. He had just the right degree of arrogance and aplomb for the part... It was a very happy time on this picture.' The two men became good friends, connecting over a shared European background and attitude. Sirk said that Sanders 'had irony, which I missed in America.'

"A Scandal in Paris ranks among Sirk's most ironic and complex films, recognized now as a positive trait, but in 1946 the film did not make much of a dent with audiences or critics. The New York Times called it a 'pedestrian adventure' with a 'trite and static script.' Sirk attributed the lackluster reception to his use of irony, '[which] doesn't go down well at all with an American audience.... [Americans] want a cut-and-dried stance, for or against. But the nuances which handle both at the same time and make Europeans smile are completely foreign to Americans.'

"Signe Hasso is the film's leading lady, but a secondary female role drew more attention: the part of Loretta, played by Carole Landis. She's first seen singing the racy 'Flame Song' in a Marseilles cabaret. 'I've got a flame that's too hot to handle,' she sings, as she appears to be naked in a silhouetted frame. The sequence landed her much publicity,including a photo feature in Life, but it also drew the consternation of the Hays Office, which said she was clearly naked and demanded the scene be deleted. Producer Arnold Pressburger countered that she was actually 'wearing a form-fitting costume and black tights.' In the end, the scene stayed in, along with a new sequence showing Landis getting dressed before performing the number. Landis herself gleefully told a reporter at the time that ;I go around practically stripped to the waist!' She later said this scene-stealing role was 'the best part I ever had.'

"In the cabaret scene, Vidocq steals Loretta's ruby red garter, and the studio latched onto this as a publicity angle. They sent perfumed garters to hundreds of reporters, along with a note from Landis that said 'This is your pass to our movie set and I hope you'll come by and let me put it on.' The ploy led to a swarm of mentions in the press.

"Censors weren't the only ones riled up by the film. According to a March 1946 article in the Los Angeles Times, officials from Paris, Texas, complained about the film's title, thinking it was an affront to their town.

"E.J. Fleming, Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood
"Eric Gans, Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl
"Jon Halliday, Sirk on Sirk"