Sunday, August 28, 2016

Café Metropole

A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to watch Café Metropole after having DVRed it off of FXM Retro. It's going to be on FXM Retro again tomorrow at 8:40 AM, so you've got the chance to catch it, too.

(NB: FXM doesn't show its movies properly. A lot of things are forced into a 16:9 format, including pre-Cinemascope films that were in a roughly 4:3 aspect ratio. To watch an old movie like this properly, you'll have to look through your TV's aspect ratio settings.)

Adolphe Menjou plays Victor, the manager of the titular Café Metropole, a swanky restaurant in Paris. He meets a drunk Alexander (Tyrone Power) as a customer at his restaurant, and then later at the casino. Victor is going to the casino because he's desperate to make money. The thing is, he's been embezzling from the restaurant, and needs to put the money back into the business before the auditors come in a few weeks. So he goes off to the casino and plays baccarat, eventually winning the FFR 960,000 he'd embezzled from the business.

But there's a catch. The last round of baccarat was played against Alexander, who goes on to inform Victor that the check he's written is going to bounce: Alexander has barely a sou to his name. Victor can send Alexander to jail, but then Victor wouldn't have any way to get the money back, which would mean jail for him too once the restaurant's books are audited and the mising FFR 960,000 are spotted. So Victor has an idea. The wealthy American businessman Joseph Ridgeway (Charles Winninger) will be coming to Paris with his sister Margaret (Helen Westley), and more importantly daughter Laura (Loretta Young). Alexander should pose as one of the many Russian émigré noblemen living in Paris, and woo Laura until he and Victor and wangle a large financial settlement from the Ridgeways.

Alexander isn't too thrilled about becoming Alexis, but then he doesn't have much choice. He takes up the offer, and things don't quite go as expected when Laura runs into him before the two have been officially introduced. So, when the two are introduced to each other, Laura may be suspecting that something isn't quite right, and simply because she's in love with whatever is behind Alexis.

Café Metropole goes on like this, until the eventual denouement. The movie is, to be honest, a little trifle, running a little over 80 minutes, even though it's got two of Fox's bigger stars. It's the sort of movie that's a bit forgettable after you watch, if only because it resembles so many other movies. (I happen to prefer Power and Young in Love Is News.) That doesn't mean it's not good. In fact, it succeeds very well in entertaining while it's running. Power didn't get to do enough comedy once he started swashbuckling, but he shows that he would have been quite adept at this sort of romantic comedy. Young is good at it too, and Menjou, unsurprisingly, is endlessly charming as the scheming restaurant owner. The movie also benefits from some good casting in the supporting roles, even beyond Winninger and Westley.

Café Metropole did get a DVD release at one point, but I think it's out of print.

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