Friday, May 4, 2018


Back when Charles Boyer was the TCM Star of the Month, one of the rarities TCM ran was a film he made in France in 1934, Liliom. The TCM Shop has a Kino Video DVD of the movie available for purchase, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it.

Boyer plays Liliom Zadowski, who makes a modest living as a carnival barker getting people to ride the carousel at a French carnival; presumably this was one of those carnivals where you bought tickets for each individual ride since Liliom is going up against the strongman to try to get people to try the various attractions. Liliom is a bit of a ladies' man, which eventually gets him fired wih he's accused of trying to romance one of the young lady riders: the cashier who owns the ride is a woman and she wanted Liliom.

Julie (Madeleine Ozeray) is a good woman working as a maid, until she's found out to be going out with an unemployed carnival barker. She too loses her job, and the two eke out a living sharing accommodations with Julie's aunt. Poor Liliom has lost his manhood, at least in a psychological sense; he's still able to knock poor Julie up. And get in fights with her.

With a child on the way and no money coming in, what's a man to do? One of Liliom's "friends" suggests the perfect crime, which you know means it's something that's going to go wrong. The proposed crime is to rob the guy who's going to be bringing the payroll cash to a local factory; Liliom also gets the unwelcome job of having to stab the guy to death.

Of course, the job goes wrong and Liliom and his partner in crime are caught by the police. Well, not quite so much Liliom. He knows he's going to be caught with no escape, so he decides to take another way out and stab himself to death, leaving Julie even worse off than when he was around.

Liliom is taken up to heaven, where he's shown just what a jerk he was down on earth, so he's going to have to spend a lot of time in purgatory, until he's given a chance to go back to Earth for one day to try to make amends for the things he did wrong while he was alive.

If the story of Liliom sounds familiar, it probably should. It's based on a play by Ferenc Molnár (credited here as Franz which is just the German equivalent of Ferenc), who wrote the play behind The Guardsman, The Swan, and One, Two, Three. Further, Liliom was turned into a musical by Rogers and Hammerstein, Carousel. Fritz Lang directed, having recently fled Nazi Germany and on his way to Hollywood. The result is some beautiful cinematography, especially in the heavenly sequences.

I had a big problem, however, with the fact that it took so darn long for the story to get to the heaven part. The movie is a shade under two hours, and it's not until about 1:20 in that Liliom finally dies. The resolution is much too quick. And in the first half, he's not the sort of person I cared for, but a sort of snotty Jack Carson-type whom I'd just want to smack.

Still, it's easy to see why a lot of people would like Liliom. I just wish the Kino DVD weren't so expensive for them.

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