Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Last Time I Saw Paris

Where All Mine to Give is a movie with a sad ending that doesn't go over the top, tonight on TCM sees a movie that does go over that top: The Last Time I Saw Paris, at 10:30 PM ET.

Van Johnson plays Charles Wills, a man who has just returned to Paris after an extended absence. Cue the flashback as to why he's been away.... We flash back to 1944, and the liberation of Paris. Charles was a writer working for the Stars and Stripes newspaper. In Paris, he met the Ellswirths, an American family that had survived the Nazi occupation. There, he meets the lovely daughter Helen (Elizabeth Taylor), and takes a liking to her, approved of by her father (Walter Pidgeon) but not by her sister Marion (Donna Reed), since she wants him for herself. Eventually, Charles marries Helen, while Marion marries a Frenchman. Charles is working for a newspaper, but would really rather be writing the Great American Novel. His failure to do so leads him to drink, which eventually leads both him and Helen to start seeing other people. They have a daughter; Helen dies and Charles loses custody of the daughter to Marion, at which point Charles goes back to America.

Now, years on, Charles is back in Paris, as he's made a success of himself, and wants his kid back. This is a relatively smaller section of the film, as most of it is the flashback. But, thanks to the Production Code and especially to this being an MGM movie, you know he's going to get his kid back despite the fact that he's been a jerk all these years, and that Marion is going to be portrayed as the real jerk. It's a phony ending, but apparently what the audiences of the mid-1950s wanted.

If you like sentimental pap, The Last Time I Saw Paris is right for you. Unfortunately, it's not what I want, and all of these actors could have done better, and did in other movies. Also in the cast are Eva Gabor as one of the women Van Johnson meets, and a young Roger Moore as one of the other men in Elizabeth Taylor's life. Still, this being a movie with major stars from the prestige studio, it's gotten a DVD release -- several, in fact -- so you don't have to wait for the TCM showing.

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