Quote of the Day: Mad about the boy

 the irresistible rise of arturo de

A riverside glade in the moonlight.

A romantic clinch, between Joan Fontaine (posh English wife) and Arturo de Cordova (saucy French pirate).

A very lush arrangement of Clair de Lune on the soundtrack.

Arturo: “If only you were a boy!”

FRENCHMAN’S CREEK (1944)

Script by Talbot Jennings from Daphne DuMaurier’s novel.

Directed by Mitchell Leisen.

(Arturo explains that if Joan were a boy she could come to sea with him, so she drags up and joins him on his white and gold pirate ship where the sailors rob the English, steal lots of women’s dresses and put them on, and kiss each other.)

David Chierichetti: “I feel that in FRENCHMAN’S CREEK you were so involved with the visual aspects of the color, the costumes and the sets, that you lost sight of the story values.”

Mitchell Leisen: “You tell me what the story values were in FRENCHMAN’S CREEK and I’ll answer that. She falls in love with a pirate, leaves her husband then comes back in time not to get caught. That’s all. It’s as dull as dishwater and it’s a lousy picture.”

It catches real fire in ONE SCENE — where Joan Fontaine has to defend herself against Basil Rathbone’s dastardly Lord Rockingham without any prospect of rescue. It’s pretty unusual to see a leading lady have to handle the bad guy all by herself, and the outcome is both convincing, grisy, and a touch camp (flattening Basil with a suit of armour is always going to seem SLIGHTLY hysterical).

mitch

The whole film, lacking in dramatic tension to a quite baffling degree, is half-rescued by its startling gayness: it’s as close to being actually OUT as it can get without taking that crucial extra step, impossible at the time, of actually BEING out. 

2 Responses to “Quote of the Day: Mad about the boy”

  1. Sounds like Leisen was having a lot more fun than he wanted to let on.

    Talk about Slippin’ one past the goalie !

  2. I think he knew the project was no good at a fundamental level so he had to make it entertaining for himself, partly in hopes that it would rub off on the audience, partly just to make the shoot bearable.

    Joan Fontaine was acting up, and she and deCordova hated each other, but Leisen did a ton of hitorical research, designed most of the costumes, had a full-scale pirate ship built, and spent money like water. As well as making the most of the possibilities for innuendo. Producer David Lewis seems to have been quite happy with this, understandably since he was James Whale’s longterm partner.

    While Fontaine is just thrilled to hear there are pirates about and that women aren’t safe in their beds, DeCordova later assures her that his sailors don’t molest womenfolks — which hardly seems necessary to explain when we meet them.

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