Reunion in France (1942)

Directed by Jules Dassin
Cinematography Robert H. Planck

Reunion in France is a 1942 American war film distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Joan Crawford, John Wayne, and Phillip Dorn in a story about a woman in occupied France who, learning her well-heeled lover has German connections, aids a downed American flyer. The film was directed by Jules Dassin and Ava Gardner has a tiny role as a Parisian shopgirl.

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Just have fun with it

24 July 2015 | by calvinnme (United States) – See all my reviews

John Wayne is second billed to the other lead, Joan Crawford, because after all this is MGM, Joan’s studio, at least for awhile longer. This is a film that was obviously targeting a wartime audience with the objective of building patriotism and morale, so you have to look at the miscasting in the context of the times. Joan Crawford plays a French woman who seems to be plumbing the depths of shallowness in her high-rolling lifestyle until the Germans invade. She returns to Paris to find her fancy home confiscated, her boyfriend helping the Germans, and her inner patriotism aroused. She runs across an RAF pilot (Wayne) who has been shot down, and she must play up to her boyfriend and his German friends in order to help Wayne evade capture. Forget the fact that the actors playing Frenchmen don’t sound French, that Wayne doesn’t sound British, and that the Germans are portrayed as not being smart enough to find Berlin on a map, and just have fun with it. If you are a film history buff like myself, you will see much worse and weirder material about WWII particularly in the early war years.

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Getting The Duke Out Of France

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
19 January 2007

Reunion in France finds Joan Crawford as an upper class French woman happily engaged to industrialist Philip Dorn and confident that the French army will defend the Maginot Line and the Germans will be defeated once they make a move west. Of course history and the film both tell us it didn’t work out that way.

When she arrives back in Paris because she’s away in the country when the surrender happens, she finds that the Germans have taken over her house to use as office space, but they’ve permitted her to occupy one room on the ground level with its own entrance to the street.

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That’s a minor inconvenience compared to when she learns that her fiancé is collaborating with the Nazis.

Around that time a young flier with the RAF Eagle Squadron, John Wayne, accosts her in the street and gets her to take him in. He’s escaped from Nazi custody and looking to get back to Great Britain.

This is a minor film in the credits of both John Wayne and Joan Crawford in there one and only film together. Crawford was being slowly eased out at MGM and she knew it. Still she was a professional if nothing else and gives the role her best. The part called for her to look chic and those Adrian gowns were in play again.

John Wayne doesn’t even get into the film until almost 40 minutes into the story. When he does get in, even though he makes a play for Crawford, the Duke has some real problems as Crawford in order to help him has to play up to Dorn and his Nazi friends. It’s not the John Wayne we’re used to because it really isn’t his film.

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There’s been some criticism by other reviewers that Crawford doesn’t sound French. Then again neither does anyone else in the film. The rest of the cast. The cast in fact has a variety of European and American accents, Frenchmen weren’t in good supply at that point in Hollywood, either that or they were otherwise committed. Surely Crawford was no more French sounding than Humphrey Bogart in Passage to Marseille.

Albert Basserman is the commanding general in Paris and the fellow who Dorn cultivates. John Carradine may be the best one in the film as the Gestapo agent who knows there’s something fishy with Crawford, but can’t quite prove it.

Both the Duke and Joan Crawford had better days ahead of them. Still the film is a curiosity and worth a look.

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Joan as patriot

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
12 September 2005

Decked out in gowns and outfits designed by Irene, Joan Crawford plays the French version of Scarlett O’Hara with her “Oh, war, war, war” grumbling until she has to duck a bomb while on vacation. Returning to Paris, she finds her house commandeered by the Nazis. She gets only one room for herself and those gowns. In the meantime, her boyfriend, played by Philip Dorn, seems to have gone over to the dark side and is living high. Once she realizes that, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Her patriotism for her country comes to the surface when she helps an RAF pilot on the run, played by John Wayne. Despite some of the other comments on the film, I rather enjoy the handsome Wayne out of his spurs and boots. Because of Wayne, Crawford has to make it look like she’s reuniting with her old beau, who has the power to arrange to get him out of the country.

Very entertaining.

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Interesting story of patriotism and suspense.

8/10
Author: bfm_1017 from East Coast, USA
26 December 2008

I found this film on TCM one day recently, and decided to check it out mostly because it was made during the war and had John Wayne in the cast. I’m not much of a Joan Crawford fan, but she did a very good job in this story of patriotism during German occupation of France. The lead actor was very handsome and hard to figure out until later in the movie. Wayne was not the star of the movie, and did a very good acting job as the RAF American volunteer downed pilot. While the story seems implausible, most war films do. Of course there were a lot of heroic people in WW II, on all sides, and in the ‘occupied’ countries such as France. The fact that the Germans were not completely one dimensional gave some depth to the movie. As any German from that time will tell you, not all the German people were in lock step with the regime, but they had to stay alive. Many fought on several levels, many of those we will never hear of. I do think the caricature of the Gestapo was perhaps a little cartoon like in the movie, and John Carradine epitomizes that caricature. From what I have read over the years, the Gestapo was a very dangerous organization and usually left nothing to chance. I love the twists and turns in the movie, and will not spoil it for others. Suffice it to say I recommend this movie for its storyline, and its acting. A great wartime film in my book.

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The second half is fabulous, worth getting through the long set up…

7/10
Author: secondtake from United States
11 April 2011

Reunion in France (1942)

First important fact: this movie, about the first year of WWII when Hitler took over France, was released a month before “Casablanca.” It does not compare in most ways with the drama, the humor, the writing, the music, the velocity, and the legendary actors of the more famous movie. But it is a very good movie with an interesting early pro-American, pro-French message. Joan Crawford crackles as much as she can in a topsy turvy role, going from spoiled and frivolous rich woman Michele de la Becque to (briefly) a refugee to, finally, an ordinary woman fighting with all her heart for France.

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There are two male actors with important roles and they couldn’t be more different. One is Michele’s lover and fiancé, played with a cultured perfection by Philip Dorn, a Dutch actor who pulls off the pan-Euro, mostly French aristocrat and businessman well. Opposite him in every way is the homey, tough, humble American who shows up halfway through the film, John Wayne. I don’t know if this really makes sense in the film, but I can see it on paper, since Wayne played a non-cowboy merchant seaman in the terrific John Ford film which prefigures this one in some ways, “The Long Voyage Home.” He doesn’t seem as wily and smart as a fugitive from the Nazis would have to be, behind the lines in occupied Paris, but he at least plays the role of an ordinary American ready to help the French, and this is the political message throughout.

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In fact, the movie borders on a brilliant propaganda device, putting message ahead of plot now and then, just perceptibly. Crawford is so good even her speeches make a convincing case, and I’m assuming American audiences cheered her on by December of 1942 when it was released (on Christmas day). The scenes of the Germans taking over Paris are always horrifying, and they are again here. There is even a deliberate homage to Soviet director Eisenstein when a baby carriage runs off after the mother is killed by gunfire.

But back to “Casablanca.” It’s an interesting problem to solve, feeding the American audience worried about the war and about U.S. involvement. Because Hollywood was both a symptom of public opinion and a shaper of it, and these are two rather different kinds of films with very similar messages. Director Jules Dassin, who is not French but American, had just started making films in 1941, and there is a sense of expertise at the expense of intuitive magic. “Reunion in France” is strong, smart, and convincing. But it doesn’t sizzle or build the aura of the time like it could. And yet, in its defense, it has no perspective at all on the events, since it was made while they were unfolding, even before they were unfolding since it has to anticipate to some extent how the film will settle six months after being written and shot. Watch it. It’s really good.

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Doing its Part Against Nazi Germany

4/10
Author: nycritic
23 August 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If Joan Crawford had hopes of reviving her career at MGM following the successes of THE WOMEN and A WOMAN’S FACE, she was disillusioned once again and it shows in this badly produced Hollywood melodrama posing as a war film with its “patriotism” message. It’s probably not her fault that she was being given such poor material – or better yet, material more suited for any of the given rising starlets of her time – it was clear that MGM wanted her out; Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo had reaped the benefits of the better scripts the previous decade and had retired, and actresses such as Greer Garson were on the rapid rise and literally forcing her out, and at thirty-eight, the Adrian seams were coming apart leaving her basically naked for the savaging.

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But, professional as she reportedly was, she made this film about a Frenchwoman (with an American accent and fabulous dresses) coming to terms with her own patriotism once Nazi Germany invades Paris. It’s just too bad that nowhere is there really an “antiwar sentiment” throughout the film, full of stock footage, bad editing, and fluff; if anything, the duplicity of her leading man (Phillip Dorn) as he portrays a collaborator to the Nazi’s (but then it’s revealed he’s working covert, probably to add to the suspense) and then the appearance of John Wayne, of all people, playing an American aviator, was only for the sake of playing the worn out love triangle her films endlessly presented, and by the time this movie came around, it was basically over. One more film, ABOVE SUSPICION, would have her cancel out her contract to MGM and begin her Warner Bros. phase, which would be more productive.

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Joan Crawford in occupied France during WWII…

6/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
19 January 2012

Wearing a stunning array of gowns by Irene and photographed with glossy MGM care, Joan Crawford is a French woman (with a cultured American accent) who doesn’t think France has to worry about the occupation of her country by Hitler’s Nazis until they take over her home while she’s vacationing elsewhere.

With the reality of war, comes the realization that her husband (Philip Dorn) might be collaborating with the Nazis. She loves him dearly but is beginning to despise his affiliation with so many Nazi friends. Then along comes an American pilot (John Wayne), whom she hides in her apartment until she can get him safely out of the country. That’s the set-up in this basically suspenseful melodrama which, while unconvincing and full of twists and turns in the plot, is played by a competent team of actors, all of varying accents, who keep the story moving toward a not too surprising climax.

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Among the good supporting players are Reginald Owen, Albert Basserman, Natalie Schaefer, John Carradine, Howard DaSilva, Henry Daniell and J. Edward Bromberg.

And yet, the whole film has the air of a minor B-film despite such extravagant settings and Crawford’s never-ending wardrobe changes. It also has the air of artificiality which works against sustaining the sort of suspenseful atmosphere it seeks to gain throughout.

Philip Dorn rates special mention as Joan’s true love. He gives a colorful, nuanced performance that is interesting to watch.

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