The 2017 TCM Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise — Part III

Now that the dates for the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival have been announced (April 26-29, 2018), I thought this was a perfect time for another installment of the 2017 TCM Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise!

My first two films of the festival – fittingly – were a film noir from France, called Panique (1946), and one of my favorite pre-Codes, Red-Headed Woman. Panique, directed by Julien Duviver, centers on a deadly triangle featuring Alice (Viviane Romance), who was recently released from prison; her lover, Alfred (Paul Bernard), who committed the offense for which Alice was sent to the pokey; and Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon), an offbeat amateur photographer who has an unhealthy obsession for Alice. The film’s plot concerns the murder of a local girl, and the devious machinations by Alice and Alfred that lead to Monsieur Hire being accused of the crime.

Panique was based on a novel by Georges Simenon, who was the most prolific French language writer of the 20th century; he wrote more than 200 novels and reportedly took an average of seven days to write each book. Simenon was also the 17th most translated author of all time – 750 million copies of his novels have been available in 55 languages. Before the screening of Panique at the film festival, Simenon’s youngest son, Pierre, was interviewed by Bruce Goldstein of the New York Film Forum, who jokingly informed told the audience that Pierre was visiting the festival “all the way from Vermont.”

Pierre Simenon and Bruce Goldstein.

According to Pierre, more than 70 movies and 350 television adaptations were made from Simenon’s works, but after the first film, which received mixed reviews, Pierre stated, “My father then decided to direct and produce his own movie. The producers turned out to be crooks, the check bounced, and Julien Duvivier picked up the project and directed it.” (Although Pierre did not name the film, it was likely LA TÊTE D’UN HOMME, released in 1933.)

After this experience, Simenon refused to sell his works, but six years later he changed his mind: “He realized there was a lot of money he was missing,” Pierre said. Panique is considered one of the best adaptations of a Simenon novel, but Pierre didn’t know if his father liked or even saw the film. Although his closest friends included actor Charlie Chaplin and directors Federico Fellini and Jean Renoir, Pierre said his father “was not a movie buff.” In fact, Pierre recalled, his father only took him to see two movies: Casanova and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. “He was not that interested in the movies,” Pierre said.

My next film, Red-Headed Woman, stars Jean Harlow in the title role of a social-climbing woman who does whatever it takes (from home-wrecking to gunplay) to reach the heights to which she’s striving. You can read more about the movie here.

Red-Headed Woman was introduced by award-winning author Cari Beauchamp (whose book Without Lying Down served to acquaint me with screenwriter Frances Marion). When Beauchamp took the stage, she told the audience, “Jean Harlow lives. I’m a proselytizer for this film. I don’t even let those feminist filters in. I just love this film.”

Based on a story by Katherine Brush about a “conniving Midwestern sexpot,” Red-Headed Woman’s screenplay was originally assigned to author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ultimately, though, it was penned by Anita Loos, who Beauchamp labeled “the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.”

Jean Harlow with screenwriter Anita Loos.

Several major actresses were mentioned in the press as possible stars of the film, including Clara Bow, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and even Greta Garbo, before Harlow was tapped for the lead, Beauchamp revealed. (Greta Garbo?!?!) Others in the film include the always great Una Merkel, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams and, in a small role, Charles Boyer.

“The silver lining [about the movie] is that when it was released, Charles Boyer was packing to return to Europe,” Beauchamp said. “But the fan mail that poured in was enough to make him stay in Hollywood!”

Stay tuned for the next installment of Revisiting Adventures in Paradise!

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~ by shadowsandsatin on September 4, 2017.

2 Responses to “The 2017 TCM Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise — Part III”

  1. I love Anita Loos’ work.

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