The French Line (1954)

102 mins | Musical, Romantic comedy | 8 February 1954

Director:

Lloyd Bacon

Producer:

Edmund Grainger

Cinematographer:

Harry Wild

Editor:

Robert Ford

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Carroll Clark

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Although this film was first released in 3-D, the viewed print was in standard format. Although Son of Sinbad (See Entry) marked Kim Novak's first screen assignment, The French Line was her first released picture. She was billed under her real name, Marilyn Novak. After appearing for several years under the name Steve Flagg, actor Michael St. Angel returned to using his real name in The French Line . Although Robert Neil is listed in HR production charts as a cast member, his appearance in the completed film is doubtful. HR news items add Caryl Lincoln, Harold Wolverton, Barry Norton, Philo McCullough and Sally McClosky to the cast, but the appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. According to the Var review, a tenth song, "The French Line," was written for the film, but was cut from the final version.
       After its world premiere in St. Louis, MO, on 29 Dec 1953, The French Line came under attack by the PCA and the Legion of Decency. According to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen had approved the film's script with only minor objections and cautions. The completed picture, however, was deemed in violation of the Code and was not issued a Code certificate. Specifically, Breen, in a letter to RKO president James R. Grainger, complained about Jane Russell's dancing costumes, which in his opinion, created "indecent and undue exposure" of her breasts. The Var reviewer described the offending ... More Less

Although this film was first released in 3-D, the viewed print was in standard format. Although Son of Sinbad (See Entry) marked Kim Novak's first screen assignment, The French Line was her first released picture. She was billed under her real name, Marilyn Novak. After appearing for several years under the name Steve Flagg, actor Michael St. Angel returned to using his real name in The French Line . Although Robert Neil is listed in HR production charts as a cast member, his appearance in the completed film is doubtful. HR news items add Caryl Lincoln, Harold Wolverton, Barry Norton, Philo McCullough and Sally McClosky to the cast, but the appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. According to the Var review, a tenth song, "The French Line," was written for the film, but was cut from the final version.
       After its world premiere in St. Louis, MO, on 29 Dec 1953, The French Line came under attack by the PCA and the Legion of Decency. According to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen had approved the film's script with only minor objections and cautions. The completed picture, however, was deemed in violation of the Code and was not issued a Code certificate. Specifically, Breen, in a letter to RKO president James R. Grainger, complained about Jane Russell's dancing costumes, which in his opinion, created "indecent and undue exposure" of her breasts. The Var reviewer described the offending outfit as "a bikini affair" photographed with "an inquiring camera thrusting inquisitive lenses forward at...strategic angles." According to a 30 Nov 1953 DV news item, RKO re-edited and resubmitted the picture to the PCA, after being advised that without a seal, the picture could not be shown on the Interstate Circuit in Texas, as the studio had planned. Although the re-edited film was denied a certificate in early Dec 1953, RKO chose to release the picture in St. Louis. In her autobiography, Russell stated that she strongly objected to the dance's original costume design, which she described as a silver-beaded bikini, and refused to shoot the scene until the costume was modified. The final costume was in one piece, but with "holes below and above the waist."
       The screening, as well as the film's advertising, caused an immediate uproar among Catholic religious leaders, and was scrutinized by the local police department's "morality squad." The Legion of Decency gave the picture a "C" or condemned rating, complaining that it contained "grossly obscene, suggestive and indecent action, costuming and dialogue." In addition, as Breen stated in a 6 Jan 1954 letter to Grainger, because RKO had screened the film publicly without a certificate, the studio was obliged to pay a $25,000 fine, as stipulated in the membership by-laws of the MPAA. According to a Dec 1953 HCN news item, Russell cancelled her personal appearance tour, declaring that she did not want to be "associated with any movie denied a seal of approval." News items claim that RKO re-cut the picture in Jan 1954 and promised to pull the film from the St. Louis theater after its scheduled two-week run. When the PCA again denied the film a certificate in mid-Jan 1954, however, the studio decided to extend the picture's St. Louis run in its original form.
       Despite the Catholic Church's condemnations, over 60,000 tickets were sold during the first five days of the film's St. Louis engagement, according to a Jan 1954 HR item. Catholics in Los Angeles were also warned against seeing the picture, and William H. Mooring, the motion picture editor of The Tidings , a Los Angeles based Catholic newspaper, denounced RKO head Howard Hughes for foisting "upon prurient-minded patrons an inferior movie." According to a HR news item, in early Mar 1954, RKO filed a lawsuit against the mayor and police commissioner of Chicago as well as the Woods Theatre, after the city banned The French Line from being screened there. In late Mar 1954, DV reported that RKO was seeking a legal injunction to restrain Chicago's police commissioner, Timothy O'Connor, from outlawing the picture. Pressured by Catholic groups, O'Connor had overruled the city's Police Censor Board, which had approved the film's release. The final disposition of these lawsuits has not been discovered.
       On 24 Mar 1955, more than a year after the film's initial release, the PCA granted The French Line a certificate on the understanding that all prints released would be exactly as re-reviewed by the PCA. Only the province of British Columbia rejected the picture "in toto"; a few other states required minor eliminations before approving its release. The French Line was the last film of long-time director Lloyd Bacon, who died in 1955. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
30 Nov 53
p. 1, 3.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 53
p. 3.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1954.
---
Film Daily
5 Jan 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
29 Dec 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 53
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 54
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 54
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 54
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 54
p. 1, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 54
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Jan 54
p. 2134.
New York Times
15 May 54
p. 13.
New Yorker
22 May 1954.
---
Newsweek
31 May 1954.
---
Variety
2 Dec 1953.
---
Variety
6 Jan 54
p. 52.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Paula Corday
Laura Elliot
Jean Moorehead
Marilyn Novak
Joy Lansing
Billy Daniel
Bert Le Baron
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Edmund Grainger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Scr
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed supv
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Miss Russell's gowns
Miss Russell's gowns
MUSIC
Mus arr and cond
Mus supv
DANCE
Dance numbers staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Miss Russell's makeup artist
Hair styling supv
Miss Russell's hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Dial supv
Unit prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Well, I'll Be Switched," "With a Kiss," "Wait 'Till You See Paris," "Comment Allez-Vous?" "Poor Andre," "Any Gal from Texas" "What Is This I Feel?" "By Madame Firelle" and "Lookin' for Trouble," music by Josef Myrow, lyrics by Ralph Blane and Robert Wells.
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 February 1954
Premiere Information:
World premiere in St. Louis, MO: 29 December 1953
Production Date:
late May--mid August 1953
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 December 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3546
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
3-D
Duration(in mins):
102
Length(in feet):
9,206
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16570
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A week before her wedding, Texas oil heiress Mary "Mame" Carson learns that her fiancé, Phil Barton, wants out of their engagement because he finds her ever-increasing wealth emasculating. Mame takes the breakup well, but lets her guardian, Waco Mosby, talk her into sailing to Paris for a vacation. Waco and Mame fly to New York, and there Mame reunites with Annie Farrell, a childhood friend now known as Madame Firelle, world renowned couturier. After lamenting to Annie that every man she meets is either afraid of her money, or after it, Mame gets the idea to switch identities with one of Annie's models, newlywed Myrtle Brown. Mame plans to pay Myrtle to impersonate her on the Europe-bound ship while Mame pretends to work for Annie, who is mounting a fashion show in Paris. Mame also decides to ask the talkative Waco not to come to Paris, as she fears he will expose her deception. Before she can speak with Waco, Mame is forced to pose as a guest of Pierre DuQuesne, a French entertainer whose hotel room is across from hers. Pierre is instantly smitten with Mame, despite the presence of dozens of other beautiful women at his party. Mame runs out before Pierre gets her name, and later, the money-strapped Frenchman runs into Waco in the hall while looking for his mysterious guest. Unaware that he is searching for Mame, Waco befriends Pierre and offers to pay his back taxes if he sails with Mame and keeps a protective eye on her. Pierre agrees, and as he is boarding the ship, the Liberté , he sees Mame. ... +


A week before her wedding, Texas oil heiress Mary "Mame" Carson learns that her fiancé, Phil Barton, wants out of their engagement because he finds her ever-increasing wealth emasculating. Mame takes the breakup well, but lets her guardian, Waco Mosby, talk her into sailing to Paris for a vacation. Waco and Mame fly to New York, and there Mame reunites with Annie Farrell, a childhood friend now known as Madame Firelle, world renowned couturier. After lamenting to Annie that every man she meets is either afraid of her money, or after it, Mame gets the idea to switch identities with one of Annie's models, newlywed Myrtle Brown. Mame plans to pay Myrtle to impersonate her on the Europe-bound ship while Mame pretends to work for Annie, who is mounting a fashion show in Paris. Mame also decides to ask the talkative Waco not to come to Paris, as she fears he will expose her deception. Before she can speak with Waco, Mame is forced to pose as a guest of Pierre DuQuesne, a French entertainer whose hotel room is across from hers. Pierre is instantly smitten with Mame, despite the presence of dozens of other beautiful women at his party. Mame runs out before Pierre gets her name, and later, the money-strapped Frenchman runs into Waco in the hall while looking for his mysterious guest. Unaware that he is searching for Mame, Waco befriends Pierre and offers to pay his back taxes if he sails with Mame and keeps a protective eye on her. Pierre agrees, and as he is boarding the ship, the Liberté , he sees Mame. After identifying herself as Myrtle Brown and Myrtle as "Mary Carson," Mame accepts Pierre's dinner invitation. Mame then cautions Myrtle and her husband, Bill Harris, not to sneak into each other's rooms and ruin her reputation. That night Pierre romances Mame with great ardor and hires a steward to spy on "Mary Carson." Although Annie advises Mame not to take Pierre too seriously, Mame meets him the next day at the ship's bar and allows him to ply her with a potent seasickness cocktail. Tipsy with drink and seduction, Mame stumbles back to her cabin, where Annie again warns her about the playboy. As a test, Annie suggests that Mame introduce Pierre to Myrtle and see how he reacts to "her" money. Pierre, meanwhile, learns from the steward that Bill has been trying to get into "Mary Carson's" cabin, then calls Waco in Texas and receives permission to "cut in on" Bill. That night in the dining room, Mame introduces Pierre to Myrtle and is annoyed when he lavishes her with attention. Myrtle insists later that Pierre did not make a pass at her but instead lectured her about "wolves." Despite Myrtle's assurances, Mame is cool to Pierre after he suddenly cancels a lunch engagement. When he then announces he cannot make dinner, Mame asks him about his feelings for "Mary Carson," but he declares that he loves only Mame. Despite Pierre's pronouncements, Mame continues to be annoyed, especially after seeing him dining with Myrtle. After she and a jealous Bill overhear Pierre in Myrtle's cabin employing his favorite lines on the intoxicated model, Mame is furious. When she then hears Pierre telling Waco over the phone that he is marrying "his ward," Mame accuses Pierre of being a fortune hunter. Confused and hurt, Pierre breaks off with Mame, who runs crying to her cabin. Later, upon docking in Paris, Mame goes into hiding and Myrtle is arrested for impersonating the heiress. Waco, who has flown to Paris, finally tells Annie about his deal with Pierre and promises to get Myrtle out of jail, while Pierre confesses to Annie that Myrtle had admitted her impersonation and he had always intended to marry Mame. Just before Annie's fashion show is to start, Mame shows up, having promised to perform a number. As Mame is singing, Pierre rushes the stage, but she pushes him away. Waco, Bill and Myrtle then arrive, and Pierre assures Waco of his intention to marry Mame. As soon Mame finishes her number, Pierre grabs her backstage and carries her to a taxicab. Mame finally gives in, and after Pierre pledges his eternal love, they kiss. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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