The Flame of New Orleans (1941)

78-79 mins | Romantic comedy | 25 April 1941

Director:

René Clair

Writer:

Norman Krasna

Producer:

Joe Pasternak

Cinematographer:

Rudolph Maté

Editor:

Frank Gross

Production Designer:

Jack Otterson

Production Company:

Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
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HISTORY

On 23 Dec 1940, HR reported that actress Marlene Dietrich was threatening to leave this production, as she was unhappy with Universal's inability to sign a "big name" for the role of "Robert Latour." The same item noted that Universal was testing contract player Maria Montez to replace Dietrich if she did leave the film. The next day, however, it was reported that the problem had been solved, as it was Dietrich's agent, not the actress, who was complaining about the film's casting. HR noted, though, that the male lead had not yet been cast. In modern sources, Dietrich's dislike of selected leading man Bruce Cabot has been made clear: she has been quoted as calling Cabot "an awfully stupid actor." While editing the film in Mar 1941, director René Clair entered into negotiations with Universal for a new contract, but no agreement was ever reached.
       News items and HR production charts include actor Raymond Walburn in the cast, though he did not appear in the released film. HR also reported the casting of actresses Dorothy Darrell and Elaine Morey , but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film's premiere was held on 24 Apr 1941 at the Orphium Theater in New Orleans, LA. Producer Joe Pasternak was named honorary mayor of the city during the premiere festivities, which were attended by the film's stars and a number of Universal contract players. According to modern sources, Clair stated that he and screenwriter Norman Krasna devised the film to parody the Dietrich image, and they did so with her knowledge. ... More Less

On 23 Dec 1940, HR reported that actress Marlene Dietrich was threatening to leave this production, as she was unhappy with Universal's inability to sign a "big name" for the role of "Robert Latour." The same item noted that Universal was testing contract player Maria Montez to replace Dietrich if she did leave the film. The next day, however, it was reported that the problem had been solved, as it was Dietrich's agent, not the actress, who was complaining about the film's casting. HR noted, though, that the male lead had not yet been cast. In modern sources, Dietrich's dislike of selected leading man Bruce Cabot has been made clear: she has been quoted as calling Cabot "an awfully stupid actor." While editing the film in Mar 1941, director René Clair entered into negotiations with Universal for a new contract, but no agreement was ever reached.
       News items and HR production charts include actor Raymond Walburn in the cast, though he did not appear in the released film. HR also reported the casting of actresses Dorothy Darrell and Elaine Morey , but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film's premiere was held on 24 Apr 1941 at the Orphium Theater in New Orleans, LA. Producer Joe Pasternak was named honorary mayor of the city during the premiere festivities, which were attended by the film's stars and a number of Universal contract players. According to modern sources, Clair stated that he and screenwriter Norman Krasna devised the film to parody the Dietrich image, and they did so with her knowledge. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
May 41
p. 222.
Box Office
3 May 1941.
---
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1941.
---
Film Daily
24 Apr 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 40
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 41
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 41
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 41
p. 3, 7
Motion Picture Daily
24 Apr 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Feb 41
p. 53.
New York Times
26 Apr 41
p. 20.
Variety
30 Apr 41
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A René Clair Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
[Sd] tech
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit pub wrt
SOURCES
SONGS
"Salt o' the Sea," "Sweet Is the Blush of Day" and "Oh, Joyful Day," music by Charles Previn, lyrics by Samuel Lerner.
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 April 1941
Premiere Information:
New Orleans, LA opening: 24 April 1941
Production Date:
6 January--early March 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
30 April 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10438
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
78-79
Length(in feet):
7,120
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7201
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After two fishermen find a wedding dress floating on the Mississippi River, the legend of "Claire of New Orleans" is born: On the day of her wedding in 1840, Countess Claire Ledux disappeared and the people of New Orleans assumed that she committed suicide. Claire's story is then revealed: when the young lady first arrives in New Orleans, she sets her sights on rich bachelor banker Charles Giraud. One night at the opera, she arranges to be seated near the banker. She "faints" and Charles rushes to her aid. After the opera, Charles sends his valet, William, after Claire's maid, Clementine. The maid then tells Claire that she has arranged a meeting in the park, during which a man will "accost" Claire and Charles can come to her rescue. Unfortunately, the wrong man, river boat captain Robert Latour, stops the carriage when his monkey runs under it. Thinking he is Charles' stooge, Claire orders her chauffeur, Samuel, to drive on. When she continually refuses to stop, Robert tips the carriage over. Back in town, Charles promises to avenge Robert's attack, stating that every night he will attend to her and eliminate one man, as there are only 100,000 men in New Orleans. At a Mardi Gras party, Claire recognizes Robert with his crew. Charles approaches the sailor and challenges him to a duel. Given his choice of weapons, Robert selects knives, which awards him a distinct advantage over the banker. Fearing the worse, Claire steps forward, telling Charles that she was mistaken about Robert. The next day, Robert invites Claire to his boat for dinner, then borrows $150 to ... +


After two fishermen find a wedding dress floating on the Mississippi River, the legend of "Claire of New Orleans" is born: On the day of her wedding in 1840, Countess Claire Ledux disappeared and the people of New Orleans assumed that she committed suicide. Claire's story is then revealed: when the young lady first arrives in New Orleans, she sets her sights on rich bachelor banker Charles Giraud. One night at the opera, she arranges to be seated near the banker. She "faints" and Charles rushes to her aid. After the opera, Charles sends his valet, William, after Claire's maid, Clementine. The maid then tells Claire that she has arranged a meeting in the park, during which a man will "accost" Claire and Charles can come to her rescue. Unfortunately, the wrong man, river boat captain Robert Latour, stops the carriage when his monkey runs under it. Thinking he is Charles' stooge, Claire orders her chauffeur, Samuel, to drive on. When she continually refuses to stop, Robert tips the carriage over. Back in town, Charles promises to avenge Robert's attack, stating that every night he will attend to her and eliminate one man, as there are only 100,000 men in New Orleans. At a Mardi Gras party, Claire recognizes Robert with his crew. Charles approaches the sailor and challenges him to a duel. Given his choice of weapons, Robert selects knives, which awards him a distinct advantage over the banker. Fearing the worse, Claire steps forward, telling Charles that she was mistaken about Robert. The next day, Robert invites Claire to his boat for dinner, then borrows $150 to pay for it. As Claire prepares for her date with Robert, Charles arrives to propose marriage. She accepts and sends Clementine to Robert with her regrets. Believing that she needs a doctor, Robert rushes to Claire's aid, but seeing Charles in her window, he realizes the truth. Two days before their wedding, Charles holds a reception for Claire, which is attended by newly arrived Russian Zolotov. Zolotov recognizes Claire "from St. Petersburg," and later Charles' brother-in-law overhears Zolotov telling risque stories about her to his friend, Bellows. When Charles challenges Zolotov to a duel, the frightened Russian swears he was mistaken, as the girl he knew would fake "fainting spells." At that moment Claire is carried out of the room, and the next day, Charles arrives at her home to break their engagement. Instead of Claire, Charles is confronted by Lili, Claire's illegitimate cousin from St. Petersburg. With Zolotov and Bellows in tow, Charles and his brother-in-law go to the Oyster Bed Café that night to see Lili and, reluctant to be associated with a disreputable woman like her, order her to leave town. Before she can leave, however, Lili runs into Robert, who confesses his love for her cousin. Charles then approaches Robert and tells him that if he will take Lili out of New Orleans, his bank will cancel the sailor's overdue debt. At Claire's home, Robert peers through her bedroom window and deduces that Claire and Lili are one and the same. Without revealing what he has just discovered, Robert conspires with Charles to abduct Lili. Back on his boat, Robert sets Claire free, but she decides to stay the night. The next morning, Claire tells him that they will never see each other again. He tells her that the next time they do see each other, she will come to him. At her wedding, Claire sees Robert and, realizing that she truly loves him, faints, then disappears in the ensuing mêlée. As she sails away with Robert, Claire's wedding gown is thrown into the Mississippi. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.