- Directed by Michael Curtiz.
- (Second of 11 total films that Curtiz & Claude Rains made together.)
- Said to be loosely based on the real life of con-artist Alexander Stavisky.
- Love the font used in the opening credits. So this era.
- Weird setup for a movie. Russian con-artist Stefan Orloff (Rains) attends a Paris fashion show & essentially handpicks Kay Francis (her character’s name is Nicole Picot) to be his con-accomplice, because she looks the part. When this is revealed to her, she is at first indignant, but then rather delighted at their prospects of wealth – and agrees to pose as his lady friend at a dinner/meeting of great importance – at which point the movie fast-forwards 5 years & shows you what a success “Madame Picot” has become in the fashion world.
- The dress she wears in that first fashion show – and then later that evening at Rains’ residence – is really heinous, by the way. It’s very slinky & cut all wrong, and does not flatter Kay Francis’s shape at all. Probably the worst part is the large bundle of flowers pinned to the dress’s chest portion. The dress design is terrible, and the flower bundle absolutely makes it score a 10 on the Dumb Scale.
Thank goodness it seems Madame Picot has not based her entire fashion empire on similarly styled dresses. (That may have made this movie unwatchable.)
- Oh no. Nicole’s much anticipated “latest creation,” which she wears at a ball she & Stefan are hosting, is really not a great gown, either – again, cut entirely wrong for Kay Francis’s shape. Who is responsible for the costume design on this film? ‘Cause so far, they’ve done a pretty poor job. (Edit: Orry-Kelly is the culprit. This surprises me quite a bit, considering the other credits he has to his name things like AUNTIE MAME (1958), CASABLANCA (1942), & NOW, VOYAGER (1942). The only thing I can think of is that these 2 outright gown failures had something really fabulous going on, color-wise, which just doesn’t translate in the black & white film. Still…the gowns…trust me – they’re just really not successful.)
- The sets are really pretty, though!
- So…I’m not sure what sort of romantic arrangement Nikki & Orloff have – they’re not married, & don’t feign to be in love with each other – but they seem very much like a couple. Hm. Weird.
- Suzanne (Alison Skipworth), Nicole’s old friend/fortune teller, sets out to play matchmaker for Nikki & a man named Anthony Wayne (Ian Hunter). Suffice it to say, Suzanne does not like Steffan in the slightest, & refers to him as “the King of Spades.”
- While on “vacation” to Geneva, Steffan is too busy creating new, shady business deals to hang out with Nikki, so Suzanne ensures that Nikki & Mr. Wayne spend every available moment together.
Oh, Suzanne. What a schemer!
- Matchmaker Suzanne’s plans work (fairly unsurprisingly), and we are glad, because Mr. Wayne seems like decent fellow, and Steffan seems like a shitty one.
(Sorry – is that harsh? Steffan is a self-important criminal, though, and seems to take Nikki’s loyalty to him entirely for granted. Therefore – Team Wayne, all the way. I mean…right?)
- While hanging out, Anthony & Nikki’s car breaks down, & they stumble upon a vacant (as in – the owners have gone somewhere for the day) house, & they scavenge for food in it. There’s a cute scene where they hear birds outside, & they both get the idea to cook one of the doves for dinner…but then when it comes down to it, nether person wants to kill a bird, so instead they name two (Annabel & Mirabel) and eat a (huge!) loaf of bread.
- Orloff is not amused by Nikki’s extended absence, & heads back to Paris without her. Suzanne is (predictably) gleeful.
- It seems like there should’ve been way more backstory included, when it comes to Orloff’s business dealings & circle of conspirators. I wish we knew how all of these connections came to be…instead of being dropped in the middle of them all being unraveled. I don’t know who any of these associates are, or how any of these financial cons have functioned for the last 5 years, and that’s annoying.
- In other news, Nicole has – after like…6 dates – finally let Tony kiss her.
It’s about damn time! Jesus.
- Evilly, Stefan calls Nicole back from Geneva, pretending that the mountain of legal & financial trouble he has found himself in is the result of all of his trusted business partners & friends being miscreants & “thieves.”
- Nicole laps up this ridiculous sob story (like…come on, honey – your whole partnership with him is based on a financially profitable con – get a clue), and swears to stand by him, no matter what.
(What will Suzanne say when she hears about this?!)
- As if her undying loyalty isn’t enough – Steffan the Tramp asks Nikki to marry him, so that his reputation will be upped in association with her & all of the importantly powerful people who surround her.
- Nikki says yes, and we’re mad…but not as mad as Tony. He’s heartbrokenly irate, and it’s sad to watch.
- The wedding happens – but the after party is immediately interrupted by investigators barging in to question Chalon (Steffan’s closest associate, played by Walter Kingsford). All the societally important people leave instantaneously, so as not to be associated with such mischief.
- At that point, Steffan’s like, ‘Okay – time to flee,’ which essentially expresses his guilt in all of these crimes to Nikki, & she refuses to run away with him.
Steffan: As soon as I’ve decided where I’m going, I’ll let you know, of course.
Nikki: Do that. I’ve always believed it rather nice for a husband & wife to keep in touch with one another.
- When the entirety of the Orloff Scandal is made known to the public, riots break out and the mobs wreck Nikki’s storefront, because she’s the criminal’s wife, so she must be evil!
- Despite everything, Nikki eventually decides to join Steffan at his flee-location – mostly, we find out, to get her questions about his indiscretions answered.
- Claude Rains is fantastic in this, by the way. Kay Francis is decent…but Claude Rains is fantastic.
- Orloff is caught up with & shot, though the police claim he suicided himself, to make everyone feel better.
- Nikki sells all her belongings, her house, & her business, since it was all founded & bought with crooked money – and as a reward, Tony appears & demands that Nikki marry him. At first, she protests for his own good – but at last, she agrees, & they all live happily ever after.
(Except the ring of criminals, who are all in prison for life, probably, and Steffan, who is, of course, dead.)
Suzanne is real fucking pleased.
- Anyhow…good movie, but kind of boring. Tony Wayne was a pretty boring love interest, to the extent that it kind of made me wonder why, if Nikki was as glamorous & important as they all made her out to be, she didn’t have 1000 other, better suitors knocking at her door.
- Oh well, though.
- Solid B.