Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor
THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS (1954). Director: Richard Brooks. Very loosely based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In post-WW2 Paris, war correspondent Charles Wills (Van Johnson) meets beautiful Helen Ellswirth (Elizabeth Taylor). Initially attracted to Helen's sister, Marion (Donna Reed), he makes a date with her that is intercepted by Helen, leading to a major romance and marriage. Although the couple discover oil on property they own and have plenty of money, the marriage is threatened by Charles' inability to sell his novels to any publisher, the drinking and carousing that results from it, and Helen's reaction to this as well as his flirtatious relationship with the much-married divorcee, Lorraine (Eva Gabor). It all leads up to an unexpected tragedy ... The main strength of The Last Time I Saw Paris are the lead performances, which are better than the movie deserves. Taylor  plays the somewhat spoiled woman-child very well, but Johnson is especially outstanding, doing some of the very best work of his career. The trouble with the movie is not so much the basic plot but the screenplay by Julius and Philip Epstein, which indulges in one cliche after another and rarely delves into the situations with any depth. The final quarter of the film is the most memorable, as it finally deals with Charles' apparent rejection of Marion, as well as with his relationship with his young daughter,  Vicky (a charming Sandy Descher of Them!); these sequences are moving and very well-played. (Cast as Marion, Donna Reed truly has a thankless part.) Four years earlier Johnson and Taylor were teamed for a comedy entitled The Big Hangover, and there are times when the light soap opera tone of Paris threatens to just collapse into giggles; you get the sense the tragedy that occurs is meant to add some sobering substance to the proceedings, even if it doesn't quite work. Eva Gabor [The Mad Magician], who was always more talented than her sister Zsa Zsa (although hardly an acting genius) is fun as Lorraine; as Helen and Marion's rather irresponsible father, Walter Pidgeon is Walter Pidgeon. Roger Moore [A View to a Kill] shows up and is as smooth as ever as a playboy who dallies with Helen. Of all people, the corpulent Bruno VeSota [Attack of the Giant Leeches] shows up in a party scene clad in a tuxedo!

Verdict: Some tender and amusing moments, but Paris -- and Fitzgerald -- deserve better. **1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, yes was not too impressed with this one, even though Elizabeth is beautiful and the cast includes favorites like the handsome Roger Moore and the charismatic Eva Gabor...but truth be told, not a big Van Johnson fan here. I don't mind him in a few things, but as a leading man, I don't find he has enough depth for dramatic roles...this film could have been better with a different actor.

William said...

So you're not a Van fan, eh? I like him better than you do but I'm sure other people feel the same way about him as you do. I thought he came across well in the final scenes. but ... Anyway, we agree that the movie itself is a major disappointment.