THE RAGE OF PARIS is a neat discovery, an overlooked comedy from 1938 that served to introduce Danielle Darrieux, a 21-year-old French gamine making her Hollywood debut, sparring with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Lots of fun, written by Bruce Manning and Felix Jackson, directed by Henry Koster, it placed a respectable 49th that year, grossing $3,600,000. *
Expected fluffy ingredients—pretend identities, mismatched partners, wisecracking best friend, colorful supporting roles inhabited by veteran “types”, debonair settings—and played more droll than frantic so the standard array doesn’t wear its gossamer plot to a frazzle, kept to a trim 78 minutes.
Broke in New York City, French job-seeker ‘Nicolle de Cortillon’ (Darrieux) tries to bluff her way into a modeling gig, but instead ends up embarrassing herself with ad-man ‘Jim Trevor’ (Fairbanks): she thinks he’s a photographer, he believes she’s a good-time gal (or something similar). Her seen-it-all friend ‘Gloria’ (Helen Broderick) hatches a plan with old friend ‘Mike’ (Mischa Auer), headwaiter at the schmancy ‘Savoy Grand’: they’ll use Mike’s seed money for his dream restaurant to foof up Nicole and pass her off as Euro society. This gambit will nab ‘Bill Duncan’ (Louis Hayward) who “owns half of Canada.” But Jim is Bill’s best buddy, and when he sees what the trio are up to, he means to expose them and save his pal. And then…well, take a guess.
“I married a hoofer. All he had was a time step and a ‘shuttle off to Buffalo.’ Later in life he became ambitious… and got 20 years.”
Forgotten today, this little charmer is at least as worthy as many of the more famous comedies of the era: Darrieux is absolutely delightful, Fairbanks svelte as ever, Broderick and Auer in great form. Even the often too-slick Hayward ups his game. Great physical schtick from the leading lady—she’s as good at that as Carole Lombard; abundant throwaway chuckles from the others. An out-of-the-rabbit-hat winner.
With Charles Coleman, Harry Davenport, Samuel S. Hinds, Charles Lane.
* Despite charming critics and audiences in her US debut, Danielle Darrieux only made a handful of films in Hollywood, opting to stay loyal to France for a long and much-lauded career. She passed on in 2017 at the age of 100.