Newest Reviews
Beasts Clawing at Straws
Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Windom's Way
True Don Quixote, The
Mitchells vs. the Machines, The
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Unholy, The
How to Deter a Robber
Offering, The
Enola Holmes
Big Calamity, The
Man Under Table
Freedom Fields
Boy Behind the Door, The
Swords of the Space Ark
I Still See You
Most Beautiful Boy in the World, The
Luz: The Flower of Evil
Human Voice, The
Guns Akimbo
Being a Human Person
Giants and Toys
Millionaires Express
Bringing Up Baby
World to Come, The
Air Conditioner
Fear and Loathing in Aspen
Riders of Justice
Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, The
For Those Who Think Young
Justice League: War
Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, The
Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness
Night of the Sharks
Newest Articles
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
  Flame of New Orleans, The Louisiana Purchase
Year: 1941
Director: René Clair
Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Bruce Cabot, Roland Young, Mischa Auer, Andy Devine, Frank Jenks, Eddie Quillan, Laura Hope Crews, Franklin Pangborn, Theresa Harris, Clarence Muse, Melville Cooper, Anne Revere, Bob Evans, Emily Fitzroy, Virginia Sale, Dorothy Adams
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1841, a legend started of what had been seen floating in the Mississippi near New Orleans: a wedding dress. Who had it belonged to, and how did she lose it in such careless fashion? Was it careless at all? Perhaps it was wholly deliberate. The story has never been cleared up to any great satisfaction, but here's how it could have happened: Claire Ledeux (Marlene Dietrich), a European noblewoman and socialite, was seen at the opera in the city where she apparently fainted and was attended to by one of the richest men around, Charles Giraud (Roland Young). Was her plan to snare him in marriage? Certainly that's what her maid, Clementine (Theresa Harris) indicated, and she was keen to encourage her - but another man entered Claire's life at the same time.

Back in 1941, Dietrich had been enjoying a new wave of popularity off the back of Destry Rides Again, but then, typical of her up and down career, she hit this flop, a gossamer confection that failed to prompt much response at the box office. There were some reasons put forward for why it didn't strike a hit too, with much of the blame going on Frenchman René Clair as director, with rumours he had stoked resentment for not being able to communicate well in English on the set; one of many European talents who fled the Nazis around this point, he was judged to have had an inferior Hollywood career to his French pictures, despite gems like I Married a Witch in his filmography, but his light touch was nevertheless in evidence here, even operating at half-strength.

Today, most of the grumblings from those who see The Flame of New Orleans stem from a different area: the career of one of the cast, Theresa Harris. Not that she didn't have a decent role here, far from it, it was one of her best, but that praise came with caveats as she was an African American actress in Hollywood of the Golden Age and was never going to have the opportunities to capitalise on her talent and beauty like the white stars were. In later years, comfortable in retirement (she invested wisely), she expressed bitterness that she rarely had the chance to shine in her films as she had been more than capable of, but if it was any comfort, as the decades wore on her star rose to the point that classic movie buffs watch out for her appearances and highlight them as both an injustice to the woman's ability and a tribute that she was able to do so much with so little.

Maybe it took a European outsider in forties Hollywood to see how she could be applied well, and at times she steals the film from a not inconsiderable cast of scene stealers. Apparently the whole idea here was to spoof Dietrich's man-eating but sophisticated reputation, have a bit of fun with it, and to an extent they managed that as she is both poised and playful throughout, given a silly plot where she has to pose as her identical cousin who will insult Charles (as Claire was overheard doing) while "as herself" she can woo him with her expert gold digging ways. Meanwhile Bruce Cabot, a strapping and rollicking rogue of a sea captain, is the man she actually has her eyes on, but as Clementine keeps reminding her, there's no security with that Jolly Jack Tar, for Clair or her maid (who as with Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, is more of her partner and ally). Dietrich is a little constrained by this set-up, but everyone else, no matter what the atmosphere was like as they shot it, are professional and put in typical performances, from Andy Devine to Franklin Pangborn and Mischa Auer, among many more famous faces (and voices). If you're feeling indulgent of old-time movies, this should do the trick, it's featherlight but amusing. Music by Frank Skinner.

[The BFI Blu-ray box set Marlene Dietrich at Universal 1940-42 features Seven Sinners, The Flame of New Orleans, The Spoilers and Pittsburgh and these extras:

High Definition transfers of all four films
Seven Sinners feature commentary by film historian David Del Valle and screenwriter C Courtney Joyner
The Flame of New Orleans feature commentary by film historian Lee Gambin and actor and film historian Rutanya Alda
The Spoilers feature commentary by film historian Toby Roan
Pittsburgh feature commentary by critic and film historian Pamela Hutchinson
Music and effects tracks for The Flame of New Orleans, The Spoilers and Pittsburgh
60-page book featuring newly commissioned essays by Sarah Wood, Pamela Hutchinson, So Mayer, Ellen Cheshire, Katy McGahan and Phillip Kemp
Limited to 4,000 copies.

Released 25th January 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 483 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


René Clair  (1898 - 1981)

Imaginative French writer and director, a former actor, whose whimsy could be tempered with sharp wit. He gained attention in the 1920s with the classic science fiction short Paris Qui Dort, but come the sound era his musicals Le Million and A Nous La Liberté won him more and more fans. He moved to Britain for comic fantasy The Ghost Goes West, and to Hollywood for I Married A Witch, It Happened Tomorrow and classic Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None. When the Second World War ended, he returned to France to make films including Les Belles de Nuit.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf


Last Updated: