Café Metropole

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In Paris, a young American is in debt to a nightclub owner, who forces him to woo an heiress in hopes of reaping her fortune.

ACTORS : Loretta Young, Tyrone Power, Adolphe Menjou

YEAR OF RELEASE : 1937

POSTAGE : Free In Australia

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Description

Storyline

Café Metropole, Victor Lobard, the smooth and nimble owner of the Café Metropole in Paris, has only ten days to replace a small fortune he embezzled from the business; he and a clerk face prison if he fails. He thinks he’s won the money at a casino then learns he’s in possession of a rubber check written by Alexander Brown, a well-mannered but penniless Yank. Lobard cooks up a scheme: to have Brown pretend to be a Russian prince, woo a visiting American, and get her rich father to give Brown the money Lobard needs. Several problems: Brown’s not a very good impostor, a real Russian prince presents himself, and the two young people fall in love. Does prison await or do wild strawberries?

Vintage Charm

Café Metropole, It must be 35 years or so since I saw this film in an “Art House” Theatre. But it still has left one, strong, lingering impression.

There is one scene on the dance floor that took my breath away. Power is wearing a tailcoat and white tie. Young is in a satin floor length gown that clung to even inch of her elegant form. They were dancing like a young god and goddess.

I remember thinking, “At that moment in time, they had to be the two most beautiful people on the face of the earth.” I recall nothing else about the film save this moment. But it’s quite sufficient.

Sometimes, all it takes is just one scene to leave an impression that makes the memory of a film vivid for decades. In an era when class and style are neither appreciated, celebrated or understood, a film like this is a reminder of these words mean — or at least meant.

Wit flows like champagne
A very pleasant, old-fashioned comedy of manners. A delightful group of players make the most of a screenplay that is filled to the brim with chucklesome dialogue. Director Edward H. Griffith has wisely chosen to play the whole thing straight without undue emphases or heavily weighted advance signals. You have to keep right on your toes to digest such gems as Loretta Young’s casual remark that Tyrone’s hat makes him look like “an eccentric pall-bearer” (and watch for the shop assistant’s astute manipulation of the said hat under cover of the ensuing conversation). I loved Charles Winninger’s flat aside on European nobility: “If they’re charming, they’re fake. If they’re genuine, they’re dumb!” (A dictum which he later expatiates at greater length: “He was the dumbest, stupidest dope I ever had the misfortune to shake hands with!”)

In a roll of velvet like this, much depends on the skills of director and cast. With Café Metropole they cut the cloth perfectly, abetted by stylish, class “A” production values including Lucien Andriot’s fine camera-work, glossily attractive sets and a caressingly tuneful music score.

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