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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fanny (1961)

Set in Marseilles, France; a romance between a fishmonger's daughter (Leslie Caron) and a barkeeper's son (Horst Buchholz) is impeded by the boy's desire to escape his dull existence and go to sea. Rather than insisting he stay, the girl allows the boy to make the choice whether to go or stay. He chooses the sea and finding herself pregnant, she marries an elderly man (Maurice Chevalier) to give her child a name. Eventually, of course, the boy returns. This film comes to the screen in a roundabout way. Based on a trio of plays by Marcel Pagnol which he later made into films in the early 1930s. In 1954, it was turned into a Broadway musical directed by Joshua Logan, who directs the 1961 film. The film, however, dumped all the songs and made the film into a non musical. If you've heard the original Broadway cast album by composer Harold Rome, you'll understand why the songs aren't missed. What remains is a rather sappy tearjerker with clumsy spots of comedy redeemed by excellent performances save one. Charles Boyer as Buchholz father received a best actor Oscar nomination but it's Chevalier who gives the film's best and most poignant performance though Buchholz and especially Caron are very good too. Fortunately the film was shot on location in Marseilles which is lovingly photographed by the great Jack Cardiff. The underscore consists of Rome's stage score minus the lyrics. With Lionel Jeffries, Georgette Anys and in the film's one bad performance, Raymond Brussieres who seems to be acting in a horror film.

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