Upon discovering the You Must Remember This…A Kiss is Just a Kiss blogathon hosted by Second Sight Cinema, I thought long and hard about how I could apply the theme to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. After coming up with a few different ideas, I decided to write about his on-screen romance with French actress Danielle Darrieux in a 1930s comedy entitled The Rage of Paris.
The Rage of Paris is a film by Universal Studios from 1938. In addition to Darrieux and Fairbanks, it starred Mischa Auer, Louis Hayward, and Helen Broderick. The director was Henry Koster, who directed other notable films such as The Bishop’s Wife, Harvey, The Virgin Queen, and Desiree. The film was based on an original story and screenplay written by Bruce Manning and Felix Jackson.
The Rage of Paris is what Fairbanks refers to as a light sophisticated comedy.1 It’s a fast moving film that contains witty dialogue and humorous tangle-ups between characters. Nicole de Cortillion (Danielle Darrieux) is a French girl that is in desperate need of money. She shows up at a modeling agency and meets Jim Trevor (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) in a mix-up that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Jim finds the beautiful young woman in his office, stripping. She mistakenly thought she was going to be photographed wearing nothing but drapes (or draps!). Upon realizing her mistake, she runs out of his office, hoping to never see him again.
Nicole soon finds herself in another scheme to get rich. She and her friend Gloria, and the maitre’d at an expensive hotel in New York City, throw their savings into a renting a suite at the hotel and attempt to seduce millionaire Bill Duncan into marrying Nicole. In a hilarious scene that takes place at the opera, Nicole quickly learns that Bill Duncan is good friends with Jim Trevor. Upon meeting, Jim recognizes the young French girl that came to his office and stripped. How could he possibly forget? In a series of humorous events, Nicole attempts to keep Jim from telling Bill her secret: that she’s part of a scheme to marry him for his money. Nicole and Jim are constantly at each others throats but helplessly falling for each other at the same time.
Once Nicole confesses her love for Jim, it is almost too late. He brushes her off by asking her, “When did you find out I had more money than Bill Duncan?” Jim leaves her in tears and feeling wretched about love. Realizing she does not wish to marry for money, the relationship between Nicole and Bill is broken off and she books herself on a ship to leave the States for France. Jim realizes his mistake and that he does indeed love Nicole too. He decides to surprise her on the ship by having the Captain take her to a cabin he has rented. Confused by the whole situation, Nicole discovers she has been sent to Jim’s cabin when he appears at the door just as she is about to leave. The two finally share a much anticipated romantic kiss and the movie ends with Jim and Nicole preparing to be wed aboard the ship.
Starting with the initial scene in Jim’s office, a sexual tension begins to grow between Fairbanks and Darrieux and continues to grow throughout the film. Their on-screen chemistry is immediately recognizable within the first few minutes of the film. Fairbanks with his debonair style, eloquence, and charming looks is a perfect match for the innocent, feisty, and beautiful Darrieux. Even when they are at each others throats, one can’t help but want them to fall madly in love with one another. They just seem to make sense together, which is one of those undeniable markers of a perfect on-screen pair. Every time that I watch this film, I find myself anticipating their first embrace and kiss which doesn’t even come until the last few minutes of the film!
The sexual tension reaches its zenith in the final minutes of the film. When Fairbanks bursts into her cabin at the end, all you want is for him to take Darrieux into his arms and finally kiss her deeply and passionately. The music reaches a crescendo as he looks into her eyes and removes his hat with a look of serious determination. The audience holds its breath as they anticipate the final kiss. The music abruptly stops, Fairbanks teasingly brushes past Darrieux and aggressively begins to remove his coat, tie, and unbuttons just the top of shirt.
He stops, looks to the confused Darrieux, and in his best French accent, asks, “You have the draps, no?” harking back to the original scene in which they first met. Darrieux continues to stare at him with a look of bewilderment. He continues, “You are a certain Mademoiselle de Cortillion, no?” Still believing that he is angry with her, she begs him to not make fun of her by mocking her. He explains to her that they are to be married shortly. “In a few minutes you will be the uncertain Mrs. James Trevor.”
“But don’t you think I’m very bad?” She questions.
“I’ll tell you a little secret, I’m pretty bad myself,” he responds as he finally takes her into his arms and kisses her deeply and passionately.
The Rage of Paris did well at the box office in 1938 and had great success. It was nominated for two Venice Film Festival Awards and won in the category for Special Recommendation.2 Fairbanks remembers working with Darrieux fondly. Unfortunately at the time, she was a victim of physical abuse at the hands of her husband. Filming had to be postponed for a short while as she recovered from a black eye given to her by her husband. Unfortunately, Fairbanks did not get to know her as well as he perhaps would have liked. Her overbearing husband kept her from socializing too much with others on set. Thankfully, not long after the premiere of The Rage of Paris, Darrieux left her husband. Fairbanks wrote, “I’ve always hoped she was consoled by the fact that the picture turned out well and proved very popular.”3
It is of my personal opinion that The Rage of Paris contains one of the best on-screen chemistries and one of the best romantic build-ups on film. Fairbanks referred to Darrieux as being “a delight” to work with.4 As someone that spent part of his formative years in France, I often wonder if the bilingual Fairbanks and Darrieux spoke French to one another on set. Or if having the French background in common helped put her at ease in making her first American film. It is such a shame that Fairbanks and Darrieux did not get to make more films together. On the bright side, however, they came together for one fabulous, sexy, and hilarious comedy that deserves much more recognition.
Enjoy The Rage of Paris below:
This piece was written for the You Must Remember This…A Kiss is just a Kiss blogathon hosted by secondsightcinema.com (click below).
- Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., The Salad Days, (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 277.
- IMDb, The Rage of Paris, Awards, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030652/awards?ref_=tt_awd).
- Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., The Salad Days, 278.
- Ibid, 278.