What sacrifices would you make?
Joan of Paris has a lot in common with Casablanca - after all, it came out in the same year, and features a prominent, but not headlining, Paul Henried. Even MichÃ¨le Morgan, who got the headlining credit in Joan of Paris, was up for the Ilsa role, but was asking too much money. And where Casablanca featured folk trying to leave French Morocco, here we have them trying to leave occupied France. And the most apparent commonality between the two? The frequent use of La Marseilles - the French national anthem - to punctuate the storyline - including both the singing of the song as a form of protest, and the occasional out-of-nowhere repetition of the song's theme. Was Joan of Paris following on the coattails of Casablanca? Hardly - this film came out in January of 1942 whereas Casablanca opened in December.
Now with the obvious comparisons aside, on to the movie. Five RAF flyers are shot down over France, lead by a French national, Paul Lavallier (Henreid). They proceed to Paris and hide while trying to contact the French underground. Paul does the legwork, working through a priest he knew as a child. Paul meets, and falls in love, with Joan (Morgan), who Paul tries to shield from the danger surrounding him. Eventually, though, he comes to rely on her, as the Gestapo tails him constantly. Indeed, Herr Funk, the local Gestapo head, has taken a personal interest in rounding up these RAF pilots.
There is a genuine sense of danger for much of the film, though that edge gets blunted as Paul gets to know Joan. Time is short, and their relationship doesn't get far along before events take control.
Ultimately, the movie is about sacrifice - much like Casablanca again - and in fact, that was a theme for the times in World War II. There's a certain nobility in many of the films of the time that refreshing to see as most of today's material is filled with such selfish characters. Perhaps it's just a sign of the times.
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