The Rage of Paris

The Rage of Paris, 1938, Universal Pictures. Starring Danielle Darrieux, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Directed by Henry Koster. B&W, 77 minutes.

Newly arrived from France, Nicole de Cortillon (Danielle Darrieux) seeks work as a model with one of New York’s finest agencies. Told they aren’t looking for any more young ladies at the moment. she manages to sneak into the office of the man responsible for placing the models. With scarcely a glance at her, the man tries to give the desperate woman a job that goes against her standards–posing with nothing more than something draped over her shoulder. It’s when she’s leaving and hears how much it pays that she changes her mind, but it’s almost too late. Thinking quickly, she snatches the card with the job information off the man’s desk while he isn’t looking.

What she doesn’t realize is it’s the wrong card. It leads her to the office of Jim Trevor (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), where she begins to undress while waiting for him, believing him to be a photographer. Once he arrives, the mistake is revealed. Mortified, Nicole runs from his office and to her apartment.

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Danielle Darrieux, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

It’s there her day goes from bad to worse. Her landlady is ready to kick her out for being late with the rent when her friend Gloria (Helen Broderick) steps in and pays the amount due. Later, the two realize things aren’t likely to get better and they concoct a scheme to win the heart of a wealthy man with the help of Gloria’s old friend Mike (Mischa Auer), the head waiter at a ritzy hotel.

Mike has saved $3,000 toward his goal of owning his own restaurant and needs a mere $2,000 more. Reluctantly, he’s convinced to spend his savings on setting Nicole and Gloria up in the hotel room across from Bill Duncan (Louis Hayward), a man who “owns half of Canada.” The women promise to pay Mike the full $5,000 once Nicole and Bill are married.

What the three schemers don’t count on is that Jim Trevor is Bill Duncan’s best friend. Once Jim realizes what the trio is up to, he insists Nicole tell Bill the truth, or threatens to do the same himself. Nicole is completely honest with Bill, however, she says it in such a way that it appears she’s joking. Jim later catches up with Bill at his hotel room door and tried to convince his friend of what Nicole is up to, but Bill believes it’s an old rivalry between the two men that is prompting the story.

From there, things only get worse for everyone involved–until they get better.

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Danielle Darrieux, Mischa Auer, Helen Broderick

While little known in the United States, Darrieux was one of France’s great stars, with a career spanning eight decades in stage, film and television. The Rage of Paris was her first American film, but despite its popularity it wasn’t until the 1950s that she was lured back to Hollywood. There she appeared in Rich, Young and Pretty (1951), an MGM musical, and a handful of other films ending with Alexander the Great (1956), the epic starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. She worked in France during that time as well and returned there for good to continue her prolific career, working until 2010. She died in 2017 at the age of 100.

The Rage of Paris is a charming romantic comedy that, while predictable, never gets dull. Today it is in public domain and is easily accessible to audiences, including, at the time of this writing, at You Tube, Amazon Prime and Paramount+.