Mitchell Leisens’ 1955 effort BEDEVILLED is not without it’s problems but, being his penultimate film before going into television, presents an accommodating audience with enough to at least make it interesting.
There’s little written about this film, IMDb have only a dusting of reviews, all bad, and the normally thorough database people have even neglected to mention the involvement of Art Director Alfred Junge who dealt with the art department on Hitchcock’s original version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and on King Vidor’s THE CITADEL.
Steve Forrest stars as Gregory Fitzgerald, a highly unlikely looking priest to be. One can only assume that this casting choice was deliberate as the conflict between religious destiny and temptation is the central theme of the film. Accompanied by a fellow apprentice, he flies to France for a 3 day stopover before heading to the seminary which will see him robed. The plane journey provides Fitzgerald with his first test. Leaving his friend to deal with air sickness, the chiseled padre heads into the planes’ bowels for a bite to eat. Within seconds he’s met a beautiful French fashion type named Francesca (played hilariously by Simone Renant) who only seems to be in the story to occasionally progress the plot. The woman immediately feels drawn to Fitzgerald, he does, after all, have “a face like a man”. And so, after a short discussion, she slips a card into his hand which is both an invite to her fashion show, and the phone number to her Paris apartment. This man, who is on the final journey to becoming a fully fledged man of the cloth, chooses not to reveal his profession, even when pressed. Is he ashamed? Does he doubt his path? This, of course is what we’re supposed to think.
Once in Paris and dropped of by the delectable Francesca (she won’t be seen again until we need her) the guys meet their host for the short stay and a dinner meeting is arranged for that evening.
Enter the siren.
Jumping into a taxi to meet his host, his ride is hijacked by Monica Johnson, played by Anne Baxter of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and I CONFESS fame. This devil in a red dress will seriously put a spanner in the works of what was supposed to be a relaxing few days in gay Paris before Fitzgerald fully gets in league with the boss upstairs.
And this is where the film really starts to unravel….
It transpires that the girl is on the run, fingered for a murder she supposedly didn’t commit but villains like the villain chasing her aren’t the kind of villains who will take a girl at her word. That much we get, that much is ok.
In helping this dame out and going beyond the call of duty to keep her safe, the film tells us they come together. The problem is we don’t SEE it. There is a lot of running about. a lot of serious looks, a car chase, a lot of dramatic arm grabs and a serious expository scene at Napolean’s tomb……
……. There’s not an ounce of chemistry, however, not anything that would lead us to believe that this guy is doing anything other than helping her out. Fitzgerald repeatedly keeps his impending priest-dom under wraps but this does nothing to prepare us for the scene later in the flick when she goes in for a kiss ….. And yet we know it’s coming because we’ve seen it so many times before. Now I’m all for the subtlety in the delivery of that information. Leisen should be commended, it’s a neat idea and says so much without words. It can only really work when there is chemistry between to the two leads and we don’t have that here. The acting actually makes William Alwyns’ score seem heavy handed as we come to rely on it for emotional injection.
After lots more running about…. Across some nice roofs, good job Alfred, in fact let’s have a look:
After lots more running about we inevitably end up in a church where truths are told, secrets revealed and decisions made.
This flick doesn’t have the bite of NO MAN OF HER OWN, made only 5 years earlier, but is essential viewing for those of us who love Leisen’s work.
Here’s something else I love about it:
The film features the most blatant “waking up in bed with flawless make up and perfect hair” scene in cinema.
And possibly the most sexist line:
Francesca: “I made a fantastic mistake!”
Trevelle: “Well of course, you’re a woman”