Watching the 1934 Le paquebot Tenacity to round out Film Alert’s Julien Duvivier dossier, I got an abrupt reminder of the skills that the director (and the top level French cinema of the thirties) commanded and which were lost in Duvivier’s later work.
The story is slight but the two stars, Albert Préjean (Chapeau de Paille d’Italie) and Marie Glory (L’argent), performing with a twisted ankle, are coaxed into unusually animated performances. Prejean was doing the first film in which he had sustained speeches, which was a strain for him and he got no help from an irritated Duvivier who was dissatisfied with the film. These were not names to attract international attention. The piece may never have been English sub-titled, leaving it without nostalgia value and hard to find.
Our heroes arrive in Le Havre (studio track along the street where the only businesses are rooms to rent and money lending) and find the sailing delayed. Préjean is thrown off the ship's bridge when he investigates. The pair are guided by sympathetic porter Pierre Laurel to Mady Berry’s hotel where Glory waits tables. Albert does well with the bar girls down the street, getting taken up stairs.
The waterfront material with its dockside machinery and moored ships makes an interesting comparison with Gremillon’s maritime films.
Editor's Note: It has been some little time since the previous Duvivier Dossier entry was posted. There still remain a number of films to be reported upon and for other work to be done. The thought is to gather it all together into an E-Book during the coming months. In the meantime you can track down the earlier posts if you put Duvivier's name into the box on the top left of the page.