Directed by Gordon Parry and written by Anatole de Grunwald, following a group of British tourists on a weekend trip to Paris, an English diplomat (Alastair Sim) is on a working trip, a Royal Marine bandsman (Ronald Shiner) has a night out on the tiles, a young woman (Claire Bloom) is wined and dined by an older Parisian man (Claude Dauphin). An amateur artist (Margaret Rutherford) searches out fellow painters on the Left Bank, a hearty Englishman (Jimmy Edwards) spends the entire weekend in an English-style pub and a Scottish veteran (James Copeland) finds love with a young French woman. Also starring: Peter Illing, Gaby Bruyere and Monique Gerard.
It’s safe to say that a film about a weekend away made in the 1950s is extremely different than any you’ll find today, instead of sordid antics, it’s silly romps and fawning romances. To that extent, Innocents in Paris is exactly what you’d expect, a group of strangers all finding harmless, flirtatious and tipsy adventures in a foreign city. It starts out strongly, introducing you to its ragtag bunch of vacationers, it has a classic charm and playful humour. Although the comedy does get fairly heavy-handed as time goes on, falling into the typical pattern of its time and pushing the cheesy level slightly too far at points; with Ronald Shiner’s bandsman being the most guilty. It nicely moves around between its characters, never sticking to any of them for too long, but it does feel like some get more focus than others. It’s a shame that Margaret Rutherford’s headstrong painter doesn’t take more of the limelight, the sense of humour around her character feels more natural than some.
Rutherford is a beloved actress and for good reason, she’s simply a joy to watch, she has such an effortless charm and spirited nature. Her character gets into some perfectly timed misunderstandings which feel delightfully silly, rather than the eye-roll kind. Alastair Sim is an actor who could pretty much do anything and he never disappoints. James Copeland brings a sweet naivety and a sincere connection when he crosses paths with Monique Gerard. It’s a stellar cast all round, the only weak point is the romance between Claire Bloom and Claude Dauphin, unsurprisingly for the 1950s, the age-gap is quite significant and they don’t have a great deal of chemistry. It’s only a shame that the stories as a whole don’t intersect once they step off the plane, it would have been a bonus to have their antics clashing with one another, especially with such iconic actors at play.
The restoration work is superb, with a great amount of detail and clean feel. Gordon Parry’s direction gives this myriad of stories exactly what they need, it moves at a good pace and contains the film’s playful spirit. It doesn’t try too hard to force a Paris aesthetic, we get plenty of the landmarks without centring its entire story on them. It pulls together the romance, the comedy and the jovial tone well, never getting stuck on one moment, fluidly moving from one person’s story to the next and back again.
Innocents in Paris is a happy-go-lucky comedy, in the quintessential 1950s style, using silly, coincidental and romantic humour to lead the way. It can get a little too silly at times, as is typical of its time, meaning some stories are better than others but the weaker elements don’t drag down the film overall. It’s a strong choice of cast and any film with both Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford is always going to be worth checking out.