Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)


“Pride is a wonderful thing but it won’t keep you warm on a cold winter’s night”

            Mistaken identity is probably the most used plot device in classic films. Norman Krasna who wrote, produced, and directed The Ambassador’s Daughter used the mistaken identity plot in some of his previous films. In this film the plot does not get too dragged out and is actually very interesting to see the cast play it out.
            Joan Fiske (Olivia de Havilland) is an American living with her ambassador father in Paris. Whenever important American travelers stay with her and her father Joan takes them around Paris to see the famous sites. The newest guests Joan has to entertain are Senator and Mrs. Cartwright (wonderfully played by Adolphe Menjou and Myrna Loy). When Joan takes Mrs. Cartwright to the Louvre she just goes through the motions she goes into a trance and does not even realize that the Matisse she is talking about is not on the wall but has been loaned out.
            To keep busy Joan is a model for fashion shows. Attending one of the fashion shows she is in, are two American G.I.s Danny Sullivan (John Forsythe) and Al O’Connor on leave in the city for a few days. Danny sees Joan and is totally smitten with her. After the show he asks her on a date. She talks the idea over with her father, the Cartwrights, a General Harvey and her fiancée (who is a prince from a foreign country) what she should do. The senator sees G.I.s as wolves just looking for a good time but the General does not, obviously, agree so they make Joan’s date into an experiment and she is to report back to them. But she is not to tell the soldier that she is an ambassador’s daughter.
            At first Danny thinks Joan is a French girl because she fakes a French accent. But Danny says something that gets her angry and she reveals her true accent. The pair have a great night out on the town. They see each other again the next day. Danny is head over heels in love with Joan and wants to take her back to the States and Joan is very much in love with him as well.
            But of course there needs to be a conflict and a misunderstanding to split the couple apart for them to get together at the end. Joan winds up getting Danny in the end by getting under his pride and not letting go.
 
            Once I found out that the plot was of mistaken identity my mind was kind of closed off to the film but I had to see it because of the cast. I did not find the story too bad it was different because there was that little bet happening on the side for some amusement. John Forsythe and Olivia de Havilland were so nice to watch together they were very good in the leads. If you want to look at age as a bit of an issue de Havilland was forty playing someone who should have been no older than twenty-six and Forsythe was thirty-eight playing a character who should have been no older than twenty-seven. But both actors looked young and pulled off their characters very well. A cute scene between them was when they were in a club where there were feather dancers. When the one dancer moves her feathers Danny blushes and Joan just laughs over how bad the soldier is blushing and how uncomfortable he is. Myrna Loy and Adolphe Menjou made a nice couple as well. Loy pretends in two parts of the film that she is Joan’s boss for the modeling. At the end she tells a story to Danny that when she first met the senator she thought he was on the Senator’s baseball team and did not find out until they were married that he was an actual senator. She said that she hit him and he hit her back but they have been happily married for years and have three children. Danny hearing the story about how Mrs. Cartwright hit the senator he felt inspired and hit the senator himself thinking the man was Joan’s older man love. After the senator gets hit Loy responds “Oh I should not have told him that story.” There were certain moments in the film where there were flashes of Loy’s old feistiness from her ‘30s films. She was fifty-one years old when the film was released; she looked amazing and still had that biting charm about her.
File:Myrna LOY Mature Adolphe MENJOU Vintage PHOTO.jpg
            One of my favorite parts of the film is when Joan is taking Mrs. Cartwright around the museum and does not even realize the Matisse is missing because she is just going through the motions. That is how I sometimes feel when I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York I pretty much live that in museum and know the European Paintings department and the American Wing storage display like the back of my hand. The way Joan describes a painting with the colors and everything is how I describe paintings and works of art in papers (I hate writing and I hate research and that is all Art History majors do. What the hell was I thinking?!)
         The fashion show Danny and Al attend and Joan models for is Dior. The clothes are classic Dior and so gorgeous. I would have LOVED to have seen a show like that or even to be a model just to say I wore Dior clothing!! After this de Havilland became a long time admirer of the designer and many pieces of her wardrobe were from the designer.
                         The Ambassador’s Daughter is a cute film. The plot is nothing new but with the good cast it is not boring. Yes some parts do drag after all the film is almost two hours long and that to me is dragging out a mistaken identity plot. Watch it for the cast but do not expect the story to be all that fantastic.