Yesterday we briefly discussed Enterprise Studios biggest box office hit, Body and Soul. Today we’ll look at Arch of Triumph.
What a cast! (There are the costars above.) How could it fail?
As we wrote yesterday, Arch of Triumph qualifies as a prestige outing from Enterprise, the short-lived but fascinating independent production outfit formed in the mid-Forties largely by actor John Garfield.
The 1948 movie is a romantic drama set in pre-World War II Paris and costars Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Laughton and Louis Calhern.
Boyer, the pride of Figeac, a medium-sized city in France’s southwest Cahors wine district, started making movies in Europe in 1920 before being lured to Hollywood 11 years later by a succession of big studios — MGM, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and producer Walter Wanger.
He continued making films in Hollywood and Europe right up until until 1976, two years before his suicide in 1978 in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona. He is credited with appearances in more than 90 films and tv shows, and played opposite some of Hollywood’s classiest leading ladies (Garbo, Dietrich, Hedy Lamarr, Jennifer Jones, Irene Dunn and, of course, Bergman).
In Arch of Triumph Boyer portrays a public service minded doctor who while under cover treats some of the many illegal refugees crowding pre-World War II Paris trying to evade exportation to Nazi prison camps. The good doctor encounters Bergman as a young woman threatening suicide over the death of her lover.
Naturally, the doctor and the distraught young woman become lovers — that is, before he is deported and she enters a marriage of convenience with a wealthy aristocrat.
The movie is based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, as adapted by Lewis Milestone and Harry Brown, the team responsible for that magnificent 1945 war film with Dana Andrews, A Walk in the Sun. Milestone also directed Arch of Triumph (an anglicized reference to the monumental Arc de Triomphe in Paris).
One problem with the picture was its original length — the initial cut was some four hours long. In the trimming down, Arch of Triumph may well have lost part of its romantic luster. But it’s nice to see Charles Laughton as a slobbering Nazi officer get it in the neck, literally, from Boyer’s noble doctor.
Despite its glittering cast — Boyer and Ingrid were experiencing career peaks back then — the picture fell through the cracks. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Arch of Triumph can console itself by the fact that it was remade by British television in 1984 with Anthony Hopkins in the Boyer role and Lesley-Anne Down taking the Bergman part.
We’ll stick to the original Enterprises Studios version.