Celebrating Bastille Day: When John Wayne Saved France

John Wayne - Reunion in France (1942).

It's July 14. Quatorze de Juillet. Otherwise known as Bastille Day, the French equivalent of America's Fourth of July. What better time for a screening of the John Wayne-Joan Crawford oldie but goodie Reunion in France? This M-G-M World War II action flick features La Crawford as a wealthy socialite with pink ribbons for brains. As the German army threatens to overrun France at the war's beginning, all Crawford's Michele de la Becque can think of is what a bore the Nazis will be and how they might impinge on her shopping sprees and parties with friends. Enter John Wayne (about 39 minutes into the film) as an American-born RAF pilot who has escaped the Germans and seeks Crawford's help to flee the country. Will Wayne escape the clutches of the Teutonic warriors? Will Crawford see the light and stand up for France? (Today we know that the Germans lost the war, but no one could have predicted that in 1942, as the movie was being filmed, so extra points for a natural built-in tension.)

When Reunion in France was released in 1941, it wasn't received well by the critics. But some 80 years later, it's an intriguing look at a moment in time, with steady performances by the two leads and a surprise twist at the end that's worth waiting for. You can stream the entire movie above, or watch it at Daily Motion. So put on your beret, say vive la France in your best Maurice Chevalier imitation, pour yourself a crystal flute of Champagne (or at least a juice glass of a passable Merlot), tear open a bag of Pepperidge Farm French-vanilla-flavored Pirouette cookies, and enjoy the M-G-M production of Reunion in France.

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