Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra and Natalie Wood star in this movie set in the south of France in the latter days of the Second World War. It’s a romance film with the backdrop of the war and these three are caught in a love triangle. Britt (Curtis) already rankles Sam (Sinatra) even before he starts courting Monique (Wood), who Sam is in love with. Throughout the film we’re told that there’s something wrong with Monique. There’s some secret which she’s afraid of sharing, and even her mother is protective. So it has all the elements to be a good film. Good cast, I like war films, I like nothing more than a classic romance and there’s a bit of mystery as well. What could go wrong?
Let’s get the big one out of the way first – the mystery surrounding Natalie Wood’s character. I like having little mysteries like these because I get to look for clues through the film and try to see if I get it right. So I was trying to work it out, was she a German spy? Was her father a Nazi sympathiser? No. Nothing so interesting. The big secret, the thing she was so ashamed of, the mystery that could have prevented Sam or Britt from falling in love with her was that her father was….(spoiler alert for those who don’t want to know)……DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNN a black man. Yeah. Seriously.
Now, I know this film was made in a different time and there were different attitudes but it doesn’t excuse the bigotry shown. It’s ugly and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It also makes the whole dynamic of the film seem laughable.There’s a war raging and many atrocities being committed, and here two soldiers are struggling with their feelings for a woman because her father was black. It’s just inexcusable really and it’s a shame this was committed to film. It’s played entirely straight, but it doesn’t really fit the context of the film either since it doesn’t seem connected to the war.
As for the romance itself, well that was badly handled as well. It felt forced, unrealistic and there wasn’t really any reason for me to want these people to get together. There wasn’t much chemistry between Sinatra and Wood, and Curtis and Wood’s romance was sloppily written so I was left wanting.
The parts of the film that focused on the war were enjoyable though, and the animosity between Sam and Britt was well-handled and well-acted. Those parts were few and far between and were lost in the mess that was the rest of the film. I’m not going to say that this film should be banned, and perhaps there’s something to be said for how far we’ve come, but it’s a complete waste of time and the attitudes it expresses are vile. I’m disappointed this film was made and disappointed that I watched it.