Antoine is able to offer them safe haven by hiding them in the city sewers…and things get a bit tense when Paul must distract a Gestapo agent (Alexander Granach) who’s been trailing Baby, stuck to him “like a postage stamp.” Paul gets Baby safely hidden, but finds he’s inherited the tenacious agent—who’s now tailing him. In the hopes of shaking off the Gestapo while trying to find out who his crucial contact is in Paris, Paul ducks into a café and makes the acquaintance of Joan (Michèle Morgan), a fetching young barmaid. Named after her patron saint (Joan of Arc), Joan will play a pivotal role in paving Paul and his comrades’ trek to freedom, which is seemingly blocked at every turn by the wily head of the Gestapo in Paris, Herr Funk (Laird Cregar).
Movie audiences wanted to see pictures on the subject of WW2, and flocked to Joan in great numbers, making the movie one of the studio’s highest grossing releases that year (and don’t think RKO, which constantly struggled with its finances, wasn’t appreciative). Modern day viewers can push the topicality aside and enjoy a cracking good espionage thriller, written by Charles Bennett & Ellis St. Joseph (based on a story by Jacques Thery & Georges Kessel). Joan of Paris was directed by Robert Stevenson, whose later involvement with much of the Walt Disney product tends to overshadow his fine early work in films like Jane Eyre (1944) and a great Dick Powell thriller, To the Ends of the Earth (1948). (Stevenson also held the reins on one of my “guilty pleasures,” 1950’s I Married a Communist—better known today as The Woman on Pier 13.)
Sadly, with perhaps the exception of Passage to Marseille (1944), her American film career was fairly unremarkable and she returned to her native France to continue in films there (she also does outstanding work in the 1948 classic The Fallen Idol).
(Interestingly enough, his co-star Morgan had been heavily considered for the role of Ilsa in that last film.) Both Henreid and Morgan promoted Joan with a war bonds drive, one of the first Hollywood films to capitalize on that type of marketing campaign.
(TDOY radio fave Hans Conried is also on hand as a sinister Gestapo agent.) Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (RKO music-man-in-residence Roy Webb), Joan of Paris is a must-see wartime suspenser with some unforgettable Hitchcockian set pieces including an early example of death by steam bath (courtesy of Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Metty). It’s available on MOD from the Warner Archive…or you can cheap out like I did, recording it during Alan Ladd’s sojourn in the Summer Under the Stars spotlight.