Thursday, May 5, 2011


Jacques Costaud(Victor McLaglen) makes his presence known to Paul (William Bakewell) and Manon(Helen Mack).

Now as a fan of pre-code films, there’s a lot of films made during the era that are quite obscure, and hard to come by, so one has do some digging to find these gems. One of these obscure gems is While Paris Sleeps (1932), and I feel it's a crime that it's so unknown.

This film begins with an prison escape by Jacques Costaud(Victor McLaglen), from the infamous Devil’s Island, after getting word that his wife is on her deathbed, and his daughter, Manon(Helen Mack), is about to be tossed out to the streets. Unfortunately, when he arrives in Paris, he finds out that he is too late, his wife has already died, the landlord has just tossed his daughter out, and now he must find her.

Meanwhile, Manon walks in and out trouble without even realizing it, she has taken a job at a dive bar, recommend by a “friend”, Julot (Jack La Rue). But Julot is no friend, he’s a local thug with ulterior motives, which include tricking Manon into a life of prostitution under the guise of “modeling in South America” and possibly some more(yeah, you know what I mean).While working at the dive, she meets an accordion player, Paul Renoir(William Bakewell), they end up falling in love and want to escape to the countryside together, but lack the money to do so. All the while, Jacques Costaud has found Manon, keeping an eye on her from a distance, taking a role of a guardian angel, and when trouble arises, he is there to protect her from being taken under the influence of the gang of thugs who want her, so her and Paul can escape to the countryside.

Julot(Jack La Rue) oggling Manon while she sleeps. Nothing says "friend" like this.

Manon and Paul discuss their future plans

Now this film, with its grittiness, and the threat of sex and violence(we get to see a police snitch get thrown in an oven by the group of thugs) around every corner, that help in making pre-codes so fun, it's truly a forgotten little gem. Sadly, not commercially available, like a good deal of other pre-code films(this seems to be a trend among films from Fox, Paramount, and Universal), one has to really look for this film from other sources. I recommend it, if you’re able to find it, but after all I am a sucker for gritty,sleazy pre-code melodramas.

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