“Get that woman out of this house!”
Believing she has been jilted by her fiance (Carl Miller), a young woman (Edna Purviance) moves to Paris and becomes the mistress of wealthy playboy Pierre Revel (Adolph Menjou). When she runs into her fiance a year later, she must decide whether to leave her life of comfort with Revel for a chance at marital bliss — if she can overcome her reputation as a “kept woman”.
Response to Peary’s Review:
This silent melodrama is primarily of interest for its status as Charlie Chaplin’s first directorial effort without his presence as the Little Tramp. It was panned by audiences at the time, shelved for fifty years, and finally restored in the 1970s, to critical acclaim. Peary is among the movie’s admirers, noting that it is “the rare silent film to explore the psychological reasons characters act as they do” and the “rare Chaplin film in which the lead female character is treated with sympathy rather than idealized.”
Despite these important breakthroughs, however, the story in A Woman of Paris remains overly melodramatic, and, quite simply, not all that engaging. I couldn’t muster much interest in what happens to the lovers, and found the ending both abrupt and sappy. The best aspect of the film by far is Adolph Menjou, who steals nearly every scene he’s in, and shows genuine screen charisma.
P.S. Click here to read a 1977 interview with director Michael Powell, in which he reminisces about watching A Woman of Paris as an impressionable young 18-year-old: “Nobody had ever really done any realistic films at all before, it was all make-believe, you know, and emotions were make-believe, as well as the people… Suddenly, here was a grown-up film, with people behaving as they do in life, and scenes treated with an enormous sophistication…”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Adolphe Menjou’s sparkling performance as Pierre Revel, a “charming cad” (see DVD Verdict link below); it’s obvious why he went on to become a star after this film–
Some outrageous Parisian party scenes — including one where a “mummified” woman unspools her wrapping onto a fellow partier, and ends up naked (!)
Yes. It holds a special place in cinematic history, and should be of interest to film fanatics.