“In life, liberty is all that counts.”
A convict (Raymond Cordy) escapes prison with the help of his buddy (Henri Marchand) and quickly establishes himself as a phonograph factory magnate. Once Marchand catches up with Cordy, he falls in love with a beautiful secretary (Rolla France) at the factory, hoping to win her heart.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Class Relations
- French Films
- Rene Clair Films
Rene Clair’s follow-up to Le Million (1931) was this playful musical showing how industrialized work in the early 20th century mimicked the anti-human drudgery of prison. Meanwhile, as convicts become capitalists, class relations are effectively skewered, and we learn that true happiness comes from freedom rather than commitment to wealth, societal norms, responsibility, or romantic love. In addition to its innovative use of sound and stylized sets, this film is primarily notable for the fact that some of the factory sequences very closely resemble similar scenes in Modern Times (1936); indeed, without Clair’s approval, the production company sued Chaplin. The storyline unfortunately doesn’t give us much to hold onto — we know that Marchand’s love interest has another suitor, and thus he’ll never win her authentic affections; the primary tension comes from wondering how the bowler-hatted Cordy will treat Marchand once their fortunes have shifted. Is there loyalty among (ex)thieves?
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Effectively stylized sets (by Lazare Meerson) and cinematography
- Georges Auric’s score
Yes, for historical purposes.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)