Now departing from London, the British European Airlines Silver Wing for France, aboard it high ranking civil servant Sir Norman Baker, on his way to an important conference, patriotic Captain George Stilton, Royal Marine bandsman Dicky Bird who will be performing in the capital, kilted Scotsman Andy MacGregor, artistically inclined spinster Gwladys Inglott and wide-eyed Susan Robbins, abroad for the first time in her life, all of them innocents in Paris who will be taken by surprise by their destination.
Directed by Gordon Parry from a script by Anatole de Grunwald, the above-the-title cast of 1953’s Innocents in Paris was a snapshot of established and up-and-coming British talent of the era, The Green Man’s Alastair Sim, Whack-O’s Jimmy Edwards, Top of the Form’s Ronald Shiner, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ James Copeland, Blithe Spirit’s Margaret Rutherford and The Haunting’s Claire Bloom, while the eagle-eyed can also spot Frank Muir, Christopher Lee, Kenneth Williams and others.
A comedy of manners, some of the characters are changed by their encounters, aloof economist Sir Norman unexpectedly getting drunk on vodka and Pink Lightnings in a nightclub with his Russian counterpart in a scene which allows Sim to gleefully and uncharacteristically parade himself, while others remain resolute, Edwards’ impeccably English Stilton sounding off about “facing the dangers of foreign travel” and making straight for a pub themed around his homeland where he disastrously attempts to teach a local how to play cricket indoors.
Restored for StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics range and told over a single weekend, it is at night that the city comes alive, illuminated in neon as the clubs open their doors where Bloom’s debutante Susan is told by Parisian gentleman Max (Barbarella’s Claude Dauphin) that she is beautiful; gently seduced by a man old enough to be her father, that she is innocent is both her charm and that of the film, filmed on location where the more worldly inhabitants of the capital occasionally mock the tourists but never without affection.
The adventures of Miss Inglott and Captain Stilton slightly different in that they are not so closely paired with locals, much of Rutherford’s performance is wordless, her disdainful expressions communicating across the language barrier her desire to be uninterrupted in her passion for paint yet finding appreciation from an unexpected encounter and kinship with another painter whose own private obsession is the enigmatic challenge of the Mona Lisa.
With narrative only in the loosest sense, a series of encounters, engagements and assignations told in parallel, each of the different actors and characters have their own style but each encapsulated story is true to itself, the ensemble never together other than in the opening and closing scenes as they arrive and depart by aeroplane, the six characters presenting a cross-section of background, experience and age and each finding something different in the same city.