I WAS AN ADVENTURESS
Sog.: dal film J’étais une aventurière (1938) di Raymond Bernard. Scen.: Karl Tunberg, Don Ettlinger, John O’Hara. F.: Leon Shamroy, Edward Cronjager. M.: Francis D. Lyon. Scgf.: Richard Day, Joseph C. Wright. Mus.: David Buttolph. Int.: Vera Zorina (contessa Tanya Vronsky), Richard Greene (Paul Vernay), Erich von Stroheim (André Desormeaux), Peter Lorre (Polo), Sig Rumann (Herr Protz), Fritz Feld (Henri Gautier), Cora Witherspoon (zia Cecile), Anthony Kemble Cooper (cugino Emil). Prod.: Darryl F. Zanuck per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. – 35mm. D.: 81’
The two crooks André and Polo (Erich von Stroheim and Peter Lorre, also friends in real life) team up with the false countess Tanya (ballet dancer Vera Zorina) to scam the rich and beautiful along the Mediterranean Riviera. While Tanya runs off with a real count, the two impostors behave like an elderly married couple. As Lorre prepares his breakfast coffee, Stroheim nags: “Will you stop that? I’ve watched you every day for years, over 2,000 times. I wanna know: why five lumps of sugar? Then why six, then why seven, then why seven and a half? I can’t stand it any longer!”
I Was an Adventuress provides ample space for Lorre’s comedic talents, be it as a phony Hungarian professor with false teeth and thin rimmed glasses or as a kleptomaniac who endangers the large-scale operations of the trio with his small-time thievery: “I guess I’m just a pathological case. I am a weak character. So is my whole family.” But in the end, he’s the one who shows his deep love for the “black swan” Tanya (Zorina presents her skills in a five-minute ballet sequence), while his companion is only in it for the money.
The film is a remake of the 1938 French comedy J’étais une aventurière, written in exile by the Jewish émigrés Jacques Companéez, Herbert Juttke and Hans Jacoby and produced by Gregor Rabinovitch whose equally exiled business associate at Cine-Allianz Tonfilm GmbH, Arnold Pressburger, would later produce Lorre’s Der Verlorene. Affording two central roles (and their only cinematic pairing) to Lorre and Stroheim, the 20th Century Fox version preserves and treasures some of the wit of Weimar and French-exile comedies in what is otherwise a beguiling and quintessentially Hollywood recreation of Old Europe.