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on March 4, 2004
"The Last Time I Saw Paris", was a very important film in a number of ways for Elizabeth Taylor and she herself has commented in interviews that it was the first of her adult acting roles where she had a character to work with that wasn't just surface glamour but had deeper more interesting dimensions to it. Certainly her character of Helen Wills does reveal a new depth in her acting and most certainly helped pave the way for her great triumphs in the coming years in top class films like "Giant", and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" that elevated her to super stardom. Interestingly this was Elizabeth's second teaming with leading man Van Johnson having already worked with him in a trite little comedy called "The Big Hangover". This time around Elizabeth Taylor is first billed in the credits over veteran MGM performer Johnson which illustrates clearly her growing worth with MGM who were now seriously grooming her for more meaty adult roles.
Based on a short story called "Babylon Revisited" by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald, the screen writers have fashioned a tragically poignant love story that tells the story of two star crossed lovers who seemed to have "missed the boat", in obtaining a meaning in their lives in Post War Paris. Van Johnson plays Charles Wills a young reporter for the "Stars and Stripes" in Paris. He secretly dreams of writing the great novel that is in his head and in the midst of the celebrations for VE Day he encounters two very different sisters, Helen Ellswirth a flighty, beautiful fun loving girl not used to any responsibilty and her older sister Marion (Donna Reed),the down to earth emotionally repressed one. Both women are like night and day and while Marion falls for Charles it is Helen who captures his eye and his heart. They marry and Charles enters the unorthodox world of the Ellswirth family presided over by Helen and Marion's lovable but laid back father James (Walter Pidgeon in a delightful performance). They lead the gilded life of young carefree Americans in Paris and eventually have a daughter Vicki however as time goes on and the book rejections pile up for Charles the glow goes out of their marriage and the two begin to drift apart. Continually rejected by her increasingly embittered husband, Helen captures the attention of free loading tennis pro Paul Lane (Roger Moore) while Charles, beginning to slide into a drinking problem finds himself attracted to the carefree life offered by socialite Lorraine Quarl (Eva Gabor), another member of the lost generation aimlessly wandering through life's pleasures. All looks lost for the couple who have gone off in different directions and it takes a tragedy where Helen dies of pheumonia and Vicki is placed in the custody of an embittered Marion and her husband Claude (George Dolenz) for Charles to start to pick up the pieces of his life again. The story concludes with a sober Charles returning to all the old scenes of his former happiness with Helen in Paris in an effort to reclaim his daughter and begin afresh.
The film may be viewed by some as glossy romance and not much more however it is the sensible writing and outstanding acting by the principles that bring it to life. Elizabeth Taylor as stated displays a new maturity to her acting here and her chemistry with a very different performer as Van Johnson is surpringly honest and touching in particular in the more emotionally charged second half of the film. Van Johnson in a more mature role than usual delivers some of his best work in my belief and shows that he can be effective in poignant drama such as here. Donna Reed plays against her usual type as the embittered sister who misses out on the real love of her life and being normally associated with sweet characters her performance here does come across as quite startling. Walter Pidgeon, succeeds in stealing every scene he is in in a terrific later day performance. His carefree and perpetually broke aristocrat is a delightful character and he makes the most of his screen time. He displays a wonderful chemistry with Elizabeth Taylor and the two seem like two peas in a pod, both free spirits, in the opening scenes of the film. Pidgeon had already played Taylor's father once before in one of his teamings with Greer Garson in "Julia Misbehaves", in 1947. Eva Gabor rounds out the cast and displays her often underestimated talent in the role of the glamourous man trap who drifts from one husband to the next with little concern. Her ultimately sad character epitomises the "lost generation" that Fitzgerald captured so well in his short stories. Being after all a romance the film has a beautiful visual look to it with terrific on location photography around Paris used for many of Van Johnson's exterior shots. The recreation of the VE Day celebrations where real footage is intermingled with studio created scenes is first rate and really sets an accurate picture of the time and the place. Ably directed by Richard Brooks, the sterling work he got from Elizabeth Taylor here was bettered again by their next teaming in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", for which Elizabeth received an Oscar nomination.
For lovers of romance in beautiful locations, "The Last Time I Saw Paris", is wonderful entertainment however this film is more than just that. It vividly recreates the feeling of a time in our fairly recent history and of the people who seemingly lost their way amid all the effort and heartbreak of reestablishing their lives in a post war world. Elizabeth Taylor went on to top stardom after this role and much of the credit for this film's quality acting wise must go to her. Highly recommended.
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on July 31, 2003
Here in The Last Time I Saw Paris an interesting thing happens. Elizabeth Taylor becomes a woman. Before this picture there were really only two other outstanding performances by Miss Taylor. Or I should say where she was allowed to rise above the material. The first being of course the rhapsodic National Velvet and the second the astonishing A Place In The Sun. The films in between those and The Last Time I Saw Paris were mostly along the "Isn't she beautiful?" line of movie making, and, why not? That was the main engine of most Hollywood star vehicles of the day. A Star didn't have to be a talent. But it was essential to possess a presence that reached out from the screen and touched the audience in a primal way. Miss Taylor had that in spades but she had much more that was often eclipsed in the dazzling explosion of her extraordinary almost alien beauty.
But here in the hands of director Richard Brooks (who would later lead her to her triumph in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof) Miss Taylor finds a new level in her abilities as an actress. Her Helen is a woman of many layers and dark corners, of mercurial flights and deep sadness. Elizabeth at the tender age of 22 grasps all the aspects of this tragic woman and illuminates not only the screen with them but the whole enterprise as well. She shows us where she, as an actress is going in the future. And who she will become in her later films, one of the best screen actresses of the twentieth century. This is the real beginning of the Elizabeth Taylor of legend. She fills the role as no one of her generation could. Never again after this film would she sleepwalk through a film, a beautiful shadow to dream over.
She is aided in what is perhaps one of Van Johnson's best performances. Donna Reed scores high in the role of Helen's bitter sister and Walter Pidgon is a delight as her roguish father. A standout cameo is presented by Eva Gabor, (not Zsa Zsa) the only one of the famous sisters who had any real talent. The only false performance in the film comes from child actress Sandy Descher. When you compare her forced and overly cute performance to that of the child Elizabeth Taylor in "Jane Eyre" then you see what a treasure Miss Taylor has always been.
There is something so essentially wonderful in this gem from MGM and it is this. The Last Time I Saw Pairs is the perfect example of the last flowering in the 50's of the "woman's picture". Films where women could be multi faceted and complex and drive the story on under their own steam as whole human beings. This is a window to the 50's and a style of filmmaking that seems gone forever, great stories of strong women who fill the screen with power and grace. But with "Far From Heaven" and "The Hours" I may be wrong about forever.
I recommend this admittedly dated but charming film for anyone who wants to see what screen acting is all about. It is about thinking and Miss Taylor is a master at the craft.
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on August 8, 2001
Uh-oh, here we go again with the "if only I could write the novel that's in me" character, this time played by Van Johnson, who can't really seem to make a go of his marriage to free-spirited Elizabeth Taylor. He drinks, she's a little too free-spirited. Had a hard time believing he would start to mess around with that Gabor woman when there's a Liz in his life. Walter Pidgeon shambles about as Liz's dad, Donna Reed looks pained and pinched as Liz's sister who sort of lost Van to Liz. Cloying child actress as the daughter of Van and Liz annoying. There's also something about the quality of the film they've been showing on NYC's Channel 13/PBS that makes me wonder whether it was recovered from a safe on the Andrea Doria.
I hope this was "The Last Time I Saw" this movie.
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on May 20, 2002
I did not find the premise for this movie to hold up. Van Johson is a frustrated writer with a drinking problem. Elizabeth Taylor is tolerable like most WWII Wives, but starts to play the field herself after a while. She gets ill and dies because of his "malice" towards her while he is drunk. All this is fine and could be pieced together to make a lovely, if sentimental, drama, but Van Johnson acts poorly, and even Elizabeth Taylors Fine Performance can not make the script any more exciting than it is. All in All, Even Though I am a huge Elizabeth Taylor Fan, this Movie is Dull. Rent A Place In The Sun, Butterfield 8, Giant or Cleopatra.
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on June 20, 2000
Elizabeth Taylor has been quoted saying that this is the film that made her want 2 be more than a mere moviestar. It was the first time since Angela Vickers in A Place in the Sun, that she was proud of her work. She got rave reviews and both her talent and appearance is startling. I can`t remember seeing her so natural and good in any other picture. The film has been dogged by many critics and has suffered from little reputation. In my opinion however; THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS is the best Taylor, with A PLACE IN THE SUN, WHO`S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Trivia: "a viewer from Oslo, Norway" is in fact me.
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on October 6, 2002
What a wonderful movie. Elizabeth Taylor is captivating in one on her many fine performances in "The Last Time I Saw Paris". Van Johnson gives a compelling and very believable performance as a frustrated writer flirting with Alcoholism and disaster in his marriage. We have a young and very handsome Roger Moore playing a tennis bum wooing the unhappy Taylor. Donna Reed, Eva Gabor and Walter Pidgeon also give this film their best. Melodramatic to say the least, but not to be missed. CAL
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on June 12, 2016
I saw this movie years and years it was rather nice to view it again...I remember it rather vaguely, so I did enjoy this again, although it was rather sad...but a nice movie all told.
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on May 7, 1999
This movie is one the greatest romance movies! It would have made a great Valentine's Day present, but Mother's Day would still be a good time to give it as a gift. I was surprised of Ms. Taylor's acting ability! A TRUE Classic.
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on May 3, 1999
I can't believe I actually bought this movie and LOVED it. I always seem to get the bad ones, but this one was simply the best. Taylor and Gabor shines in this movie!
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on September 13, 2014
Poor quality print
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