Act of Love
Cast & Crew
Robert Teller arrives by bus at Villefranche, a small town in the French Riviera. Although briefly sidetracked by a fellow American tourist who thinks they have met, Bob goes directly to the Hotel Belle Rive and requests a specific room. A little later, a woman joins him at an outdoor café table so she can avoid being propositioned by U.S. Navy sailors on shore leave. During their conversation, Bob recalls that he first visited France in World War II: During the U.S. Army liberation of Paris, Bob kisses Nina, one of many French women rewarding American soldiers with affection. Nina insists that he remember her name and gives him her address. After some time on the front, Bob returns to Paris and is put to work as a clerk in an Army office. Bob becomes reacquainted with vivacious Nina, who trades his German camera on the black market so he can pay to rent a private room in town. When Nina decides to move to Cannes with an American captain with "good teeth," she tells Bob he can rent her apartment over a café as long as he will share it with her friend, Lise Marie Elisabeth Greifonnet, a beautiful and melancholy woman who has lost everything in the war. Nina hopes that the brash but war-weary American will fall in love with Lise. Lise, however, is resolutely unaffected by Bob's charm, and resents that they must pretend to be married so that the owners, Adele La Caux, her husband Fernand and their war-embittered son Claude, will allow them to remain. Like Claude, Lise is offended by the arrogant Americans who have overtaken their city, yet Claude sneers at Lise as another French woman who has sold herself to the Americans. Lise is unable to find employment with the U.S. Army and, when she follows up on a tip from two well-meaning women, suffers a humiliating interview with a Latin American official who dismisses her upon learning she will not date him. Destitute, Lise is about to pawn a necklace when she is caught in a police round-up of black marketeers, but she is quickly released. Bob is delighted when Lise returns to the flat, despite her distrust and sullen demeanor. After Bob humbly admits that he was nothing more than a classified advertising salesman before the war and kisses Lise, she melts and offers her first smile. Bob and Lise, now a happy couple, visit the palace at Versailles and later attend a USO square dance. During their trip home on the subway, Lise reveals that the happiest time of her life was during a family vacation at the Hotel Belle Rive, where she stayed in a room with rose-patterned wallpaper, and dreamed of the day she would return with a lover. Bob is forced to return to the barracks before curfew, leaving Lise alone on the dark streets where she is rescued by Claude from the unwelcome attention of British soldiers. Having seen the genuine love between Bob and Lise, Claude now puts his faith in her and gives her a special gift: a German bullet extracted from his skull, strung like a pendant on a chain. The next day, French and military police come to the café to question Adele and the others because Adele had referred an American soldier to a woman who then robbed him. Lise is ordered to verify her documents with a magistrate because she has no marriage certificate. When Lise does not return, Fernand goes to see Bob at his office and tells him what must be happening to her as he speaks: Lise is arrested because her own papers are two years out of date and she is unable to provide proof of marriage. She is incarcerated with a group of tough, bullying prostitutes and the experience terrifies her. Hours later Lise is given a medical examination, is fully documented and released, but will ever after have a tarnished reputation with the police. Lise returns home in a daze, only to endure more punishment from the disappointed Claude, who grabs her and threatens to cut her throat. Bob rescues Lise before she is hurt and pledges to marry her despite her protests that she made an unfair bargain for love. Bob seeks out his commanding officer, Henderson, to approve the marriage but Henderson refuses because he thinks Bob has made the decision in haste. Henderson believes that he is doing Bob a favor by having him transferred immediately. Bob makes a desperate bid to keep his promise to Lise by jumping from the transport truck so he can meet his sergeant, who has promised to provide false paperwork allowing the marriage. Bob is caught, however, and fails to keep his appointment with either Lise or the sergeant. A military police officer agrees to call Lise on Bob's behalf, but his message is cryptic, and Claude appears unexpectedly and tells her she has been used. Lise walks to a bridge by the river and disappears. Bob's thoughts now return to the present. The tourist, Henderson, approaches him again, finally remembering their prior relationship. When he inquires about Lise, Bob says that she was found in the river a long time before. In the hotel room with rose wallpaper, Bob recalls Lise's voice.
Joseph De Bretagne
Act of Love
After playing a trapeze artist in MGM's The Story of Three Loves (1953), Douglas was advised to take an eighteen-month working vacation in Europe for income tax reasons. In addition to Act of Love, the actor signed on for Edward Dmytryk's The Juggler (1953), to be filmed in Israel, and Mario Camerini's Ulysses (1954), slated to shoot in Italy. From the outset, the plan for Act of Love was to film both English and French language variants, with Douglas to appear in the version marked for American audiences. Douglas used his considerable clout to star in both versions and set about learning French. Training two hours a day, six days a week, Douglas mastered the language quickly but found that most liberated Parisians preferred to speak English. Despite his engagement to actress Pier Angeli, Douglas fell in love with his Dutch assistant and press agent, Anne Buydens, whom he married in 1954. Seen in a small role in Act of Love is an all but unrecognizable 17-year-old Brigitte Bardot, whom Roger Vadim made an international star with ...And God Created Woman in 1956.
When Act of Love opened in New York in February 1954, it had to compete with Alfred Hayes' own Broadway adaptation of his novel, then in previews at the Astor Theater, starring Leo Penn (father of actors Sean and Christopher Penn) and Betty Miller as the tragic lovers, and featuring a young actor named Andy Milligan, destined for Psychotronic immortality as the writer-director of such Grade Z spookshows as Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970) and The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972).
v Writing for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther summed up the consensus of the national critics when he observed of Act of Love that "so long as the vacillating romance is kept on the agitated plane of emotional irresolution between the boy and the girl, there is a wonderful - almost satanic -- sense of fatal irony in the film," whose ending was deemed too tragically sentimental. Anatole Litvak scored a bigger commercial hit with Anastasia (1956) starring Ingrid Bergman and would remain in Europe for the rest of his life. He died in Paris in December 1974, at the age of 72.
Producer: Anatole Litvak
Director: Anatole Litvak
Screenplay: Irwin Shaw; Joseph Kessel (screenplay and French dialogue), Alfred Hayes (novel "The Girl on the Via Flaminia")
Cinematography: Armand Thirard
Music: Michel Emer, Joe Hajos, Michel B. Rosenstein
Film Editing: Leonide Azar (French version); William Hornbeck
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Robert Teller), Dany Robin (Lise Gudayec/Madame Teller), Gabrielle Dorziat (Adele Lacaud), Barbara Laage (Nina), Fernand Ledoux (Fernand Lacaud), Robert Strauss (Sgt. Johnny Blackwood), Marthe Mercadier (the girl from the terrace), George Mathews (Henderson), Richard Benedict (Pete), Leslie Dwyer (the English sergeant), Sydney Chaplin (a soldier), Brigitte Bardot (Mimi).
by Richard Harland Smith
The Ragman's Son: An Autobiography by Kirk Douglas (Simon & Schuster, 1988)
Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning by Kirk Douglas (Wiley, 2008)
Act of Love
The working titles of this film were The Girl on the Via Flaminia and Somewhere in the World. Portions of several songs are heard in the film, including square dance music and a brief rendition of the traditional "Yankee Doodle," but the titles and composers have not been confirmed. Los Angeles Times and Daily Variety news items noted that film rights to Alfred Hayes's novel were originally purchased in 1949 by actor Gary Cooper. Cooper, who paid $40,000 for the rights, initially hired the author to work on a screenplay, but later that same year sold the rights to Leland Hayward and Anatole Litvak for $50,000 as well as some profits from the production. Irwin Shaw was then hired to write the screenplay, which was being scripted to star Montgomery Clift. Hayward's participation in the final production has not been determined. The United Artists pressbook noted that Kirk Douglas' sons Michael and Joel made their feature debuts in the scene during which "Robert Teller" is being chased by military police. Although several children appear in this scene, their faces are not clearly discernible, and modern sources provide no confirmation.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, this film was shot in both English and French versions. A New York Times article noted that French author Joseph Kessel wrote the scenario for the French version, which, according to Monthly Film Bulletin, was released as Quelque part dans le monde, although modern sources list the title as Un acte d'amour. Release of the American version was held up due to a dispute with author Ira Wolfert. Wolfert, who had written a novel called An Act of Love, was paid $5,000 for use of the title. Numerous news items indicate that the Advertising Code Administration required the producers to change a line of advertising that read "There is a thin line between an act of sin and an act of love" and an illustration of prostitutes. The approved advertising read "There is a world of difference between an act of love and an act of sin."
According to modern sources, the French and American versions share cast and crew. Modern sources list the production dates as 5 January-April 14, 1953, with March 1954 as a Paris, France release date, as well as the following additional credits for the French film crew of Un acte d'amour: Scr and dial (in association with Irwin Shaw) Joseph Kessel; Set December asst Auguste Capelier; Costumes Antoine Mayo and Gladys de Segonzac; Cost asst Léon Zay; Ed asst Jacqueline Thiédot; Makeup Louis Loue (with Roger Chanteau); Hair Alex Archamboult and Joseph Marino; Photography Léo Mirkine; Camera Operator Louis Née; Script Supervisor Jeanee Witla; Unit Manager Louis Théron and Eugène Nase; Asst unit mgr asst Margot Capelier; Assistant Director Serge Vallin; Dir prod Pierre Laumont; Prod co Filmour Benagoss; and Dist co Les Artistes Associés. Additional cast listed for Un acte d'amour are listed as follows: Dora Doll (A professional), Jess Hahn (Soldier), Edmond Ardisson (Villefranche hotel mgr), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Dancer), Gérard Sety, Martine Alexis, Georges Béver, Dominique Davray, Yves Brainville, Dominique Mercas and Gérard Buhr. Their appearances in the American version have not been confirmed.
Released in United States Winter December 1953
Released in United States Winter December 1953