Cast & Crew
The night before her wedding, a nervous bride examines her gifts and picks out a book of romantic short stories. Hoping to while away the evening, she settles on the couch and begins reading "La grande Bretêche" by Honoré de Balzac: In the late 1800s, lawyer Renaud investigates the mysterious castle of Louis and Josephine de Merrett, which has remained deserted since their deaths many years earlier. Renaud questions Gertrude, who in her youth was Josephine's chambermaid. Gertrude tells him that the mystery surrounding the de Merretts occurred in 1850: One night, two gendarmes arrive at the inn run by Charles Javeaux and his wife. They bring with them a Spanish prisoner, Edmond Montez, who is to testify at an upcoming trial. Charles agrees to house and guard Edmond, but during his walks, Edmond meets the lovely Josephine, who is the wife of wealthy landowner Louis de Merrett. Edmond and Josephine begin an affair, and Louis grows suspicious when Josephine, who had been in poor health, suddenly recovers. One evening, Louis returns home early from his club and investigates a noise in Josephine's room. The nervous Josephine tries to allay his suspicions, and when Louis finds Edmond's elaborate pocket watch, she claims that it is merely a knickknack she purchased in the village. Louis admits his fear that Josephine is hiding someone in her closet, but when she gives him her word of honor that she is not, he pretends to believe her. Louis then sends for Gertrude and her beau, workman Goronflot, and offers to pay them ten thousand francs to brick up the door to the closet. Josephine hides her terror in the hope of dissuading Louis from his plan, but he watches grimly as Goronflot and Gertrude carry out their task. As they are almost done, a panicked Edmond peers out at Josephine, but she signals for him to remain quiet. After the job is completed, Louis leaves Josephine's room but returns to catch her attempting to tear down the wall. Louis restores the bricks that she has removed, then insists on spending the next few days with her in her room as Edmond slowly and silently dies. Soon after, tormented by what he has done, Louis throws himself off a cliff to his death. Back at the inn, Gertrude tells Renaud that none of the villagers ever knew for certain what happened to Edmond, who disappeared without a trace.
As she finishes reading the story, the horrified bride decides to call her fiancé, but he is too busy preparing a late night snack to answer the phone. The bride then decides to distract herself by reading another story, and turns to "The Old Maid" by Guy de Maupassant: In the 1800s, French army officer Andre Morain is called away from a card game by a messenger, and discovers that the letter delivered to him is from his former girl friend, Agnes Maubert. As he reads the letter, Andre remembers when he met Agnes, four years earlier: The sheltered Agnes is thrilled to attend a dance at a friend's home, where she meets the dashing, womanizing Andre. Charmed by Agnes' beauty and innocence, Andre courts her, although they often meet in secret to avoid antagonizing Hercule, Agnes' miserly, overbearing father. Agnes falls deeply in love with Andre and believes that he will marry her, but one day, discovers that he has suddenly been transferred to Lyon. Learning that Andre will be spending the night at an inn, Agnes trudges through the snow to find him. When she reaches the inn, however, Agnes overhears Andre laughingly tell his compadres that he would never marry the impoverished Agnes and instead intends to marry a wealthy woman and keep Agnes as a mistress. Devastated, Agnes stumbles through a storm before collapsing in a snow bank. At the Mauberts' house, Hercule stubbornly refuses to alert the authorities about Agnes' disappearance, but her aunt Emilie and cousin Helene are revolted by his fear of scandal and notify the police. Agnes is found, and although she recovers, one side of her face is permanently scarred by frostbite. As time passes, Agnes pines for Andre, and Hercule reveals to Emilie that he hid Andre's parting letter to her. Eventually, Hercule dies, and Agnes learns that she is now very wealthy. She also discovers Andre's letter, in which he merely stated that he was leaving in haste. Later, Helen convinces Agnes to accompany her on a shopping holiday to Lyon, and then attend the regimental officers' masked ball. Agnes goes along, and there meets Andre, who, due to her mask, does not recognize her or see her scar. Andre repeats many of the same flirtatious remarks he made the first time they met, and Agnes is bemused to see that he has not changed. Agnes soon reveals her identity, and Andre tries to explain that he did indeed love her but could not ask her to live the life of a poor lieutenant's wife. Andre confesses that he has never married, and that he still loves her, and when Agnes reluctantly removes her mask, he proclaims that she is as lovely as ever. Back at his club, Andre finishes reading the letter the messenger brought him, in which Agnes states that she is giving her fortune to him, as she is about to enter a convent and her true fortune is her memories of their time together. As the bride finishes the story, she wipes away her tears and again tries to call her sweetheart, although he is trying to telephone her at the same time and they both get a busy signal. The bride finally falls asleep, and in the morning, is happily wed to her groom.
Although the opening credits indicate that Helene Davis Pictures copyrighted the film in 1955, the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog. Throughout the modern sections of the story, featuring "the bride" and "the groom," an off-screen narrator describes the action and "talks" to the characters. The narrator also quotes several lines from the poem "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe. Within the "La grande Bretêche" sequence, the characters refer to "Edmond's" hiding place as a "cupboard," but it is actually a walk-in closet rather than a free-standing cupboard or armoire.
According to a November 24, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, The True and the False was the first American-language film produced in Sweden and was also "the first of a planned series of films budgeted at $400,000 to be made abroad by a group headed by Miss Hasso and Arthur Davis." Hasso and Davis did not produce any more films together, however, and the film marked Hasso's only picture as a producer. William Langford made his motion picture debut in The True and the False. Honoré de Balzac's short story was the basis for two earlier French films. The first, titled La grande Bretêche, was released in 1909, and the second, titled Un seul amour was released in 1943.