Cast & Crew
nIn October 1948, while flying to Paris, American Bill Wainwright re-reads the telegram sent to him by his friend, Pierre Verdier, encouraging him to come to France, and recalls events leading up to the trip: In the summer of 1938, Bill is working as a radio reporter in Paris when he meets French singer Lisa Garret. Mutually attracted, Bill and Lisa begin dating and are soon married. On the same day that Lisa gives birth to a son, Germany invades Holland, and Bill, now a war correspondent, is advised to get Lisa and the baby out of the country. Because of her difficult labor, however, Lisa cannot be moved for several days, so Bill leaves on an assignment at the front. Bill is wounded and sent to England, and by the time he recuperates, France has fallen to the Nazis. While continuing to report from London, Bill, frustrated in his attempts to reach Lisa, monitors her performances on Nazi-controlled French radio. During one broadcast, her singing is cut off, and Bill later learns that she was shot by the Gestapo for sending messages to the Resistance through her songs. Bill also discovers that after Lisa's death, their son, Johnny, was turned over to a member of the Resistance. After a fruitless search for Johnny, Bill returns to live in the States. Back in the present, Bill lands in Paris and goes with Pierre to a tracing service. There, Bill is directed to see Mme. Quilleboeuf, a laundress who, during the war, worked with a priest to keep orphans out of the Nazis' hands. After Mme. Quilleboeuf tells Bill about a young boy she cared for and then sent to a small-town orphanage, he heads for the town. At the Catholic orphanage, the seemingly tough Mother Superior warns Bill not to get too emotional about the boy, but to study him carefully. The Mother Superior then introduces Bill to Jean, a thin, pale eight-year-old, calling Bill a friend of Mme. Quilleboeuf, whom Jean knows as his grandmother. As instructed, Bill studies Jean while they stroll through town, but finds little that is familiar about him. After promising to take Jean to see the elephants at the circus, Bill escorts the boy back to the orphanage. There the Mother Superior persuades Bill to go with Jean to Paris to see if he recognizes anything from his son's known past, noting that smells are especially memorable to children. On the train to Paris, Bill gives Jean a pair of gloves, his first present, and even though they are too small for him, Jean covets them. When Jean then mentions that he does not know his birthday, Bill suggests that he use his brother's, which he claims is the next day. Later, at Jean and Bill's Paris hotel, Pierre questions Bill about his love life. Although Bill denies that he is still grieving for Lisa, Pierre knows better and advises his friend to stop dwelling on the past. Bill then sings Jean a nonsense song that Lisa's father had taught her, but Jean does not recognize it. The next day, Bill, Jean and Pierre go to see Mme. Quilleboeuf, and while she and Jean become reacquainted, Pierre mentions to Bill that he has arranged for them to visit the apartment where he and Lisa used to live, which is now occupied by an American Air Force lieutenant. Recalling the unusual perfume that Lisa liked to wear, Bill then takes Jean to a perfumerie and has him sniff the scent. When Jean remembers smelling the perfume on a woman who used to hold and sing to him, Bill is ecstatic and takes the boy to see the elephants at the zoo. Afterward, they visit the lieutenant, and Jean points out several familiar sights in the apartment. When Jean recalls looking out the window at the bike shop, however, Bill's face falls, and he makes an excuse to leave. Bill goes back to Mme. Quilleboeuf's and, noting that the bike shop is new, accuses her of coaching Jean. The laundress admits that she told Jean what to say, but angrily justifies her actions by pointing out the desperate poverty that Jean must endure. Crushed, Bill returns Jean to the orphanage, where the Mother Superior criticizes Bill's lack of empathy. After Bill says he needs time to consider whether to adopt Jean, he wanders around the village and winds up at a cafe. There, he runs into Nelly, the hotel proprietor's flirtatious niece, who suggests that he go to Paris with her that evening. Bill agrees, then lets Nelly drag him to a carnival shooting gallery, where he wins a stuffed dog that looks exactly like Binky, a toy dog he once won for Lisa. Before leaving for Paris, Bill, who has written a dismissive letter to the Mother Superior, tells Pierre that he has to go on searching for Johnny. Pierre denounces Bill for being a slave to the past and avoiding the grim truth about Lisa's death. Determined to force Bill to lay Lisa to rest, Pierre then reads aloud the witness report describing her execution, which Bill had earlier refused to look at. Numb with pain, Bill orders Pierre to leave and sends his letter and the stuffed dog to the orphanage. At the train station, however, Bill recalls a nightmare that Lisa had had while pregnant, in which she was tormented by the cries of a little lost boy she was powerless to help. Finally realizing what he must do, Bill returns to the orphanage, arriving just as the Mother Superior is giving Jean the stuffed dog. Like an old friend, Jean embraces the dog joyfully and calls it Binky. His deepest wish unexpectedly fulfilled, Bill hugs Jean and declares they are going to the circus after all.
Gladys De Segonzac
Jean Del Val
Adele St. Maur
Robert Etienne Everaert
Rene De Loffre
Gladys De Segonzac
James Van Heusen
Voice-over narration, spoken by Bing Crosby as his character "Bill Wainwright," is heard intermittently throughout the film. According to reviews and news items, much of the film was shot on location in France, including Paris. Iphigenie Castiglioni and Albert Godderis are listed in Hollywood Reporter news items as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. During filming in France, Crosby's wife Dixie died of cancer and, according to modern sources, after returning to Hollywood to shoot interior scenes, the production shut down for a two-week mourning period. Modern sources also note that while filming at the French orphanage, producer William Perlberg dressed the child actors in the clothes of the orphans and then bought new clothes for the orphans. He also asked Paramount to donate money budgeted for the production's "wrap party" to the orphanage.
Little Boy Lost marked child actor Christian Fourcade's only American film. He made his screen debut in a 1952 French release. Critics uniformally praised the eight-year-old's performance. The New York Times reviewer gushed that Fourcade "has the eyes, the expression and the voice that would tear the heart out of a heathen idol." Fourcade's mother Christiane was cast as a maid in the film, and according to modern sources, Perlberg cast his father as a barker. The film also marked cinematographer George Barnes' last production. He died on May 30, 1953. According to the New York Times review, the New York opening of the picture was a benefit for the Overseas Press Club of America. Although the Variety review mentioned a television version of Marghanita Laski's novel, "seen only a season or two back," no information about an earlier adaptation has been located. On May 1955, Dick Powell and Gladys Holland appeared in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, and on March 15, 1956, Dennis O'Keefe and Carl Esmond starred in a Lux Video Theatre version.
Released in United States Summer July 1953
Released in United States Summer July 1953