Retro: The Unquiet American


Ernst Lubitsch
USA 1938
85 min

On the Riviera, an American multi-millionaire (Gary Cooper) with many ex-wives meets and romances the daughter (Claudette Colbert) of a ruined Marquis (Edward Everett Horton) and proposes marriage; after she accepts, she learns about his former wives and refuses to consummate their marriage, baiting him with a string of pretended infidelities (including one with a very young David Niven). This is an uncharacteristic comedy of Ernst Lubitsch by virtue of its relative cruelty and unpleasantness, both of which seem ascribable in part to the writing team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder – who would later show similar traits in their scripts for such non-comic films as <![CDATA[<i>]]>The Lost Weekend<![CDATA[</i>]]> (1945) and <![CDATA[<i>]]>Sunset Boulevard<![CDATA[</i>]]> (1950) – adapting here a not-very-well-known French farce by Alfred Savoir, <![CDATA[<i>]]>La huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue<![CDATA[</i>]]>. Paradoxically, 34 years later, working with I.A.L. Diamond, Wilder would remember certain aspects of this film – above all, the depiction of an obnoxious and wealthy American abroad and a tense romantic dialogue conducted on a float in the Mediterranean – in the much sweeter and clearly Lubitsch-inspired <![CDATA[<i>]]>Avanti!<![CDATA[</i>]]>
(written in 2009)

  • Claudette Colbert
  • Gary Cooper
  • Edward Everett Horton - Ambassador Popoff
  • Elizabeth Patterson - Ada Lester
  • David Niven
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