Little Boy Lost (1953)
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The story is simple, Bing is an American correspondent along the lines of Edward R. Murrow or William L. Shirer who's stationed in Paris before World War II. He meets and falls in love with singer Nicole Maurey and they marry and have a son.
He gets an assignment to cover the retreat at Dunkirk and then when the French surrender he can't get back to Paris. Later he learns his wife is killed by the Nazis and his little son is missing.
All this is told in flashback and narrated by Crosby and then we get to the main part of the film, the search for Bing's lost little boy. He thinks he's found a young boy who might be his kid and becomes attached to him. What happens to him, the little boy and the grief he still feels over his dead wife is the rest of the story.
After the flashback prologue the action is carried by both Crosby and little Christian Fourcade who plays the lad. The film would have laid one big egg if these scenes were not done well. Fortunately they were and had their been a category for a juvenile actor performance, young Master Fourcade would have won hands down. He is a sad, confused little boy and comes across as a real kid, not a young Hollywood kid.
Nicole Maurey plays Bing's wife and of course she's killed off early in the film. This was the first of two she did with Crosby, the second being High Time which was certainly in a lighter vein than Little Boy Lost. She heads the list of French players who support Crosby in this film. Also Claude Dauphin who plays Crosby's best friend does a fine job as well.
Little Boy Lost also marked the last film that lyricist Johnny Burke worked with Crosby. This was an association that started in 1936 with Pennies From Heaven. He wrote more words that Bing Crosby sang than anyone else. Burke came to a parting of the ways with his collaborator Jimmy Van Heusen and died eleven years later.
Bing did not get a ballad to sing here, quite unusual for a Crosby picture. He sang some children's songs, Apropos De Rien, The Magic Window, and Ce La M'et Egal. I guess you can see the French origin of these, Nicole Maurey got to sing a ballad, Mon Cour Es Un Violin which Bing recorded for the cast album in English as Violets and Violins. A nice number, I wish he'd done it on the screen.
However the French version did appear on an album he did a little bit later on that was done completely in French and released in Europe. Most Crosby fans have never heard this and it's a rarity here in America.
A great acting job by Crosby and the cast in a nice feel good family film.
The story is about an American war reporter who returns to Paris after the war to look for his lost son. Lovely shots of Paris and great acting from all concerned. A real tearjerker from start to finish.
Recently played on Turkish T.V. surely one of the video companies will make this available to the public. Otherwise I would suggest a mass exodus to Turkey, it really is that good!
Now, living in America, a few years after the war was over, Bill returns to France to search for his son. With the help of his loyal friend, Pierre Verdier, they receive news of the possibility of John living in an orphanage. Bill goes to investigate. At the orphanage he is received by the mother superior, a lady that has seen a lot of suffering in her life. She is reluctant to raise false hopes for Bill; she is afraid of damaging the young boy that was rescued and sent her way, whom she calls Jean.
Bill does not see any physical resemblance in the shy boy he meets. It is suggested he takes the boy out of the orphanage to make his acquaintance to see if he will remember anything of his past life. The young boy develops an easy relationship with Bill, who realizes the boy is trying to be adopted by eliciting this strange man's goodwill. A surprise comes at the conclusion of the story that neither Bill, or Jean expected.
Not having seen this film, we were pleasantly surprised when it was shown on a classic cable channel. Co-written and directed by George Seaton, "Little Boy Lost" seems to have been forgotten, as it hardly ever shows. It is to Mr. Seaton's credit the material did not turn into a sentimental account of a desperate father in search for his lost son. The film was shot in Paris in black and white. It has that look so prevalent in films from that era; the magnificent settings of the city and the small town where the orphanage is supposed to be, do not overwhelm us.
Bing Crosby made one of his best appearances on film as Bill Wainwright. Mr. Crosby was an actor that brought a pleasant aura to all the films in which he appeared. That seems to be the case with his take on the father that has been separated by a war and must face the heartbreak of never finding the child he never knew. Claude Dauphin is the friend that sticks to Bill encouraging to keep looking for the boy. Gabrielle Dorziat is the Mother Superior. Nicole Mauray plays Lisa and Christian Fourcade, the little boy.
As a movie, not the greatest but definitely 4 handkerchiefs out of 4.
But, on to the good part of the movie. Bing Crosby is on a mission to find his son, who was smuggled out of Nazi-occupied France without documentation. Since there was no DNA testing back in 1953, when he gets a clue that his son might be in a particular orphanage, there's no way to tell for sure. Instead, Bing tries to jog the boy's memory or look for some sort of similarity that would convince him, one way or another, of the boy's parentage. These scenes, with Bing and Christian Fourcade, are tender, funny, sweet, tense, and loving. Although not initially endearing, Christian quickly worms his way into your heart, and you find yourself wondering whether he is or isn't Bing's child-and wondering whether or not it matters.
Gabrielle Dourziat, the Mother Superior in charge of the orphanage, adds another layer to this film. Not only is her character written extremely well, but her contained, hopeful, stern performance is exactly what the film calls for. She tells Bing that many parents make the same mistake when they come to her orphanage trying to find their children. They repeatedly choose the most alert, intelligent, friendly looking child with their same coloring. "Parental instinct is very often masked as conceit." In later scenes with Bing, she reveals more of the plot and her character in such a wonderful way it'll give you chills.
Trust me, I know how annoying the beginning is. Either fast-forward or hang in there until Bing gets to the orphanage. This movie is worth it.
The film begins shortly before WWII. Bing is visiting France and falls in love with a woman and marries her. They choose to remain in the country--which is a mistake, as the Nazis soon take over and he and his wife are separated. He is evacuated from Dunkirk and she begins working for the French underground. Unfortunately, she is captured and executed--but what has happened to their young son? Most of the film consists of Bing looking for the boy after the war. The path leads to a young orphan who MAY be his kid--but it's never at all certain. What's next? See the film.
The film has many heartwarming moments and also some decent acting. Not a brilliant film but quite satisfying.