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FRENCHMAN’S CREEK

         

For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 3, 2014

A Technicolor adventure based on Daphne du Maurier's novel, "Frenchman's Creek" (1944) is a vehicle for Joan Fontaine, following a string of triumphs that began with her Alfred Hitchcock double-whammy, "Rebecca" (1940, from another du Maurier novel) and "Suspicion" (1941), the former earning Fontaine her first Academy Award nomination and the latter winning her the best-actress Oscar.

Next came another Oscar nomination for "This Above All" (1942), followed by two more hits, "The Constant Nymph" (1943) and "Jane Eyre" (1943).

And then "Frenchman's Creek" a colorful swashbuckler that casts Fontaine in the kind of role that was routinely played by Maureen O'Hara. Fontaine is an English aristocrat who falls in love with a French pirate (played by Mexican actor Arturo de Cordova, in the kind of role routinely played by Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power).

            

          Joan Fontaine, Basil Rathbone in 'Frenchman's Creek.'

Set in the mid-17th century, the story follows the unhappily married wife (Fontaine) of a baronet who is being pursued by her husband's best friend (Basil Rathbone, in top form and stealing the show). So she takes her two children and escapes to their country estate in Cornwall, where she meets and falls for a pirate (de Cordova) who is using an inlet as home base for his nefarious pursuits.

Given the era when "Frenchman's Creek" was made, it is surprisingly faithful to du Maurier's book, save the ending, which was changed due to the restrictions of the Production Code at the time.

       

But it is the lavish production values and that gorgeous Technicolor cinematography, as well as the story's female point of view that make it so worthwhile today.

Trivia note: This is the only film with both Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce outside of their "Sherlock Holmes" franchise.

"Frenchman's Creek" was released on VHS in 1998 but this new release marks its DVD debut, thanks to the Universal Vault manufacture-on-demand label.