13 November 2012 | JasonTomes
"Just a song of Paris, Music made for two, Brings me sweetest mem'ries, Memories of you!" The quality of the lyric of the title-song is broadly indicative of the quality of the film. That said, it is not a romance, but definitely a comedy, albeit one with a few (not very credible) romantic moments.
Matthew Ibbetson (Dennis Price) is a rather prim young man who has recently succeeded his father as head of a family firm producing patent medicines. Concerned about falling sales in France, he visits Paris and becomes enamoured of Clémentine (Anne Vernon), a cabaret singer. Shortly afterwards, she turns up in London and asks him to set her up in an apartment. Not the sort to contemplate keeping a mistress, Matthew thinks he ought to marry Clémentine, but he anticipates opposition from his overbearing mother (Hermione Baddeley). Worse still, an absurdly jealous old admirer (Mischa Auer) follows the singer from Paris, vowing melodramatically to kill his rival. Farcical incidents ensue.
"Song of Paris" falls between two stools. The farce is not sufficiently sustained to induce real hilarity, while the wit is never sharp enough for the piece to succeed as light comedy. In the last ten minutes or so, the silliness of the humour abruptly moves up a gear (and failed to carry me along with it, so the end did not come too soon). I see that Frank Muir and Denis Norden had a hand in the script. The cheerfully unsubtle tone does indeed recall 1950s radio comedy, and, for all its efforts to evoke the ambiance of 'Gay Paree,' the film is every bit as primly English as Mr Ibbetson. At first, Clémentine comes across as a good-natured courtesan, interested in the foreigner chiefly on account of his wealth. Once in London, however, she turns into a 'nice' girl who wants to get married and settle down – when the film might have been funnier had she retained more of her original character.
Dotted through the film are three or four songs. Clémentine sits at the piano, waves her hands over the keyboard, and the sound of an orchestra comes from nowhere to support her vocalising. Musical interludes of this kind seem to have been popular in the 1950s. Nowadays they seem embarrassingly phoney.
"Song of Paris" raises the occasional smile. No film can be all bad that has such standard British comic turns of the era as Kynaston Reeves as a vicar and Richard Wattis as a civil servant. Dennis Price, Hermione Baddeley, and Mischa Auer are all proficient comic actors, moreover, who do their best with the material given them - which only makes the viewer wish they'd been given something better. Ibbetson is perhaps too naïve a character to suit Price's talents; just a few years later the role would surely have gone to Ian Carmichael.