Affair in Monte Carlo
Drama | 75 mins | Released: 1952
Director: Victor Saville
Starring: Merle Oberon, Richard Todd, Leo Genn, Stephen Murray, Peter Reynolds, Joan Dowling, June Clyde
Our Rating: 5
Black & White
Robert Sterling a writer, is visiting a café, when suddenly a scandal becomes known. To keep the others from overreacting, Sterling tells them about something similar that he saw happen long time ago. He had been in Monte Carlo, and was playing host to a young widow whom he knew well. When he persuaded her to visit the casino one night, she became irresistibly attracted to an unstable young man who became suicidal after losing all his money at roulette. Sterling describes how they fell deeply in love, and how both of them then had to face difficult decisions about the future. Written by Snow Leopard
Directed by Victor Saville
Affair in Monte Carlo is a 1952 British film starring Merle Oberon, loosely based on Stefan Zweig’s 100 page novella.
The film is also known as 24 Hours of a Woman’s Life.
The Spectator wrote, “a film of such artificiality and bathos the very typewriter keys cling together to avoid describing it.”
TV Guide called the film a “poor sudser, although the background of the romantic Riviera and its fabulous casino provides some exotic interest.”
The Young Man: “You’ve been talking all night to a gambler and a thief. I put the word ‘thief’ second, notice? All my life I’ve been a gambler. No, don’t go… listen to me. I think you should hear what sort of a mudpie you’ve dipped your ladylike fingers into. I was born in Ireland where my father owned a racing stable. At the age of 6 I was saving pennies to back horses for the local bookmaker. Then when I came to England and school, I stopped backing horses and taught the other kids how to play poker. I used to win. At Oxford I got in with the racing set again, and I lost a packet, more than I could ask my father for, so I was sent down. My old man put me into his business in Dublin, providing I promised never to gamble again. So for five years I neither touched a card nor made a bet. I thought I’d got the devil out of my system. As a reward, my father sent me to France to stay with my uncle in Paris. He had a business there. One afternoon we all went to Longshore. They didn’t realize that to me, gambling was a disease, a disease which had lain dormant like a cancer for five long years. I knew nothing about form, but luck was with me. That day and the next and the next after, I won a packet. But I didn’t really find what was to give me complete and utter satisfaction until I walked through the glass doors of the casino. The sight of the green baize, the scented atmosphere of the room made me drunk, reeling drunk. I was mad to gamble. I can remember my fingers twitching as I picked up the plaques from the cashier’s desk and sat down like a drunken man and played. For five nights in succession I won. Some of them advised me to quit, but it was like asking a drug addict to give up dope. I couldn’t quit. On the sixth night I had my return ticket into Paris, that was all. I found that my uncle had gone to London and my aunt had gone with him, so I was alone in my apartment without a sou in my pocket. But luck was with me this time. A few weeks before, my aunt had asked me to get something from the safe. And I knew where she kept the key, so I opened it… borrowed a pair of diamond earrings.”
Linda Venning: “You mean you stole them.”
The Young Man: “Call it what you like, but if I had won last night, I’d have gone back to the pawnbroker and nobody would have been any the wiser. I told you you were dipping your fingers into a mudpie.”
Linda Venning: “I followed you last night because I wanted to help you, but you seem to be beyond help.”
The Young Man: “If you’d known anything, you’d have recognized that fact in the first place. I’m through, and I’ve got the sense to know it. You’re only delaying the end of the story.”
Had Unfulfilled Potential
2 December 2005 | by Snow Leopard (Ohio)
“This movie version of the Stefan Zweig story is worth seeing, but it has a lot of unfulfilled potential, and it could have been much more memorable. The story has been filmed several times, and indeed the novella seems ready-made for a movie. It combines an interesting setting, compulsive gambling, suicidal tendencies, a love affair, crime, and quite a bit more into a concise story that plays out in the space of just one day. At the same time, there are some challenges in making it into a movie, since much of the force of the story comes from the psychology of the characters, rather than from their actions.
The various movie versions have each chosen different ways of framing the main narrative. In this adaptation, the main story is told as a flashback by a writer played by Leo Genn, whose character also played a role in the main story itself. Genn’s character is actually a little underused, and doesn’t allow him to use some of his best strengths as an actor, but the character itself is a suitable choice for the narration.
The story takes place in Monte Carlo, and it includes a lot of location footage. But, at least in the public domain print (which could be the problem), the setting and scenery are never quite as striking as you would have expected them to be. Many other movies have used the same setting to more memorable effect.
The main story has Merle Oberon suitably cast as the young widow who becomes irresistibly attracted to a desperate gambler, and who tries to save him from his addiction to roulette. Oberon’s rather ethereal, dreamy presence makes her character’s actions seem believable. She is hindered, though, by some weak dialogue that sometimes reduces her deeper feelings to the level of clichés.
The gambler character is never fleshed out, and Richard Todd plays him in a one-dimensional fashion. To some degree, this is supposed to be the character’s nature, but even a little more of a sympathetic side could have made the story more powerful. Todd, though, is also hindered by some stale dialogue, even more so than Oberon. The conversations between Oberon and Todd ought to have been the centerpiece of the movie, and with better dialogue they could easily have evoked more passion and tension.
The story itself focuses attention on the desire of a woman to change a man who really does not want to change all that much. As such, it is a thought-provoking character study, and it provides some useful ideas to think about. In this particular adaptation, the themes are all there on the surface, but they are never examined as deeply as they could have been. It is still adequate as a dramatic story, but it had the potential to be more than that.”