Thursday, September 08, 2016
cinema obscura: George Seaton's "Little Boy Lost" (1953)
Shot on location in Paris in 1953 with a gritty feel for the place, Seaton's film - based on a novel of the same title by Marghanita Laski - is a wartime drama of dislocation, loss and regret, all of which are summed up in Crosby's poignant performance as Bill Wainwright, a star journalist - a major American correspondent (think Edward R. Murrow) stationed in Paris during World War II.
While there, he meets a singer Lisa Garret, played by Nicole Maurey, and they marry and have a son, named Jean.
Bill's work takes him to Dunkirk for a long stretch and, when he returns to Paris, neither his wife nor his little boy (Christian Fourcade) is there. Lisa has been murdered by the Nazis and Jean is homeless, stranded somewhere. Perhaps in an orphanage. After a stressful seach, that's exactly where Bill finds Jean but too much time has gone by. He's uncertain if this Jean is his son or another sad little lost boy.
This remains a question that haunts Bill, one exacerbated by his grief over the loss of his wife. The boy needs a family. Bill needs a son. Does it matter that this little boy may not be his? Writer-director Seaton is sensitive to this idea and his movie's resolution of it is entirely satisfying without ever pandering or being contrived.
"Little Lost Boy" earns its tears.
And it certainly helps that the film feels more like a European production than a shiny big-studio effort - a quality that Seaton, as writer-director, brought to another compelling WW 2 film from Parmount, 1962's "The Counterfeit Traitor," starring William Holden and Lili Palmer.
Note in Passing: Crosby and Maury would be romantically teamed again seven years later in Blake Edwards' campus lark, "High Time" of 1960.