Assignment – Paris: Why have I never heard of this movie?

I mean, Dana Andrews and George Sanders? In a post-WWII cold war intrigue-y thing?? This is my catnip. Probably a Columbia Pictures B-movie cast-off, I thought, when it popped up in the TCM app, with nary a host intro or background bio in sight. But no, this is a stylish, entertaining, even suspenseful noir-Cold War intrigue-newspaper process film! Highly recommend!!

I think this movie is up there with Laura and Best Years of Our Lives for Dana Andrews performances. He plays a reporter – smart, dogged, hard-edged to hide his principles. George Sanders is his editor, and as usual he’s debonair and sly, without the smarm this time. Marta Torren is a fellow reporter whose profession, annoyingly, fades into the background a bit once the film establishes her romance with Dana. Audrey Totter (a noir regular, my bestie informs me) is underused but brings wit and depth to her character.

The script is smart and even packs a few surprises. There’s some spycraft and plenty of newspaper process – reporters calling in stories on wires, editors editing stories and reviewing front pages. The film also has some beautiful noir lighting flourishes – the shadow of a person standing up, caught on another’s face; rows of car headlights piercing the darkness.

And this surprisingly moving exchange between George Sanders (Nick) and a Hungarian newspaper employee (Grisha) offering himself up to get Dana Andrews out of communist Hungary, for a guarantee that Grisha’s children will be safe:

Nick: “I can’t send one man to his death to save another.”

Grisha: “If it was that man’s wish, and if his life . . . if his life was the only thing he had left to give to those that he love most, I think you could.”  


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