I Was an Adventuress (1940) Poster

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Charming film
blanche-212 June 2008
Actor/director/writer Gregory Ratoff often did Lubitsch-like films -"Cafe Metropole" is one and this one, 1940's "I Was an Adventuress" is another. Light and delightful, the film stars Vera Zorina, Eric von Stroheim, Richard Greene and Peter Lorre. Zorina, Stroheim and Lorre are partners in crime - practicing the old bait and switch of the fake necklace that someone says is not fake after all but worth a fortune. The targeted sucker overhears the conversation and buys what he thinks is a real necklace from the unsuspecting woman. He pays way too much for a fake but not as much as the sale price of the real thing. Of course, when he tries to sell it, he's told it's a fake, but the thieves have left town.

All goes well until Tanya (Zorina), posing as Countess Vronsky, meets handsome, charming Paul Vernay, whom she attempts to set up for a con but ends up falling in love with him. She breaks with Polo (Lorre) and Andre (von Stroheim), marries Vernay and takes up her ballet career again. After several months, Polo and Andre need her to return, but they can't find her. When they do, Andre moves in for a shakedown.

This film is lots of fun all the way with some marvelous performances. Von Stroheim and Lorre make a great team - one, Teutonic and committed, the other, an apologetic kleptomaniac with a heart. Zorina certainly had one of the most interesting faces in film, beautiful yet strong, and she's wonderful as Tanya. Her dancing was lovely, with the exception of her very distracting arms.

Richard Greene was getting the big star buildup at 20th Century Fox when war was declared in Europe, and he returned to England to serve his country. Handsome with a to-die for accent, he just might have given Tyrone Power a run for his money, at least in some of the lighter roles, as I suspect he didn't have a large range. As it was, Greene became best known in this country for his TV series "Robin Hood." Here he exhibits warmth and sophistication as Paul Vernay.

Look for this film on Fox Movie Channel - you won't be sorry.
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Sophisticated, witty, wonderful
WeaselWoman1324 March 2002
It's such a pity that this charming film is so difficult to find. It's one of the many wonderful classic films that should be available on video, but seems to have been regrettably tossed aside.

Funny and sophisticated, it never ceases to make me laugh. Peter Lorre and Erich von Stroheim are a perfect pairing. After seeing this, Stroheim became my other favorite actor, next to Peter Lorre. They're both such great actors (my two favorites, actually), and they work together splendidly and comically. Really, there should have been so many more movies starring this duo of striking, charming gentlemen.

Vera Zorina, as the female accomplice to the two crooks, and Richard Greene, as an upperclass man she falls in love with, are both quite good as well. I recommend it to anyone who's lucky enough to get a chance to see it.

It's one of the few times that Peter Lorre gets to play a character who is funny, cute, sweet - someone the audience, and the characters in the movie, are supposed to love. Sure, he's a kleptomaniac, but he can't really help it -- no one, besides the ill tempered Andre, can stay angry at him for long. (In one of the final scenes, Paul Vernay, Richard Greene's character, can't help but grin and laugh to himself as he realizes the charming kleptomaniac has acquired most of his possessions once again.)

I give this witty film a well-deserved 10/10.
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Polo and Andre--what might have been!
Anne_Sharp6 October 1999
"Lubitsch lite" might be the best description of this beguiling romantic comedy. Its charm relies to a surprising extent on the effervescent chemistry between its two male stars, Peter Lorre and Erich von Stroheim. These are not the most likely of sidekicks, but you'd be surprised how deftly these two play off one another, like a Mittel European Laurel and Hardy, as the cherubic kleptomaniac Polo (Lorre) and his sly con-artist buddy Andre (Stroheim). It's easy to imagine a series of comedy adventures based on Polo and Andre--actually, Stroheim and Lorre make a more entertaining duo than Lorre and Greenstreet. The lovely Zorina keeps up with them beautifully, as well as delivering a very photogenic performance in the "Swan Lake" ballet sequence (choreographed by her husband, George Balanchine) which anticipates "The Red Shoes" in its dynamically cinematic, semi-surreal style.
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Slight and very familiar but also quite enjoyable.
MartinHafer16 April 2011
This film stars Vera Zorina and since she was once an accomplished ballerina, several dance numbers and an allusion to "Swan Lake" was inserted into the film. I'd love to make some humorous comment about a stunt dancer now claiming credit for all this, but Ms. Zorina was a world-famous dancer before she became an actress.

This film is set in a weird Europe--one where there is no war at all--even though it came out in 1940--during the German occupation of France, the Battle of Britain and Mussolini--none of which are even mentioned in the movie! Zorina, Erich von Stroheim and Peter Lorre (all three who had strong Germanic roots) are a team of swindlers who prowl the hot-spots of Europe ripping off unsuspecting members of the upper class. However, when Zorina meets sweet Richard Greene, she falls instantly in love and can't continue her wicked ways. She reforms and they soon marry--though she never tells him about her very sordid past. So, when her old 'comrades' show up some time later, she's afraid to say anything--though she knows von Stroheim and Lorre are up to no good.

This is a somewhat familiar theme for Hollywood. With films like "Lady Eve", "Jewel Robbery" and "Trouble in Paradise" (just to name a few), it's obvious the public had a great fascination with these 'lady or gentleman criminal' movies. Here, like these other films, there is some comedy and some romance--and the ending is rather predictable as it follows a familiar pattern. Compared to these other films, "I Was An Adventuress", it's about average--not as good as some and a bit better than others. I liked the actors--they were all pretty good choices. The script was decent---not outstanding or as sweet as "Trouble in Paradise" or "Lady Eve"--but still pretty good. Overall, it's worth watching and a nice time-passer.
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A treat for classic movie lovers!
JohnHowardReid31 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A fun picture when it was made – and still one of the choicest delights of 1940's cinema – this film is a highly enjoyable romantic comedy/drama (with even a bit of ballet thrown in). Writing, directing and acting always maintain the most perfectly exquisite balance between the story's various elements. For once the efforts of a multitude of writers – in addition to the credited Karl Tunberg, Don Ettinger, John O'Hara, Jacques Companeez, Herbert Jutkee, Hans Jacoby and Michel Duran, Nunnally Johnson also contributed to the script, as did Erich von Stroheim who sketched in most of his own very amusing "business" and contributed to Peter Lorre's as well – have produced a delightfully smooth and energetic comedy of manners that only slows down slightly with the climactic ballet and during some of the moments when Richard Greene is on- screen (not Richard's fault. Except for his rousing opening scene, his role is totally conventional and lacks the sparkle that animates the movie's other main characters. Even Sig Rumann, in a tiny role, makes a greater impression simply because he has the material to do so). Production values are especially lush. Two photographers were employed, but they did not work in tandem, as many people suppose. In general, Cronjager handled the close-ups and the tight shots (like the scenes on the train), while Shamroy did the large group shots, the long shots and the establishing shots. My guess is that Shamroy also photographed the whole of the ballet – but in Cronjager's style. Cronjager was a favorite with female stars because he took infinite care to make them look ravishingly beautiful. On the other hand, he was not well liked by producers, directors and impatient stars because he worked too slowly. Available on a superb Fox DVD,
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European society takes a slap in the face in glorious art deco.
mark.waltz27 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A phony slap-happy countess (ballet legend Vera Zorina) is fooling the social elite of the most upscale of European hotels, walking up to total strangers (whom she's researched, of course), clobbering them and then profusely apologizing for mistaking who they were. Of course, she then cons them and quickly disappears, that is if she isn't selling them a valuable piece of jewelry for much more than its worth (and having the victim of the con sign a statement indicating that they were told that the piece of jewelry that they overpaid on was a copy). She's not the mastermind behind these schemes; That falls to the autocrat Erich Von Stroheim and his somewhat dimwitted sidekick (Peter Lorre) who took Ms. Zorina under their wing from the streets.

When her attempt to fleece a handsome stranger (Richard Greene), fails, she finds herself falling in love and decides to leave her con-game with Von Stroheim and Lorre behind. All it takes is for Greene to slap Ms. Zorina back to get her to change her fleecing ways and wake her up. But that can't get Von Stroheim and Lorre off her back; Once a beautiful meal ticket, always a beautiful meal ticket, but she's gone onto become a ballet star and become Greene's loyal wife. With her past ready to come back and haunt her, she's got some pretty quick thinking and scheming to do, and her intended victims are pretty formidable.

Beautifully filmed and acted with a delightful tongue-in-cheek, this shows Von Stroheim in a light he rarely had an opportunity to take on. He seems to enjoy being less serious than normal, although he does play the role totally seriously. There's a sparkle in his eye in this one, and his pairing with Lorre is equivalent to what Lorre would do over at Warner Brothers with Sydney Greenstreet. Zorina (as she is billed) makes an enticing heroine, and if not given a terribly difficult role to play, she does so beautifully, and when she dances, she's magnetic. Greene is a handsome, feisty hero, giving as much to Zorina as she gives to him. This is a film which deserves higher recognition, as sophisticated a comedy as other more well known films.
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Lying Swan
writers_reign5 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I bought this DVD - which I had never seen anywhere previously - primarily because I am a lifelong admirer of John O'Hara and knew he'd worked on this title (he does in fact get an on-screen credit) and figured anything else would be a bonus. As it happened there was a fair amount of anything else though it's equally true to say that the films lacks any kind of element that would serve to single it out from a dozen others of the same genre produced at roughly the same time. Con teams were not exactly thin on the ground in the 30s and 40s and the only thing to distinguish this trio is the combination which errs on the side of the bizarre; honcho Erich Van Stroheim, dumbo Peter Lorre with Zorina as the honey trapper. It works well enough and Sig Ruman and Fritz Feld are happy to sit still as gullible marks but Richard Greene as the mark-turned-Prince Charming isn't really up to matching acting chops with Lorre and Von Stroheim. Well worth watching.
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sb-47-60873710 June 2018
Writing a review is easy, but rating it isn't that easy. One way to rate a movie is to freeze the brain, and look whether the movie is enjoyable or boring, or could be seen, with portions skipped / fast-forwarded.

On this scale this movie is above average (my 7*, may be another half). The pace is good, the story, though quite predictable, has some fresh episodes, for example towards the end, the heroine conning her mentor, or even afterwards, the one upmanship of the same mentor on the heroine to carry out the jewel heist. Of course there is another 'ethical' angle of the heroine. She, though the honey-bait, of the racket, but legally, she did all her transactions purely above board, and in quite an ingenious way. When she sold the false-antique, she declared openly and vociferously that it was not real, but the greedy buyer though otherwise. And in addition to good performance by the heroine, Vera Zorina, and her ballet in the end, there was brilliant comedy by Peter Lorre, the second side-kick, the first being Zorina, of the mastermind, the sinister Stroheim. With above average performance by these three, around which the story revolved, the others didn't matter much, and Richard Greene, the love interest, didn't have much role, than being the eye-candy of the piece, and he didn't hurt.

The second way to look at the movie and rate them is through critical analysis, forgetting the enjoyable-ness of it. On this, this movie would be quite below average. It has quite a bit of large loop-holes and gaffs . For example, the society page, declaring the return of the new couple, was in English, in a french news paper, that would have been OK, had it been a notice. But it was the society tit-bits, not the notice put by the family.

Similarly, the great mastermind being unaware of his protege marrying, and that too one of the top ten richest men of the continent, in addition any one would have guessed her chances, was a blot on his intelligence, and mine, if I didn't notice it. Similarly, the sudden discovery of the fact too was a bit far-fetched. Which he should have in the beginning itself, when he traced her in the ballet, after all, being the wife of the big-man, she would have been well known. A few days search, and some chance encounter, it would have been alright, but then he would have missed the chance of heist, which was necessary to close the movie.

On this scale, naturally the movie, balancing for the plus (the intelligent heist plans, which are actually brilliant, and not fault-able) and the minus (the loopholes), probably it would fall in the 6* or a bit less category.

Close the logical portion of the brain, and enjoy, it is enjoyable. .
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I Was An Adventuress- Where's the Beef *
edwagreen17 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This was an absolutely miserable film. It's basically the story of 3 thieves-ballet dancer Zorina, who was basically no actress, as she proved when she was replaced by Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca," as well as Erich Von Stroheim and Peter Lorre. They use all sorts of tactics to woo their victims and then steal from them, primarily jewelry. Of course, one of the victims is Richard Greene, but love follows between Zorina and Greene, and they wed.

The film fails to explain why Lorre took the actions he did in the end. Was he really a good natured guy?

The most exciting scene of this dull film was the car chase, but that literally loses gas as well.

Suddenly, Zorina is performing "Swan Lake." The whole film is one big mystery, and badly made at that. There is definitely a problem of continuity and lack of interest here.
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