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In 1456, French King Charles VII recalls the story of how he met the seventeen-year-old peasant girl Joan of Arc, entrusted her with the command of the French Army, and ultimately burned her at the stake as a heretic.
It is a toss-up as to who is most displeased when Patrolman Moe Finkelstein is given the duty of guarding the German consulate run by Karl Baumer; neither Moe nor Baumer is too happy with this turn of events. Moe, however, quickly becomes friends with the other residents of the consulate: Sophie Baumer, the consul's wife; the secretary, Baron Max Von Alvenstor; and a pretty maid named Frieda. Moe senses an underlying tension that is not entirely accounted for by the gathering clouds of war. The gambling-loving Baumer has lost a large sum of money belonging to the German government, Sophie has learned to hate her husband and what he stands for, and Baron Max has fallen in love with her. Max confronts Baumer with the discrepancy in the consulate's funds, and Baumer threatens to inform Berlin that one of Max's grandparents was not "Aryan." The arrival of a group of Nazi saboteurs and the insistence they be given the funds to finance their project stirs consulate affairs even further.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Berle Is Wide of the Margin, but Bennett and Preminger Are Great!
Preminger also starred and directed the stage play which ran highly successful seasons both on Broadway (264 performances) and the West Coast, so he was a natural for the movie version. Unfortunately, the play is more than a trifle dated, unlike Mrs Luce's other huge stage success, The Women, which is still pointed and amusing even today. By contrast, the women in Margin for Error are not the least bitchy, feline or self-indulgent. Instead, the comedy (such as it is) centers on the efforts of a Jewish cop to come to terms with his duties at the German consulate. He smiles a lot, wins the heart of a serving girl (the lovely Leisl Handl) and has plenty to say and do, but Milton Berle's interpretation never strikes me as either the slightest bit policeman-like or true-to-life. Otto Preminger's portrait of the evil consul is equally one-dimensional, but at least he gives the role presence and charisma. While Preminger rivets attention, Berle is just plain dish-washy. Admittedly, the plot is full of holes, and the other police officers are likewise ridiculously simple-minded. Thank goodness the rest of the cast are better served by the script, particularly Howard Freeman in his best role ever as the strutting, cowardly Mussolini-like bund leader; dashing Carl Esmond as the secretary; and beautiful Joan Bennett as the wife. Production values, led by Cronjager's velvety photography and Day's appealing sets, impress
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