'Paris When It Sizzles': THR's 1964 Review

Photofest
Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in 1964's 'Paris When It Sizzles.'
The picture itself is only sporadically amusing.

On April 8, 1964, Paramount unveiled Audrey Hepburn and William Holden starrer Paris When It Sizzles in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter's original review, headlined "'Paris When It Sizzles' Strong in Marquee Power," is below: 

Paris When It Sizzles is a movie about making a movie. In its course, the hero (a movie writer) says the movie-within-a-movie is a romantic-comedy-suspense-melodrama, or some such, making a small joke on the kind of tag critics use to pin a neat label on an elusive creation. Paris When It Sizzles resists classification more than most films. But the Paramount release may be judged in one area: its success or lack of it.

As a box office draw, the picture has a great star combination — William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. They will have to carry it, because the picture itself is only sporadically amusing. 

Richard Quine and George Axelrod produced Paris. Axelrod did the screenplay from a story by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson. Quine directed. Holden is the hero, the movie writer, who engages a secretary, Miss Hepburn, as his accessory in writing a screenplay. The simple facts of the picture are that in the course of their work they fall in love. But the vehicle for the facts is considerably more complicated. 

What Axelrod and Quine are doing is to take a fairly routine story and attempt to enliven it by all manner of cinema tricks. When Holden outlines his plot to Miss Hepburn, the plot takes visual form and Holden and Miss Hepburn become the hero and heroine of the film-in-a-film. This allows for exceptional range of camera ideas and setups unrestricted by the customer plot dimensions. It allows for jokes about movies themselves. It allows use of unbilled stars, Marlene Dietrich and Mel Ferrer and Tony Curtis, in a big and rewarding role. 

The trouble is that Paris When It Sizzles seems constantly on the verge of hilarity but it never gets entirely into it. The spectator appreciates the inherent fun and is ready to go with it, but perhaps the trouble is that the attack is too clever, or the creators too impressed with their own cleverness. At any rate, the laughter has a hobble on it. 

Holden and Miss Hepburn could not help being engaging, and they certainly are that in Paris When It Sizzles. Noel Coward has a somewhat ambiguous role as a film producer. It seems odd casting, and the humor of it never quite comes off. Tony Curtis, unbilled and strictly supporting, gets the biggest laughs in the picture. Even when his lines force him to repeat a joke that is mild on the first use, Curtis registers. The French veteran Gregoire Aslan has a lengthy but largely wordless role. 

Charles Lang's Technicolor photography give fresh beauty to the beautiful city, and his interiors have the distinctive warmth of his lighting. Jean d'Eaubonne's sets are rich and meaningful. Nelson Riddle's score is light and amusing. Sound by Joe de Bretagne and Charles Grenzbach is good. Archie Marshek's editing does a slick job of making the many photographic tricks smooth and illusory. — James Powers, originally published March 12, 1964.