The Flame of New Orleans is a stylish romantic comedy set in early 19th century New Orleans with Marlene Dietrich as an adventuress torn between money and love.
Claire Ledeux (Marlene Dietrich) is a phony countess out to snare herself a rich man. She puts on a good front. She has a nice house and beautiful clothes but she no actual money. Finding a rich husband is not just something to be desired - it’s a necessity. With her beauty and her glamour that should not be a difficult task and she has set her sights on wealthy middle-aged banker Charles Giraud (Roland Young). Success seems to be at hand, in fact he has already proposed, when fate steps in. She meets handsome sea captain Robert LaTour (Bruce Cabot). He would be a most unsuitable husband. He’s certainly not penniless but he’s a long long way from being rich. Most unsuitable indeed. On the other hand he is handsome and carefree and charming. What is a girl to do?
Claire has no doubts as to what she should do. She should marry her rich banker. There is however one major obstacle. Claire has had a colourful past and it has caught up to her. She has been recognised by an old flame who knew her in St Petersburg and the fellow has, most unfortunately, revealed Claire’s past to sundry acquaintances and word has got back to Giraud. Not only is Giraud understandably shocked. There is also the problem of his very respectable family. The woman he marries has to be of irreproachable character.
Of course it doesn’t work out as smoothly as she had hoped and that disturbingly attractive sea captain seems to keep turning up.
The plot is little more than a succession of very old clichés. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s executed with style, charm and wit.
I Married a Witch. The lightness of touch he demonstrated in the latter film is very much in evidence in The Flame of New Orleans. The screenplay provides the players enough to work with and they make the most of it.
Dietrich could play evil scheming spider women or tough cynical women but in this case she gets to play a scheming woman who might be somewhat amoral but is also charming and likeable and generally pretty sympathetic. She’s in superb form, and she’s breathtakingly glamorous as always. And naturally she gets to wear some stunning clothes.
This was a fairly ambitious and lavish A-picture by Universal’s standards and it looks extremely good, hardly surprising given that the cinematographer was Rudolph Maté. There are some nice visual touches, especially the river scenes.
The Flame of New Orleans is a frothy very amusing and totally captivating romantic comedy. This is a very lightweight movie indeed but if you’re looking for pure entertainment this movie should be just what the doctor ordered. Highly recommended.