Frenchman's Creek (film)

Frenchman's Creek is a 1944 adventure film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, about an aristocratic English woman who falls in love with a French pirate. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and starred Joan Fontaine, Arturo de Córdova, Basil Rathbone, Cecil Kellaway, and Nigel Bruce. Filmed in Technicolor, it was directed by Mitchell Leisen. The musical score was by Victor Young, who incorporated the main theme of French composer Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune as the love theme for the film.

Frenchman's Creek
Theatrical poster
Directed byMitchell Leisen
Produced byBuddy G. DeSylva
Screenplay byTalbot Jennings
Based onFrenchman's Creek
1941 novel
by Daphne Du Maurier
StarringJoan Fontaine
Arturo de Córdova
Basil Rathbone
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byAlma Macrorie
Paramount Pictures
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 20, 1944 (1944-09-20)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.6 million[1]

The film is a mostly faithful adaptation of the novel, taking place during the reign of Charles II in the mid-17th century, mostly in the Cornish region of England.[2]

Fontaine was under contract to independent producer to David O. Selznick, who produced only a few films each year. Typically, he loaned out his contract players and director Alfred Hitchcock (who had a contract with Selznick from 1940 to 1947) to other studios. In this case, Fontaine was loaned to Paramount for this lavish production. She later complained about her work with director Leisen and some of her costars.[3] The film's budget of $3.6 million made it the most expensive production in Paramount history up to that time.[1]

Cast members Rathbone and Bruce were well known for appearing together as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively, in the Sherlock Holmes films by Universal Studios. Frenchman's Creek was their only on-screen collaboration besides the Holmes films.[4]

The film was released as an on demand DVD August 28, 2014 (Amazon); and has been shown on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies.

Plot summary

Set in 17th century Cornwall and London, Joan Fontaine stars in the swashbuckling adventure Frenchman's Creek. As a beautiful, learned Lady of means, Dona St. Columb (Fontaine) had it all – wealth, nobility, children ... and a loveless marriage. After years of being royally subjected to mistreatment, she retreats with her most prized possessions – her two children – to a secluded manor overlooking Britain's Atlantic shoreline. Once there, she is enthralled with the tall tales of a scoundrel of a pirate, who has been plundering nearby coastal villages. Full of adventure and fueled by years of neglect, she sets forth to seek him out, and it is not long before she finds him ... to be quite an irresistible gentleman. She is soon swept into his arms, and out onto a seaborne adventure where she chances death to protect her children from a vengeful father, who is out to reclaim what he had never known and to destroy something he had never shown – love. Earning Academy Awards for both Art Direction and Set Design, movie lovers will delight in this lavish Technicolor example of golden age Hollywood escapism.


Uncredited Cast


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film "somewhat slow in starting", but observed that the production values were suitably extravagant and invited readers to "catch a post-chaise to the Rivoli and check your think-cap at the door if you want a two-hour excursion in fancy-pants cloak-and-sword escape."[6] Variety agreed that the production values were "ultra", but found that the script "at times borders on the ludicrous".[7] Harrison's Reports called it "A good costume entertainment" with "a fair quota of thrills ... It does, however, have many slow spots, and some judicious cutting would help matters considerably."[8] John Lardner of The New Yorker wrote: "Not having read the Daphne du Maurier novel called Frenchman's Creek, I am powerless to say how it compares with the picture of the same name. My guess, like any gallant fellow's, would be that it compares favorably."[9]


The film won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté, Samuel M. Comer).[10]

See also


  1. "Frenchman's Creek". MovieDiva. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. Frenchman's Creek (1944)
  3. Self-Styled Siren: Frenchman's Creek (1944)
  5. Freese, Gene Scott (April 10, 2014). Hollywood Stunt Performers, 1910s-1970s: A Biographical Dictionary (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company. p. 75. ISBN 9780786476435.
  6. Crowther, Bosley (September 21, 1944). "Movie Review - Frenchman's Creek". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 10 September 20, 1944.
  8. "'Frenchman's Creek' with Joan Fontaine and Arturo de Cordova". Harrison's Reports: 155. September 23, 1944.
  9. Lardner, John (September 30, 1944). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 54.
  10. " Frenchman's Creek". Retrieved 2008-12-20.
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