They Had to See Paris (1929)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce  |   Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Will Rogers' first all-talking feature casts the beloved humorist as Pike Peters, owner of an auto repair shop in Claremore, OK (Rogers' real-life home town). Living in genteel but contented poverty, Pike and his family suddenly find themselves millionaires when an oil well in which he is part-owner comes in a gusher. Though Pike remains the same humble, down-to-earth fellow that he was before his good fortune, his social-climbing wife (Irene Rich) instantly begins taking on airs, insisting that the family spend a year in Paris. Reluctantly, Pike agrees, and before long he, his wife, his daughter, Opal (Marguerite Churchill), and son, Ross (Owen Davis Jr.) are seeing the sights in the City of Lights. Determined to crash Parisian high society and land a wealthy nobleman husband for daughter Opal, Mrs. Peters callously insists that her "embarrassing" husband keep his distance at all social gatherings. Not surprisingly, the Peters family unit begins to unravel, with Opal succumbing to the charms of silky gigolo Marquis de Brissac (Ivan Lebedeff), and Ross living a life of debauchery in the Latin Quarter with French floozy Fleury (Marcelle Corday). Though Pike manages to make a friend of exiled Russian grand duke Mikhail (Theodore Lodi), he simply cannot coordinate himself with his wife's incessant title-chasing, nor can he convince her that her new "friends" are only interested in her money. Cast out of the hotel suite he shares with his wife, the crestfallen Pike heads to a sidewalk café, where he renews his platonic friendship with vivacious cabaret entertainer Claudine (Fifi D'Orsay, whose saucy performance caused a bit of trouble with the local movie censors of the era). With her help, Pike cooks up a scheme to bring his family back together by pretending that he's "gone Parisian" and has taken Claudine as his mistress. Adapted from a 1926 novel by Homer Croy (and a subsequent stage version by May Savell Croy), They Had to See Paris remains one of Will Rogers' most entertaining talkies, with the star ad-libbing to his heart's content.



America, family, lifestyle, money, oil, property, rags-to-riches, socialite, wife