Jane Russell in 3-D
"The French Line" is a Howard Hughes production, a musical vehicle to show of Jane Russell's talents but not her acting or singing talent but her shapely figure which she squeezes into a parade of sexy outfits and skimpy swim wear. It is little wonder that this movie upset the Catholic League of Decency when it was released as not only does it feature Jane Russell dressed and dancing provocatively but also features a whole bevy of beauties in low cut outfits which, wait for it, was also filmed in 3-D with the tagline "See Jane Russell in 3-D - She'll Knock BOTH Your Eyes Out!" In truth "The French Line" is mildly entertaining but take the sexy Jane Russell out of the mix and what you have is a weak musical with forgettable songs and nothing else.
Mary 'Mame' Carson (Jane Russell - Son of Paleface) is cursed by her wealth as she can't stop earning money and it has a habit of either attracting money grabbing men or daunting those who she actually likes. Out of desperation she decides to go on her honeymoon cruise to France despite her latest man leaving her and in order to try and find a man who likes her for who she is decides to go incognito. Unfortunately things get confusing because the man she falls for is Pierre (Gilbert Roland - The Bad and the Beautiful), a French charmer, but he has been hired by her business partner Waco (Arthur Hunnicutt) to keep an eye on Mary except he thinks Mary is Myrtle and the real Myrtle is Mary the woman he is meant to be watching.
The first thing which grabs you when watching "The French Line" now is a slight similarity to "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" with it being a romantic, confusion musical set on a boat and with Jane Russell in a variety of figure hugging outfits including a glittery red show costume. But "The French Line" not only came before "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" but is also similar to other musicals such as Doris Day's "April in Paris" which makes it ultimately generic. This isn't helped by the fact the storyline is both unoriginal and weak with little to drive it on. And whilst featuring an array of musical numbers which are accompanied by some sexy dancing they are all quite forgettable.
But in truth you get a sense that Howard Hughes wanted this movie made because of Jane Russell and the opportunity to see her in a variety of figure hugging outfits, from low cut tops to skin tight swim wear. There is no denying at times it is exploitative, with an early musical scene setting the standard as it teases the audience with Mary getting undressed then appearing in the shortest dressing gown ever getting into bubble bath and a lot more. Of course "The French Line" is better known for the risque musical finale with Jane Russell in a cut away one piece and doing pelvic thrusts which if you lived in Europe you got to see where as the American edit had her hidden by a huge flower arrangement. And just to add to the exploitative nature was a cast dominated by attractive women, including Kim Novak in her movie debut and of course it was filmed in 3-D.
What that means is that despite having a cast which alongside Jane Russell also featured Arthur Hunnicutt, Gilbert Roland and Mary McCarty the characters were all paper thin. Yes Roland turns on the charm rather as Frenchman Pierre despite Roland being from Mexico but it is a cliche character who when we first meet him is in a hotel room surrounded by about 20 beautiful women.
What this all boils down to is that taken purely as a musical "The French Line" is weak, in fact it is forgettably weak. But then there is some sort of strange entertainment factor about it with the exploitation side with all the beautiful women and Jane Russell squeezed into revealing outfits which made her bosom heave when she breathed deeply which I am sure dominated many 3-D screens.