Mexico has long held a fascination for American vacationers and daytrippers: the mariachi bands, the free-flowing tequila, the fiestas and fiery food. For those already in Mexico, desperate to leave, America meant freedom and a new life. Georges (Charles Boyer) is living in the crummy Hotel Esperanza in a border town. He is a Romanian almost-refugee desperate to get into America. He bumps into an old flame, recently-divorced Anita (Paulette Goddard) who says that she was once in the same position and instead of waiting months on the chance of getting a visa she married an American and, ay caramba, four weeks later she was in the Land of the Free. The wily and penniless Georges seizes his chance and tries to find an American wife.
Emmy (Olivia de Havilland) is a harried American schoolteacher who seems, at first, unlikely to be seduced by Georges’s ‘gigolo eyes’. Georges plans to marry the unsuspecting woman and once over the border he can explain it’s all been a mistake and her pure heart doesn’t deserve him. And, of course, Anita awaits. The trouble is Emmy is not the prim schoolmarm he imagines but a true romantic who utterly falls for Georges and maybe he’s falling for her. Will the hovering immigration officer (Walter Abel) unmask the sham romance?
As a gay man working in Hollywood director Mitchell Leisen knew all about marriages of convenience. He started his career in wardrobe and set design and it shows in this stylish, affecting and deeply felt film, not quite a screwball comedy, not quite melodrama but has elements of both.
Available now on Blu-ray