Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris: A Wonderful, Delightful, Inspiring Movie

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is an absolute gem of a movie. I discovered it while perusing American Airlines' in-flight entertainment selections during a recent flight home from California. This comedy/drama was released earlier this year and received enthusiastic positive reviews from film critics and audiences alike. However, likely because it wasn't promoted heavily or well, it had only a short run in theaters and I hadn't heard about it before. (Such a shame to stint on the marketing for such a terrific picture!) It deserves a much wider audience.

I am delighted to share my review of this wonderful, delightful, inspiring movie, which is available to purchase or rent via DVD or streaming media.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Movie Review

Based on the First of Paul Gallico's Bestselling 1958 Novel Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris

Paul Gallico started his career in the 1920s as a sportswriter, sports columnist, and sports editor of the New York Daily News. After switching to writing fiction in the late 1930s, the prolific author wrote 41 books, numerous short stories, 20 theatrical movies and 12 TV movies and had a TV series based on his Hiram Holliday short stories. Two of Gallico's most famous works were the short story The Snow Goose (1941) and the novel The Poseidon Adventure (1969), which was also adapted for the big screen.(Source)

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (1958) was the first of Gallico's four novels about the adventures of Mrs. Ada Harris, a war widow and hard-working charwoman for London aristocrats. Mrs. Harris's adventures continue in the subsequent books in the series, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York (1960), Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament (1965), and Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow (1974).

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris has been adapted multiple times for stage and screen:

  • A 1958 American TV episode for the television series Studio One starring British comedian Gracie Fields.
  • A 1982 West German TV film, Ein Kleid von Dior (A Dress by Dior) starring Inge Meysel.
  • A 1992 television movie starring Angela Lansbury, Diana Rigg and Omar Sharif (produced by Lansbury's production company and directed by her son, Anthony Shaw).
  • A 2016 musical-theatre adaptation, Flowers for Mrs Harris (the Gallico novel's UK title) produced by Sheffield Theatres in May 2016, with a new production mounted in 2018 at Chichester Festival Theatre, which was streamed online in April 2020.
  • The 2022 feature film adaptation I am reviewing, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (note the tweak to the title).

A Fabulous Cast of Characters

Here are the main characters of this charming movie set in the mid-1950s:

  • Ada Harris (Lesley Manville), a charwoman in London who cleans up the messes of her well-heeled, arrogant clients. She learns that her beloved husband, Eddie, a soldier who had been missing for seven years, was killed in action. 
  • Violet Butterfield (Ellen Thomas), Ada's best friend, who also works "in service." Vi encourages the grieving war widow to try to enjoy herself and get on with her life now that she finally knows Eddie's fate, taking her out to a dance club in the evening and to greyhound races on their day off.
  • Archie (Jason Isaacs), another friend and bookie who takes their bets at the races. Although he fancies Ada, she thinks it's too late for her to love again and makes it clear their relationship is strictly platonic.
  • Giles Newcombe (Christian McKay), a womanizing bachelor and house cleaning client.
  • Pamela Penrose (Rose Williams), another of Ada's clients, is a beautiful but spoiled, scatterbrained, pouty and self-centered actress who is also a slob, tossing and leaving her clothes and accessories all over the floor for Ada to pick up and put away.
  • Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor), another client who spends lavishly on parties and clothes (including a one-of-a-kind, beaded and sequined Christian Dior dress that Ada falls in love with at first sight), yet repeatedly deflects Ada's requests to be paid her long-overdue wages.
  • Christian Dior (Philippe Bertin), the world-famous haute couture fashion designer whose first collection under his own label in 1947 was dubbed "The New Look" by the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar.
  • Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) is the directrice of the house of Dior and guardian of its refined, elegant, exclusive image. She is offended and supercilious when an English charwoman invades the hallowed halls of Dior, mistakes Madame Colbert for a shopgirl and naïvely assumes she can purchase one of the master's iconic, one-of-a-kind haute couture creations just because she has brought enough money to Paris with her to pay with cash.
  • Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), a wealthy, aristocratic widower whose late wife used to enjoy attending the exclusive Dior couture shows. He continues to attend in her honor and, when Ada is rebuffed by Madame Colbert, the marquis invites her to attend as his guest. He subsequently buys her roses and invites her over for tea.  
  • Natasha (Alba Baptista), Dior's top model with an Audrey Hepburn-eque, waif-like beauty. She would rather be at home curled up on a couch, wearing a plain black sweater and reading Sartre than parading around as a fashion model. 
  • André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), an accountant at Dior who has ideas about how to save the fashion house from its (fictitious) financial woes that Madame Colbert refuses to discuss with Monsieur Dior. André falls in love with Natasha, with whom he shares a superior intellect and love of Sartre, but doesn't pursue a relationship with her, feeling she is "above his touch."
  • Monsieur Carré (Bertrand Poncet), the head of Dior's atelier and a fussy "artiste" who shares Madame Colbert's snobbery and lack of respect for the pedestrian Mrs. Harris.

A Feel-Good Movie

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a story about how kindness, courage, honesty, hard work, a willigness to dream big and a single-minded commitment to achieving your goals can, indeed, make your dreams come true.

It's a modern fairy tale grounded in some historical fact. Director Anthony Fabian takes some liberties with Gallico's story. In an interview for a July 22, 2022 article in Town & Country magazine, Fabian said, "The key to this story is that it is magic realism, so it has to have an equal dose of magic and reality. If you go too far into magic, you won’t believe it; if you go too far into the realism, it wouldn’t have that uplifting fairy tale quality." 

Check Out the Official Movie Trailer

If you are reading this on a mobile device and the video player doesn't display, you can click on this line to watch the MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS Trailer (2022) on YouTube.

Stream, Rent or Buy This Heartwarming and Inspiring Film

There are multiple options for watching this movie, including:

Read or Listen to the First Two Books in Paul Gallico's The Adventures of Mrs. Harris Series

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York Kindle edition.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs. Harris Goes to New York Paperback

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York Audible audiobook (Unabridged) — narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Juliet Stevenson.

Makes a Great Gift for Yourself or Someone Else

This wonderful story encourages us to dream big but also keep our priorities straight. I definitely plan to rent or buy the movie so I can watch it again and plan to get the audiobook as well. Both the movie and the book would make a lovely gift for any occasion, as well as a great stocking stuffer.


Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris: A Wonderful, Delightful, Inspiring Movie — Reviewed by Margaret Schindel


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10 comments:

  1. I am pretty sure I read at least one of these books in the way, way past, but it would be fun to see the movie. A lighthearted and delightful tale indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elf, it truly is a delightful story with a lot of heart. You can’t help but root for Ada Harris, the hard-working, plucky chairwoman who goes after her dream, helps save the house of Dior and prevent a mass layoff, helps two star-crossed lovers find happiness together, achieves and then loses her dream by being kind and generous to someone who doesn’t deserve it, and ultimately comes out content and victorious.

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  2. I HAVE to SEE THIS one! Watched the trailer, and it's as you write in your review, fantastic. I'm so curious to see what happens with the dress - there was a brief clip at the end (I think) of the complete outfit (in the distance) - and that fact that it is clearly more than just about a dress, makes it intriguing - seems inspiring. The numerous adaptations are the first clue that it's a classic that must be seen! Thank you - Hope it comes to Netflix or Prime

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  3. Barbara, you will absolutely LOVE this! Check out my link in the post to stream on Prime Video, I can’t wait to hear what you think!

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  4. Margaret, this sound positively dilightful. It would definitely make me smile in more than one place along the Moive I'm sure. Having worked in the fashion industry, the runways parts would make my little heart sing I'm sure. Thanks for this lovely review, I'm already looking forward to it!

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    Replies
    1. Olivia, like you, I also worked in the fashion industry. The costumes for this movie will blow your mind, especially the exact replicas of Dior’s 1957 couture line as well as three dresses designed in Dior’s “New Look” style that you would swear were designed by the master himself! You will absolutely adore this movie, I promise!

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  5. Sounds like a movie, and a book, that I would love! After reading your review, which had already sold me on the movie, I watched the trailer to get a glimpse of the actors. I have no doubt, I would love the movie. I can hardly wait to see it. Thanks for the introduction!

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    Replies
    1. Ms. Mouse, I guarantee you will adore this wonderful movie! The cast is sublime, the story funny, touching and full of heart, with a happy ending, and the exact replicas of the 1957 haute couture Dior gowns, as well as the three new dresses superbly designed in the master’s style, are absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to hear what you think when you watch it. Enjoy!

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  6. We saw this recently and it is so charming and a brilliant film! Truly great storyline, well acted wonderful characters and all in all a brilliant movie. A Hidden gem! We absolutely loved it. I could watch it again and again :)

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    Replies
    1. Raintree Annie. I’m so happy that you, too, were able to discover this little-known gem of a film recently. I completely concur with your description. I can’t wait to watch it again! My husband chose a different movie during our flight home, and I’m looking forward to sharing Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris with him.

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