Crossroads is a good mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. Faced
by a past he cannot remember, French diplomat David Talbot (William Powell)
becomes a target for blackmailers. Basil Rathbone plays Henri Sarrou, the
villain who threatens to ruin Talbot's life. As Sarrou's accomplice,
Michelle Allaine (Claire Trevor), adds to the strain on Talbot, who is
accused of being a notorious underworld character. The solving of the
problem proves to be a very interesting and suspenseful denouements.
The story takes places in Paris in 1935. David Talbot and his wife
Lucienne (Hedy Lamarr) are celebrating having been married just three
months. David is on the shortlist for an ambassadorship to Brazil. But he
won't get that appointment unless his private life is beyond reproach. So when Talbot receives a letter asking him to repay an old debt of 1
million francs, he is concerned as well as puzzled. He sets a trap to catch
In the courtroom, Le Duc, the accused blackmailer, tells the court
that David Talbot is in fact Jean Pelletier, a criminal. Talbot doesn't know
whether or not this is true. He suffers from amnesia caused by a train accident
13 years earlier.
Dr. Tessier appears as a witness before the court and tells
about his first meeting with Talbot, a few days after the train crash in
1922 (when the Paris-Marseilles Express hit an open switch). Talbot's head wound
caused amnesia. The captain of the ship that brought David to France from Martinique
identified him as David Talbot. No one else could identify him because he
had never been in France before.
The next witness is Michelle Allaine, a singer. She claims she was in love with Jean
Pelletier. She says she last saw him boarding the train, and she recognizes Talbot as
But Henri Sarrou, a wine salesman, counters M. Allaine's testimony. He
says that Talbot is not Jean Pelletier, and he presents a document
that Jean Pelletier died in Africa. Thus, Talbot is exonerated. And so it
would seem that the story is over—but of course it is not.
Watch the trailer for the film:
Some time later, Sarrou shows up at a party the Talbots are hosting, and the Talbots are very happy to see him. They exchange pleasantries, but when
Sarrou has a chance to speak to David alone, he says, "I certainly admire
your nerve, you double-crossing swine." He leaves David speechless.
In another room David confronts Sarrou, asking, "What's your game?" Sarrou admits that he lied in court; he tells
Talbot about his past as the criminal Jean Pelletier. Pelletier participated
in a robbery in which a guard was murdered. The gang
was supposed to meet up in Holland to divide the money (which Pelletier
had), but he never showed up. Now they have found him and they want their
money. Sarrou demands 1
million francs from Talbot.
When Lucienne enters the room, Sarrou makes an excuse about having
forgotten his cigarette case, takes it and leaves. Talbot tries to protect
his wife from knowledge of his predicament, but she suspects something is
"We're so grateful to you for your testimony."
"You've forgotten me."
Michelle Allaine pays David a visit at his government office. "Can you
forgive me, Jean?" she asks. She says she never wanted to hurt him. Then she shows David a locket containing a photo of herself and
him together. The photo appears to prove that he and Michelle were lovers.
David is puzzled and begins to doubt himself.
Later, at home, David opens an envelope that contains a headline cut from
a newspaper dated March 27, 1922: Bank Robbers Slay Messenger, Escape
With Two Million Francs.
David confronts Michelle Allaine at the club where she sings. He offers to pay her 50,000 francs. She laughs and says it's not enough. She
still insists that he is Jean Pelletier, and she tells him that his mother is living as a pauper.
is compelled to seek her out and find out if she really is his
mother. But the visit is rather bizarre. The old woman looks at him as though he is
her long-lost son, but she is adamant that her son is dead. But then she
kisses his hand and says "God keep you!"
Henri Sarrou again confronts David and demands that he meet him later
that evening and bring 1 million francs with him, or "the police will have
the solution to a murder." David reminds Sarrou that he participated in that
murder, to which Sarrou responds, "but you were the man behind the gun."
It seems that David Talbot is
beginning to believe he actually is Jean Pelletier. He is worried about
his wife, and decides that the best thing to do is to leave the country. He goes to a travel agent and buys one ticket to Saigon. Then he goes
home and gets his passport. Lucienne sees him with the passport and thinks
it has something to do with the ambassadorship to Brazil. He doesn't correct
her; in fact, he tells her that they will go out and celebrate his
appointment later. But first, he must help a colleague for a few
hours. David and Lucienne had plans to go to a social gathering that
evening; Lucienne goes without him, expecting David to join her later.
The moment Lucienne has left the house, the phone rings. It's Sarrou. He
tells David, "You're not catching a plane tonight for Saigon or any other
place." He orders David to meet him at Club La Sirene at 10 pm.
SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now if you wish to be surprised when
watching the film.
The next scene reveals to the audience that David Talbot is not
Jean Pelletier; Sarrou is directing an elaborate con to convince David he is
a criminal. He even hired an actress to play the part of Jean Pelletier's
mother. If David believes this lie, he'll pay Sarrou for his silence. As
Sarrou waits impatiently for Talbot to arrive, he discusses the con with
Michelle Allaine and the actress playing Pelletier's mother. She withdraws to another room when Talbot arrives.
"Have you got the money?" asks Sarrou. Talbot says no. He says he wants to
pay, to get Sarrou off his neck, but he
doesn't have that much money. He lets it slip that there is a lot of the
government's money stored in his office.
Sarrou immediately hatches a plot to steal the money: "You go to your office, where you
have a perfect right to be. You are attacked from behind, bound and gagged.
The next morning you are found by the char woman. The safe has been rifled.
But you are completely innocent. You go back to your life." Sarrou
promises Talbot that he will never again be bothered by Sarrou and Allaine.
Meanwhile, Lucienne is waiting for David to join her at her social
When David's colleague
(the one David said he needed to help that evening) arrives, Lucienne is
surprised to learn that David has not been with him. She takes her cloak and leaves.
She arrives at Club La Sirene just in time to see David and Sarrou getting
into a cab, so she follows them to David's office.
In his office, Talbot opens the safe and Sarrou fills his satchel with money. Then Lucienne
enters the office, imploring David, "Don't do it!" But he explains that
there's no other way. "Tell me what I can do" she says. Sarrou says, "Help me
tie him up. Give me a chance to get out of here, then you can scream as loud
as you like."
As Sarrou is tying up Talbot, suddenly the lights come on, and a group of
policemen are standing in the doorway. It was a trap! Talbot had arranged
for the police to come to the office and catch Sarrou attempting to steal
from the government. Sarrou and his cohorts are arrested.
It turns out that Talbot knew that he wasn't Jean Pelletier
because he knew that Michelle's locket photo was a
fake. How? His hair was parted on the wrong side!
"It was an evil plan!"
The filming of Crossroads began in mid-February 1942. The working
title of the film was The Man Who Lost His Way, but already in March,
the title was changed to 'Til You Return. In April, the title was
again changed, this time to The Man From Martinique. In July the film
was released as Crossroads.
The film was based on a French picture (1939) written by Hans Cafka. The Cafka
story deals with the life of a shell-shocked war veteran. Producer Edward
Knopf told the New York Times that the plot actually stems from the Milanese trial of 1925 in
which an amnesia victim was sued for bigamy. Pre-war Paris has been kept
as the locale of the story, but shell shock, which caused the leading
character's loss of memory in the French picture, has been replaced by a
train wreck, since it is deemed unwise to depict the casualties of war in
wartime. (New York Times, April 12, 1942)
Crossroads earned $2,321,000, making a profit of $739,000.
This is a Grade A whodunit, with a superlative cast
that will count strongly at the box office. The novel story line,
which would do credit to an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, has the added
potency of Hedy Lamarr and William Powell to make exhibs happy.
Although John Kafka and Howard Emmett Rogers are billed as furnishing
the original story for Guy Trosper's excellent screenplay, a
French-made picture of the same title and plot was released in the
U.S. in 1938. The Hans Kofka who wrote that version is one and the
same person as John Kafka. The story bears repeating even if only
slightly changed from the original.
It's good, escapist drama, without a hint of the war despite its
Parisian locale, circa 1935, and evidences excellent casting and good
direction. The script likewise was well turned out, though better pace
would have put the film in the smash class. Its only fault is a
perceptible slowness at times, although the running time is a
reasonable 82 minutes, caused by a plenitude of talk.
The punch is in the acting and the story. Performers like Felix
Bressart, superbly playing a sympathetic neurologist, Basil Rathbone,
as a blackmailer, and Claire Trevor, as his night club
singer-accomplice, are an enhancement for any screenplay and are
perfectly placed here. Such additional acting luminaries as H.G.
Warner, as an attorney, Margaret Wycherly, also a member of the
blackmailing plot, and Philip Merivale, as a police chief, though only
in bits, make every moment they are on the screen count heavily.
Director Jack Conway couldn't have asked for a better complement of
players, nor better production accoutrements than provided by producer
The original French version concerned a prosperous businessman, but
here it's a prominent member of France's Foreign Office, William
Powell, who is accused of having been a thief prior to a train
accident, in which he suffered a fractured skull and amnesia. Not
remembering anything about his past, and since having married the
beauteous Hedy Lamarr, Powell has a blackmailer arrested. During the
trial he first learns of his alleged criminal activities under another
name, but at the last minute Basil Rathbone steps in as a witness and
'proves' that it's a case of mistaken identity; that the criminal
Powell was supposed to have been, actually died in Africa. Once Freed,
Powell is then harassed by Rathbone, who says eh perjured himself on
the stand and that Powell was, actually, his accomplice in the murder
13 years previously of a bank messenger and the robbery of 2,000,000
francs. Rathbone and Claire Trevor, supposedly Powell's pre-amnesia
sweetheart, demand 1,000,000 francs hush money. They even introduce
Margaret Wycherly as Powell's 'starving mother.'
Finally, of course, Powell upsets the entire plot and completely
vindicates himself in a surprise finish.
Miss Lamarr and Powell are a wholly satisfactory romantic pair.
Powell, in his first straight dramatic role in some time, is
satisfactory, if not as completely dashing as could be expected from a
handsome diplomat of the Anthony Eden type. Miss Lamarr delivers here
one of her best acting jobs to date; for once it's not merely a matter
of being beautiful—she's
learning to speak lines credibly.
Along with the entire roster of featured players, some of those
cast in the smaller parts rate bows, i.e., Sig Rumann, as a pompous
neurologist, and Guy bates Post in a fine character portrayal of the
president of the French court.
Bressart and Rathbone are exceptional in their respective parts,
and not far behind is Miss Trevor. She was given fine treatment in
makeup, dress and photography and delivers nicely the film's only
song, "Til You Return," a deft ballad by Arthur Schwarts and Howard
Dietz, in a nitery setting. Camera work as a whole is topnotch.
— Variety, June 24, 1942, p. 8
"For the first time in a long time, William Powell has a
straight dramatic role. He's a prominent member of France's Foreign Office,
who is accused of having been a thief prior to a train accident in which he
suffered injuries resulting in amnesia. He marries Hedy Lamarr, remembering
nothing of his past. Powell is brought to trial for the crimes he allegedly
committed but of which he remembers nothing. He is cleared by Basil Rathbone, who
afterwards attempts to blackmail him. There is a surprise ending. Hedy
Lamarr does a credible job, and looks very gorgeous." — Hollywood,
August 1942, p. 70
"William Powell takes the part of a
French diplomat, victim of amnesia as a result of a railroad accident.
Three blackmailers, knowing of his affliction, try to extort large
sums of money from him, and these scoundrels are bold enough to
confront him in the French courts. The plot is elaborated in a rather
novel way, brimful of suspense. William Powell and Basil Rathbone are
exceptionally good in their parts, although the whole cast is well
chosen, and the production is marked by clever dialogue and smooth
direction." — Motion Picture Reviews, July and August 1942, p. 4
Hedy Lamarr and William Powell Make This Dramatic,
but Slow-in-Spots Pic Good Box-Office
Guy Trosper's screenplay,
based on an original by John Kafka and Howard Emmett Rogers, is
capable of holding audience interest because of the treatment of the
psychological undercurrents in the theme, but it is too slowly paced
in parts and winds up in melodramatic fashion. Is it more on the basis
of fine acting and the names that this pic can be sold in the average
In Paris, in 1935, Powell and Lamarr are a newly married couple. He
is an important figure in French diplomatic circles. An anonymous
note, requesting one million francs starts the ball rolling. Having
suffered a complete case of amnesia resulting from a train accident in
1922, Powell is consequently entirely unfamiliar with the
circumstances and the person involved in the request. The blackmailer
is arrested and brought to trial.
In court, Bertram Marburgh, the sender of the note, tries to prove
along with some phony witnesses dragged in, that Powell is one Jean
Pelletier, a crook who perpetrated a murder two days before the
accident that caused Powell's loss of memory. Basil Rathbone, one of
the numerous witnesses testifies that he met Pelletier in Africa and
that he died there some years back. The case is closed as far as the
law is concerned but Rathbone, Margaret Wycherly, Marburgh, and Claire
Trevor, who have been keeping an eye on Powell since his rise to
power, give him pretty convincing evidence that leads him to believe
he is the criminal in question. They hound him for the one million
francs and the factor that will keep audience interest going is the
uncertainty as to his true identity.
A large portion of the footage is devoted to this psychological
procedure of breaking his morale and cracking his frayed nerves to the
breaking point. Suffice to say, Powell comes through a maze of mental
hazards and by means of some shrewd detective works clears himself and
uncovers the whole blackmail gang. There are numerous fantastic
situations capitalized on and Jack Conway's direction could have been
snappier. The production as a whole is somewhat reminiscent of a
French-made film and as a result has a certain charm and leisureliness
that will be regarded as draggy and slow moving by American audiences.
Hedy Lamarr is superb, beautiful, and plays with an earnestness and
sincerity that are truly lovely. William Powell underplays just enough
to make this one of his performances worth remembering. Felix Bressart
(the doctor who has brought Powell back to health and success after
his accident) is first-rate as are Clair Trevor, Basil Rathbone and
— The Film Daily, June 24, 1942, p. 5
"Rathbone, who appeared to have put on some weight, was fine in
another of his suave villain roles." — Michael Druxman, Basil
Rathbone: His Life and His Films, p. 259
There is considerable suspense and intrigue in this
fairly interesting drama. The story centers around an attempted
blackmail of a prominent French diplomat who, because of an accident
when a young man, remembers nothing of his early life. Falsely accused
of once being a notorious underworld character, he becomes baffled to
such an extent that he does not know which is his true identity. The
story is weakened somewhat towards the end, where the outcome becomes
obvious to the spectator. William Powell's role of the diplomat is a
departure from his usual debonair characterizations; he performs well,
as does the rest of the cast. The story is developed entirely by
dialogue; there is little action. The background is pre-war France: —
On the eve of his appointment as Ambassador to Brazil, William Powell,
a French diplomat, receives a threatening note demanding payment of a
million franc debt, of which he knew nothing. Vladimar Sokoff, the
extortionist, is brought to trial and bases his defense on the claim
that the debt is a just one and the Powell was really "Jean
Pelletier," a notorious criminal, who had borrowed money from him in
1919, and then disappeared. Dr. Felix Bressart, Powell's friend,
testifies that Powell had been injured many years ago, causing him to
remember nothing of his life previously to the accident. Through
Claire Trevor, a cabaret singer, the defense substantiates its claim,
that he was Pelletier. She intimates that Powell was her long-lost
lover. But the surprise testimony of Basil Rathbone puts a stop to the
trial when he testifies that he had been with Pelletier the night he
died. Sokoloff is pronounced guilty, and Powell's name is cleared.
Rathbone visits Powell, reveals that his testimony was false,
declares that Powell is actually Pelletier, and that he, Rathbone, was
his accomplice in the old days. He further reveals that he is the
blackmailer and that the million francs demanded is due him from a
robbery both had committed, in which the victim was murdered. Through
a series of blackmailing attempts engineered by Rathbone and Miss
Trevor, Powell begins to believe their story. He is further shaken
when Miss Trevor shows him a photo of himself in an intimate pose with
her. Powell does not inform Hedy Lamarr, his wife, of his troubles,
but sensing his danger she persuades Dr. Bressart to speak with him.
Powell learns from the doctor that the injury he suffered was o the
right side of the head, the side on which his hair was parted. Because
of the stitches, his hair was now parted on the left side. recalling
that the picture Miss Trevor had shown him had his hair parted on the
left side, Powell realizes that it was a recent photo of him, and that
it was a fake. With the aid of the police, he cleverly traps the
Audience Slant: (Adult)
Grade "A" entertainment with William Powell at his best; will hold
interest to the last flicker.
Box-Office Slant: With the names and story this picture
boasts, it should be a strong box-office bet.
Plot: A newly-wed diplomat in the French Foreign Office
finds himself in a quandary when he receives a threatening note from
an extortioner who claims the diplomat is really a notorious petty
criminal who disappeared years before. To save himself from disgrace
and restore his peace of mind, he and his young wife find a solution
to the problem.
Comment: This is first-rate entertainment of the kind that
will please in any situation, for the portrayals are excellent, the
story is intensely interesting and the picture has deep human appeal.
With such names as William Powell and Hedy Lamarr added, it is bound
to be a strong box-office attraction. Hedy Lamarr furnishes the
and very well, too, and William Powell does superbly with his
portrayal of the French diplomat. The scenes between Hedy and Powell
will be enjoyed by most adults for they are beautifully played and
realistic enough to literally "carry away" the spectator. It's a
romantic mystery that holds interest to the last flicker, for no
matter how good an armchair detective one is, it's difficult to figure
out the ending. Jack Conway's direction is excellent, smoothing over
the talky spots. production values are of the usual high MGM order.
Using stills from the picture, offer free tickets to anyone who can
discover how William Powell solved the mystery. Tieup with dress and
jewelry shops. Run a contest for lobby, newspaper or windows, based on
the identification of drawings or photographs of stars.
Catchline: Was he a criminal ... or a diplomat?
— Showman's Trade Review, June 27, 1942
"On the whole, the story is rather neat and of the type of melodrama
there used to be a lot of in the days when people had to go to the movies
for their excitement." David Lardner, The New Yorker, August 1, 1942,
Sarrou stealing money from the safe
Sarrou is caught!
In addition to being a beautiful actress,
Hedy Lamarr was an inventor. She is in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, noted for having invented
frequency-hopping spread spectrum, the tech used in wifi and
Bluetooth. For more info, see
See Page Two for more screenshots from the
film. See Page Three for pictures of posters,
lobby cards and promo photos.
William Powell ...
Dr. Andre Tessier
Reginald Owen ...
Dr. Alex Benoit
Guy Bates Post ...
President of Court
Baron de Lorraine
Frank Conroy ...
James Rennie ...
Harry Fleischmann ...
Asst. Defense Attorney
Enrique Acosta ...
Jean Del Val ...
Edwin H. Knopf
Guy Trosper (based on a story by John Kafka and Howard Emmet Rogers)
Edwin B. Willis
Assoc. Art Director ...
John S. Detlie
Asst. Director ...
Technical Advisor ...
Makeup artist ...
Images on this page and pages 2 and 3 are from the film Crossroads, copyright 1942.