Frenchman's Creek is a 1944 film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, about an aristocratic English woman who falls in love with a French pirate. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and starred Joan Fontaine, Arturo de Córdova, Basil Rathbone, Cecil Kellaway, and Nigel Bruce. Filmed in Technicolor, it was directed by Mitchell Leisen. The musical score was by Victor Young, who incorporated the main theme of French composer Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune as the love theme for the film.
The film is a mostly faithful adaptation of the novel, taking place during the reign of Charles II in the mid-17th century, mostly in the Cornish region of England.
Fontaine was under contract to independent producer to David O. Selznick, who produced only a few films each year. Typically, he loaned out his contract players and director Alfred Hitchcock (who had a contract with Selznick from 1940 to 1947) to other studios. In this case, Fontaine was loaned to Paramount for this lavish production. She later complained about her work with director Leisen and some of her costars. The film's budget of $3.6 million made it the most expensive production in Paramount history up to that time.
Cast members Rathbone and Bruce were well known for appearing together as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively, in the Sherlock Holmes films by Universal Studios. Frenchman's Creek was their only on-screen collaboration besides the Holmes films.
Although the film has not been released on DVD, it has been shown on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies.
Joan Fontaine - Dona St. Columb
Arturo de Córdova - Jean Benoit Aubrey
Basil Rathbone - Lord Rockingham
Nigel Bruce - Lord Godolphin
Cecil Kellaway - William
Ralph Forbes - Harry St. Columb
Harald Maresch - Edmond (as Harald Ramond)
Billy Daniel - Pierre Blanc (as Billy Daniels)
Moyna Macgill - Lady Godolphin
Patricia Barker - Henrietta
David James - James
Charles Coleman - Thomas, the footman
David Clyde as Martin, the coachman
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film "somewhat slow in starting", but observed that the production values were suitably extravagant and invited readers to "catch a post-chaise to the Rivoli and check your think-cap at the door if you want a two-hour excursion in fancy-pants cloak-and-sword escape." Variety agreed that the production values were "ultra", but found that the script "at times borders on the ludicrous". Harrison's Reports called it "A good costume entertainment" with "a fair quota of thrills ... It does, however, have many slow spots, and some judicious cutting would help matters considerably." John Lardner of The New Yorker wrote: "Not having read the Daphne du Maurier novel called Frenchman's Creek, I am powerless to say how it compares with the picture of the same name. My guess, like any gallant fellow's, would be that it compares favorably."
The film won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté, Sam Comer).