This film has been on my to-watch list for years, one major reason being that it stars one of my favourite actors, the very attractive Stewart Granger. It also stars, opposite Granger, the beautiful Jean Simmons, whom he was to go on to marry the year after Adam and Evelyne was released. Plus, what I’d read of this film sounded enticing—romantic, somewhat Daddy Long-Legs style, just the sort of film that would appeal to me.
Adam and Evelyne begins with a very brief introduction to Evelyne (Jean Simmons), a teenager at an orphanage. Evelyne is immediately likeable, as she goes about tucking younger children into bed: checking for monsters under one timid child’s bed, kissing another good night, and yelling at all of them to shut up when they burst into conversation as soon as she’s shut the door behind her. She’s sweet, she’s kind, but she’s also by no means the shrinking violet or the welcome mat.
Evelyne, however, has one aching dream: to be finally with her father. She has no memories of him—he left her at the orphanage too long back for her to remember—but he keeps sending her letters, telling her all about his life, and promising her that he will come someday soon to take her from the orphanage.
The other girls don’t believe a word; they think this is all a fabrication. But Evelyne lives on in hope, clutching the photo of himself that her father’s sent her.
The scene now shifts to a posh apartment in London, where—over the course of the next few scenes—we discover the truth. The man (Stewart Granger) whom Evelyne knows as her father through his photo is an ex-colonel named Adam Black. Adam isn’t married, though he has long been having an affair with the worldly-wise and chic Moira Hannon (Helen Cherry). He is certainly not Evelyne’s father…
…though he is the best friend of her father, an inveterate gambler and jockey named Chris Kirby (Fred Johnson). Chris, Adam, and Adam’s butler and general manservant, Bill Murray (Edwin Styles) were in the war together, and though the war is now over, they still stick together. Murray (along with Moira and a couple of other people) helps Adam run an illegal gambling hall, the location of which keeps switching between the apartments of the people involved. It’s a lucrative business, and Adam is able to maintain himself in style.
One day, Chris turns up, telling Adam about an upcoming race in which he (Chris) plans to make himself a good amount of money. It involves staging an accident—Chris will be ‘thrown off his horse’. Adam is anxious and tries to warn Chris of the dangers involved, but Chris laughs it off.
Unfortunately, Adam’s fears prove to have been well-founded. Chris falls, and falls badly enough for it to prove fatal. As he’s dying, he manages to tell Adam to take care of his daughter for him.
Adam knows nothing of this girl (“Orphan Annie”, as Moira cattily refers to her), but out of a sense of duty—both towards Chris and towards the daughter Chris loved so much—he goes to the orphanage he’s been directed to.
There, things happen in quick succession, leaving Adam reeling. The headmistress, on being told that he’s Mr Black and that he’s come to meet Evelyne, is very pleased (Adam cannot, of course, understand why the woman should know who Mr Black is, and why he should be coming to meet Evelyne). And when Evelyne arrives, it’s in a state of high excitement. She flings herself around Adam’s neck and is so deliriously happy to finally meet her Daddy (she calls him that) that she can barely string two coherent sentences together.
But, from all that he does manage to hear, Adam realizes that Chris, foolish Chris, who was probably ashamed of his own relatively down-at-heel existence, has built up a dream father for Evelyne to revel in. Instead of describing himself and his life, instead of sending her his name and his photo, Chris has not just sent Evelyne Adam’s photo and Adam’s name, but has also written—in the twenty letters he’s sent her—about Adam. Evelyne’s perception of her father, therefore, is in reality Adam.
Now Evelyne is certain that her Daddy has come to take her home.
Adam isn’t prepared for this at all, but he cannot bring himself to shatter the girl’s illusions. She cannot be told, right now when she’s so happy, that her father, far from being the debonair and wealthy gentleman, was a poor and luckless jockey who is now dead.
Eventually, not being able to find any way out, Adam brings a still-ecstatic Evelyne home. Bill Murray (dazed, but game to help carry on the deception) makes up a room for her, and before they realize it, Evelyne has settled in.
And how! She wakes up at an unearthly hour (6 in the winter, 5.30 in the summer, as per the orphanage’s rules), she sings loudly and off-key, she doesn’t know that it’s perfectly all right to shut the bathroom door—they weren’t allowed to, in the orphanage—and she is elated at all the new clothes Adam buys for her. Her joie de vivre is infectious, too: Adam finds himself pulled into a mad scramble across London, travelling in a bus instead of a car, going sightseeing, getting wet in the rain…
And he cannot bring himself to break the illusion that he is her father. When Bill tries to push him, Adam pushes back and asks Bill to tell Evelyne instead. And Bill, when the time comes, chickens out, too—all he manages to tell Evelyne is that her father would rather she didn’t call him Daddy, but Adam. Evelyne is a little taken aback, but complies, readily enough. After all, as she tells Adam, he doesn’t look old enough to be her father.
This sudden relationship has not gone unnoticed among Adam’s neighbours, who are—in their own genteel way—curious: who is this girl, after all?
Among Adam’s gambling cronies, too, there is speculation about Evelyne. Moira, especially, is annoyed and jealous; she cannot see why Adam has not been able to tell Evelyne yet that she is Chris’s daughter, not his, and that Chris is dead.
Matters come to a head when, one evening, one of the gambling regulars pays up his dues with a family heirloom—a fine sapphire brooch. Moira, admiring it (it is now Adam’s property) passes broad hints that it matches her sapphire earrings. Adam, however, ignores this, and instead gifts the brooch to Evelyne, who is thrilled. She’s never had anything as grand as this before. Moira, when she discovers this, decides enough is enough, and offers to be the one to step in, to let Evelyne know the truth: that Adam is not her father.
Moira also suggests the way forward: that Evelyne be sent off to a finishing school for the time being. God knows she needs it. Adam, who sees the sound logic in this (if not the jealousy) agrees.
So the deed is done, and Adam, walking past Evelyne’s door after Moira’s departure, hears heartbroken sobbing.
He tries to resist the temptation to go in and offer comfort, but gives in.
Evelyne is soon comforted; she had been thinking she would be sent back to the orphanage, and here she’s been the happiest she’s ever been—and now, when Adam tells her that she, being the daughter of his best friend, has as much right to stay here as Chris did, Evelyne is happy again. She is even happier when she finds that she is to go off to finishing school. That will be fun!
So she does, and two years pass. These are punctuated by exuberant letters (accompanied by blurry photos of her) from Evelyne to Adam, telling him of all she’s been up to.
And then one day, Evelyne comes home. She’s grown up. She’s unsettlingly lovely. And Adam slowly begins to realize that Evelyne is not the child any more he had thought her.
What will happen is fairly predictable (this is a romance, after all, in the Mills and Boon tradition), but how the happy ending comes about is what makes Adam and Evelyne such a satisfying film.
What I liked about this film:
The way the relationship between Adam and Evelyne develops. I like that the camaraderie between them, from pretty much the beginning, is believable: she trusts him (and he is worthy of that trust), so much that even when Evelyne is finally told by Moira that Adam isn’t her father, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. It’s not as if Evelyne is suddenly shy of Adam, or that Adam flinches from comforting her. The same happens when she returns from Switzerland, all beautiful woman: he gawps at her, unabashedly admiring, but the warmth and trust, the occasional leg-pulling, is still there.
Also part of the charm of this film is in the two lead characters. Evelyne may be naïve and child-like in her innocence, but she’s not childish—and when, back from Switzerland and an adult, she still retains a good deal of her innocence. Not a lack of awareness, but a lack of jadedness; a belief and a trust in goodness.
Adam, on his part, makes for an interesting hero. He seems to be all that Evelyne has been warned against in her staid upbringing at the orphanage (a gambler, a man having an affair with a woman who is technically married, even if she’s long separated from her husband; a man, too, who lies and breaks the law), but dig deep enough, and you can see that there’s more to him. His affection for an orphan, his reluctance to break her heart, his generosity, his easy friendliness towards Evelyne: all make Adam Black very appealing indeed.
And the fact that Stewart Granger doesn’t look horribly old (he was 36 when the film was made, to Jean Simmons’s 20) helps make it a more palatable not-quite-December and May romance. Rather more like June and October. The chemistry between the leads was another factor in this film’s likeability as far as I was concerned: they seemed to really like being with each other, no matter if it was doing something pure fun, or the dreamy-eyed romance of the very last scene.
What I didn’t like:
Nothing, actually. This ticked all the boxes for me and left me with a goofy smile on my face.