(1942), 82 min. b&w 

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 the blackmailer.

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 Jean Pelletier.

But Henri Sarrou, a wine salesman, counters M. Allaine's testimony. He says that Talbot is not Jean Pelletier, and he presents a document supposedly proving 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 wrong.

"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. David 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.

Click here to see a video clip on the Turner Classic Movies website:

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 gathering. 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!"

Michelle confesses.

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 Edwin Knopf.

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 situation.

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 Margaret Wycherly.

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

"Meet me tonight and bring 1 million francs."


"Smooth, clever tale." — Leonard Maltin, film critic,


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 blackmailers.

Harrison's Reports, June 27, 1942, p. 103


"Crossroads is an overlooked but absorbing treatment of related issues, not always believable but directed and acted with unfailing panache." — David Sterritt, "Crossroads," Turner Classic Movies,

"Have you got the money?"


"... in the shadows lurks the aquiline silhouette of mighty Rathbone, stalwart heavy of Victorian mellers. ... The script is maturely engaging and thought provoking without needing to rely on cheap thrills or sudsy sentiment." — Erich Kuersten,



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 glamour, 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, p. 41

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.


Basil Rathbone ... Henri Sarrou
William Powell ... David Talbot
Hedy Lamarr ... Lucienne Talbot
Claire Trevor ... Michelle Allaine
Felix Bressart ... Dr. Andre Tessier
Margaret Wycherly ... Mme. Pelletier
Reginald Owen ... Concierge
Philip Merivale ... Police Commissionaire
Sig Rumann ... Dr. Alex Benoit
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Le Duc
H.B. Warner ... Prosecuting Attorney
Guy Bates Post ... President of Court
Fritz Leiber ... Deval
John Mylong ... Baron de Lorraine
Frank Conroy ... Defense Attorney
James Rennie ... Martin
Bertram Marburgh ... Landers
Harry Fleischmann ... Asst. Defense Attorney
Louis Montez ... Associate Judge
Octavio Giraud ... Associate Judge
Enrique Acosta ... Associate Judge
Adolph Favlauer ... Associate Judge
Jean Del Val ... Court Clerk
Paul Weigel ... Old Man
Torben Meyer ... Old Man
Production Company ... MGM
Producer ... Edwin H. Knopf
Director ... Jack Conway
Screenplay ... Guy Trosper (based on a story by John Kafka and Howard Emmet Rogers)
Cinematographer ... Joseph Ruttenberg
Film Editing ... George Boemler
Music Composer ... Bronislau Kaper
Set Decorator ... Edwin B. Willis
Recording Director ... Douglas Shearer
Art Director ... Cedric Gibbons
Assoc. Art Director ... John S. Detlie
Costumes ... Robert Kalloch
Asst. Director ... Al Shenberg
Orchestrator ... Leonid Raab
Technical Advisor ... Felix Bernstein
Makeup artist ... Jack Dawn

Images on this page and pages 2 and 3 are from the film Crossroads, copyright 1942.


Crossroads is available on DVD

 Order from




click to go to top of page
Top of

Site Map

All original content is © Marcia Jessen, 2017