Adam and Evelyne (a.k.a. Adam and Evalyn) is a strange film in the sense that it feels like it should be weirder than it is, but unusual and, let’s be honest, questionable elements are not overly dramatized or pushed in our faces. Here is a movie that could have been an ethical disaster but is instead far more sweet and charming than I would have expected. It’s matter-of-fact, refreshingly simple, and – most important of all – it’s entertaining.
The hero of the story is Adam Black (as played by the marvelous Stewart Granger), the leader of an illegal gambling operation in London. Throughout the film, the illegality of Adam’s business is treated lightly, as were all the heavier subjects. This left me feeling a little unsatisfied, but because the writers didn’t feel the need to dwell, the result was a film that was low on angst and high on entertainment.
When one of Adam’s close friends, racing jockey Chris Kirby (Fred Johnson), is killed when he “falls” off his horse, throwing a race, Adam is left to care for Kirby’s daughter. This is Evelyne Wallace (Jean Simmons), a young girl who has lived her whole life in an orphanage, not knowing her father at all until he recently located her, and they began exchanging letters. There’s just one little problem, though, as Adam soon discovers: Kirby, perhaps feeling ashamed of his lowly circumstances, wrote to Evelyne using Adam’s name and even sending his picture to her.
Adam tries to explain the misunderstanding, but when he sees how lonely Evelyne is and how happy she is to be united with her “father,” he can’t bring himself to tell her the truth. So he brings her home, where her youth and lively manners quickly captures not only his affection, but that of his friend and butler/housekeeper, Bill Murray (a scene-stealing Edwin Stiles). Bill finds telling her the truth just as difficult as Adam did, and so the two bachelors are stuck with the ruse for awhile, even coming to enjoy it to a degree.
The truth eventually is told, however, and the knowledge of her real father’s gambling problem (and how it contributed to his death), enforces Evelyne’s disgust toward gambling. Good thing Adam has never told her what he really does for a living! Or is it…?
Evelyne goes to abroad to study for two years, and when she returns, Adam finds himself torn between his role as protector and his own growing love for the woman she has become.
Sounds squicky, right? The age gap doesn’t bother me, but the fact that he’s been a father figure to her does make me squirm a bit. I’m still not sure if I’m relieved or disappointed that the movie failed to acknowledge this, but I’m leaning toward relief. I wasn’t in the mood for melodrama tonight. I wanted a light, funny movie, and that is exactly what I got.
The story is fast-paced and told with wit and charm, and I’ll be honest: Adam and Evelyne made an adorable pair. More than the romance, though, the real love story of this film felt like the familial love that grew between Adam, Evelyne, and Bill. Their’s was a sweet and often hilariously bemused makeshift family that melted my heart, and despite any glossing over that might have gone on plot-wise, I’m calling the film a success for giving its audience such a delightful little household. I’ll definitely be returning to this one, as I can’t get enough of the two doting bachelors and the young girl who waltzed in and claimed their hearts.