Quai des Brumes Le (1938)
The Port of Shadows
On a foggy night a truck driver picks up a soldier Jean (Jean Gabin) who was standing in the road hitchhiking. Though he suspects the obvious that Jean is a deserter he agrees to give him a lift into town. As they near their destination the soldier grabs the wheel of the truck to keep the driver from running over a dog. The truck driver is incensed and expels the soldier from his truck. However Jean has made a new best friend the dog who follows him (throughout the rest of the film) even though he initially shoos him away.
The next scene is in a nightclub “The Little Joker”. Lucien (Pierre Brasseur) & another punk are threatening an older man Zabel (Michel Simon) trying to find the whereabouts of (their friend?) Maurice. But Zabel knows these boys & their families is unintimidated and leaves them. Outside the club he wants past a drunk who is scuffling with the doorman. A short time later Jean walks by the club and also runs into the drunk. The drunk strikes up a conversation and walks with him while Jean tries to avoid him until some police officers round the corner. The drunk helps hide Jean says he understands the situation and offers to take him to a place where he can stay for the night.
He takes Jean to a shack on the shore near the docks. The proprietor (Edouard Delmont) who has adopted the name Panama per the kind of hat he wears welcomes Jean. Panama is the type of man who asks no questions and is happy to meet and help someone new. A painter Michel (Robert Le Vigan) enters and philosophically discusses (his) life. Evidentially he is a starving type because as he explains it if he were to paid a swimmer he would draw him drowning. When Panama takes Jean into the backroom to give him something to eat he meets Nelly (Michele Morgan) who he assumes is a hooker. After they talk for a short time we hear shots being fired outside. Lucien and his friend(s) who yell “we know he’s in there” have fired them. However Panama won’t let them in chasing them away with shots of his own. When they leave we learn that Zabel is hiding on the front porch of the establishment and he asks to come in.
Peaking through the door from the backroom we learn that Nelly doesn’t want to be seen by Zabel. He is only there for a short time and then he leaves. Before Jean & Nelly leave he tells Panama that he could use a change of clothes (he has been wearing his uniform this whole time). Michel asks him his shoe size for no apparent reason. However after Jean has left with Nelly Michel decides that the soldier could have his shoes & clothes since he won’t need them anymore. He has given up. Panama is slow to realize that Michel has gone swimming to commit suicide but is “glad” to be able to give Jean what he needs.
That morning Lucien & friends are driving along the docks when they see Jean & Nelly sitting on a dock. “Hey that’s Nelly!”. They’ve been looking for her too and ask her what she knows about Maurice who she had been dating. When she refuses to help them Lucien gets rough with her until Jean intervenes. Lucien is unafraid given the odds but Jean’s single punch fells Lucien’s heavy and Jean then slaps Lucien’s face saying he’ll do the same if he sees him again. Lucien’s other friend and his own lack of courage keep Lucien from “plugging” (hand in coat with gun) the soldier right there. Jean & Nelly discuss meeting later at Panama’s and then she’s off.
The next scene is a Zabel’s shop. An embarrassed Lucien arrives with his friends and threatens him again; but again he is not intimidated. Now Lucien is ready to “plug” Zabel but his associates take him out & leave but not before telling Zabel that Nelly Zabel’s granddaughter was with a solider that slapped Lucien. Shortly thereafter Nelly arrives and we see that Zabel is a sleazy guardian who wants Nelly for himself now that she’s grown into a woman. Coincidentally Jean happens by the shop wanting to buy something nice for Nelly. Nelly comes into the shop from the back room and is obviously glad to see Jean. The three move into the living quarters and Nelly goes down to the cellar to get some wine. Down there she discovers Maurice’s cuff-links and after bringing the wine to Zabel the realization of what must have happened causes her to faint. She drops the cuff-links and Zabel retrieves them telling Nelly to go to her room when she awakens upset. Zabel then suggests to Jean that he could do him a favor by killing Lucien. This makes Jean angry and he leaves. Nelly catches him on the way out and they arrange to meet at a carnival at the end of the peer that night.
At Panama’s Jean receives the painter’s clothes and equipment and assumes his identity. He then arranges for transport out on a boat headed for Venezuela with the ship’s wannabe artist doctor. At the carnival that night Jean kisses Nelly for the first time. They run into Lucien again and again Jean slaps his face after a confrontation on a bumper car ride. Later we see that Jean and Nelly have spent the night together in a hotel over a café. The next morning Nelly reads the paper that says that Maurice’s body has been found. However they both know that Jean must leave on the boat and they say their goodbyes. The doctor welcomes Jean and his dog into his cabin on the ship and Jean secures the dog’s leash to a pole. He then weighs his option of freedom from his desertion versus his love for Nelly.
*** SPOILERS ***
Jean’s choice to return to Nelly will have tragic consequences. Meanwhile Nelly has returned to Zabel’s to confronted him about killing Maurice. So Zabel is fighting back while trying to rape her when Jean arrives in time to save her & kill Zabel. When he exits the shop Lucien who’s been laying in wait for him in his car shoots Jean and drives away. He dies in the street in Nelly’s arms as the dog who has escaped his bonds on the ship arrives.