The news from Beverly Hills is that producers are telling scriptwriters to 'think French'. This is a relief. For years, a British accent in a mainstream movie served as cinematic shorthand for shiftiness or downright evil. Now we can at least hope for a return to an older cinematic tradition in which the British are loyal sidekicks, chirpy corporals or colonels in the mould of David Niven.
For decades, the US love affair with France was sustained by admiration for its culture, food and wine. A visit to Paris has long been the ultimate stamp of sophistication among the US middle classes. It is hard to pinpoint when things began to change. It was certainly before September 11, as populist politics pursued by Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and now his son, sought to link liberalism with elitism and the hint of foreign conspiracy.