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The play, "The Firebrand of Florence," opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 15 October 1924 and closed in May 1925 after 261 performances. The opening night cast included Nana Bryant as the Duchess, Frank Morgan as Allessandro (same role as in the movie), Edward G. Robinson as Ottaviano and Joseph Schildkraut as Cellini. See more »
Benvenuto Cellini was a goldsmith in 16th-century Florence, and apparently he was also something of a hell-raiser and a swordsman (in the sexual sense as well as the literal one). However, it's my understanding that we have only Cellini's own memoirs (never published in his lifetime) as testimony of his sexual prowess. Fortunately, some of his artistic creations have survived, and they leave no doubt as to his skill as an artisan.
This movie is based on a play by Edwin Justus Mayer, which also inspired 'The Firebrand of Florence', a musical (with songs by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin) that flopped on Broadway in 1945. I wish I could have seen that musical instead of this movie. What's wrong with it? Well, there's lots of sumptuous Hollywood spectacle on view here, which is part of the problem. This is supposed to be 16th-century Italy, but everything is spotlessly clean and everybody has good teeth. Late in the film, we get a glimpse of brawny Dewey Robinson in a Prince Valiant wig, galumphing about as a poncy steward. I was more impressed by Vince Barnett as Cellini's dogsbody assistant, wearing a wig that conceals Barnett's lug-ears.
Some people enjoy Frank Morgan's performance. I don't, largely because he nearly always played a whinnying idiot. Here he's cast as the duke of Florence, who was apparently a whinnying idiot because that's how Morgan plays him. More impressive is Fay Wray, an actress of keen intelligence, who here very convincingly portrays a stupid peasant girl. The jumble of American accents are very annoying in this movie, constantly reminding us that this is 16th-century Florence by way of 20th Century-Fox.
Constance Bennett gets top billing, but the real draw here is definitely Fredric March, who plays Cellini in full swashbuckler mode. March's stunt double makes an impressive entrance through the ceiling. The sets and costumes throughout this film are elaborate and impressive, as is the camera work. Still, this is one of those annoying movies in which the hero is the only 'real' man, who invariably comes up trumps in every encounter. I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10. It probably would have been a better movie if the duke had been played by Ralph Morgan, a much better (and more versatile) actor than his brother Frank
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