I had intended checking this out in conjunction with Riccardo Freda's THE MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURER (1963), involving the same historical figure, as part of a previous Easter marathon (it being the very first entry for the current year); actually, I now watched it on the birthday of director LaCava, but also as a supplement to my Oscar season viewing (the film was up for four Academy Awards)!
I had been wary of getting to it during a period when I tend to watch large-scale movies due to its being labeled a bedroom romp, albeit in costume; as such, this factor was more than proved right but, at least, a full-on sword-wielding brawl (apart from other swashbuckling feats that are mentioned but left to the viewer's imagination) does come into play in the first act! Anyway, the picture is stylish, witty and starrily cast: Fredric March (in one of his few efforts in this vein, but to which his intrinsically stagy acting is well suited) incarnates the philandering goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, Constance Bennett (who has her eyes on the hero!) and Frank Morgan are the Duchess and (henpecked) Duke of Florence, Fay Wray the protagonist's latest conquest (whom Morgan also romantically pursues!) and Louis Calhern appears as the court's inevitably scheming adviser. Morgan, typically the befuddled supplier of comedy relief but giving an undeniably splendid performance, was one of the Oscar nominees here: however, since the Supporting Actor category had not yet been incorporated into the ceremony, his was considered a leading role which ties in somewhat with the fact that, despite the title, it is Bennett who receives top billing here! The other nods were for Charles Rosher's cinematography, Richard Day's art direction and the sound recording.
It was certainly interesting to watch a period rendition of a Lubitsch- type sophisticated comedy; yet, in this way, the end result falls rather between two stools: the pace is decidedly slow (despite its trim 79- minute duration) for what ordinarily would be played as breakneck farce, whereas it gives little insight into what ultimately made Cellini's name (choosing instead to depict him as a wily roguish sort in the Don Juan mould pardon the pun)! The finale, though, is pure "Pre-Code" with the Florentine rulers installing their respective lovers in different palaces they officially use for a particular time of year!
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