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De Lesseps is a young aristocrat who conceives the idea for the Suez Canal. When Napoleon fails him, the British show interest. Though the production values make the film entertaining its historical content is generally agreed to be awful. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
In an interview in the late 1970s, director Allan Dwan talked of the censorship battle he had with the Hays Office over the wet-shirt scene, in which Annabella's erect nipples are on prominent display. "I wanted them to show," he said. His argument with the Hays Office was, "Have you ever seen a nude woman? Ever seen your wife nude? There was nothing there that wasn't positively true to life ... you knew she was going to be sexy ... that's why you picked her. The audience knows. This is my idea of giving it to them. All women are alike - they can go to the mirror and see that anytime." The matter was dropped as re-shooting the scene would have cost too much as the studio would have had to rebuild the entire set. Dwan said that his nemesis, studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck, was pleased with the picture. See more »
Entertaining, if fairly flawed, look at Ferdinand de Lesseps (Tyrone Power) and the lose of his love (Loretta Young), which sends him off on a quest to build the Suez Canal. Along his mission he encounters political issues and a natural disaster as he tries to complete the work. There's no question that this movie was made to cash in on the wave of disaster flicks that followed the success of SAN FRANCISCO. Power and Fox had made one the previous year in IN OLD CHICAGO so they tried their luck again and for the most part it worked. I think there are some major problems with the screenplay and a lot of this is around the romance with Young's Countess Eugenie de Montijo. I never really bought her in the role and it's interesting that Young knew her role wasn't all that important so she made the studio agree to let her do her own costumes. This is important because the costumes that were designed for her were so large that many of the sets had to be redone just so she could fit through them. Her costumes certainly outshines her character and I also felt that Young just didn't feel too comfortable with the role, which I believe is the first time I've said that about my favorite actress. The screenplay also doesn't seem to know if it wants to center on the love story, the political stuff or the actual building of the canal. In the end I think the screenplay bites off much more than it can chew but there's still plenty here to enjoy. The best thing going for the film is some tremendous special effects that show up at the very end when a sand storm hits the crew as they're working. The effects are incredibly realistic, for the most part, and there are many times where you'll be asking yourself how they pulled off the trick. There are a couple terrific sequences where large drums of water fall over and take people with them that was very intense. This also leads to an incredibly powerful finale that I won't ruin but how it plays out on the love story was very effective. Power is his typical good self as he manages to be very believable in the role but he's also quite charming and he certainly knows how to woo the ladies. The real star of the movie is Annabella who is simply magnificent in the role of the girl who falls in love with Power but must sit behind the Young character. I thought Annabella did a terrific job with the accent, the charm, the flirtatious nature and she just really made a complete character and nailed every inch of it. Her scenes at the end with Power are extremely effective and really take the film to another level. As with many of the disaster films from this era (and the 70s for that matter) there's way too much story than what was probably needed but the performances and effects make this worth sitting through.
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