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Circa 1861, Angelina, ruling countess of an Italian principality, is at a loss when invaded by a Hungarian army. Her lookalike ancestress Francesca, who saved a similar situation 300 years before, comes to life from a portrait to help her descendant. Complicating factor: the newlywed countess feels strangely drawn to the handsome invader... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Betty Grable is "That Lady in Ermine" in this 1948 musical, also starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cesar Romero, Reginald Gardner, and Walter Abel.
Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that Lubitsch directed this. And in fact, he died eight days into production and the film was finished by Otto Preminger. The story is taken from a 1922 musical, and originally Lubitsch wanted Jeanette MacDonald for the role; Zanuck wanted Gene Tierney; finally Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer were announced, but it didn't happen.
Grable has a dual role here, as Angelina in 1861 and her ancestor Francesca, from 1561, whose portrait hangs in the great hall. Angelina has just been married to Count Mario, who, as soon as they get into her quarters, is called to action against Hungarian invaders. The Hungarians also invaded 300 years ago, and Francesca was able to save the castle. Can her ancestor do it again, in spite of feeling attracted to the handsome colonel (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.)? The film takes us into the past and back into the present, and it's a lush, gorgeous production. Grable's gowns are exquisite, and she looks gorgeous. Someone here noted she was past her prime (at the ripe old age of 31) and a little plump. She sure didn't look it to me, she looks fantastic. The color in the film is eye-popping as well.
There is really no music to speak of, except for a couple of songs that are continually repeated. There are some funny bits, and it's a fine cast. The ancestors step out of their portraits and come to life, and at one point, Fairbanks is dubbed and sings gloriously in an operatic tenor voice. Fairbanks is wonderful; Grable is perhaps a little too vanilla for the role, but she gives the role a youthful energy. Other than Tierney, the other stars, who were legit sopranos, were a bit older. The story, what there was of it, really needed the lightness Grable gave it.
See it for incredible color and costumes and a fine cast. The music and the story aren't of much consequence - it's nice postwar fluff.
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