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Mr. Imperium represented two efforts by MGM to make Ezio Pinza a film star on the strength of the great critical acclaim that he got from his Broadway starring role in South Pacific. Maybe if he had made the film version of South Pacific back then things might have worked out differently for him. But it was still running on Broadway albeit without Pinza at the time and by the time the film was made another studio made it and Ezio Pinza was very unavailable.
The film concerns a crown prince and a nightclub performer before World War II who meet at an Italian resort. Lana Turner with vocals dubbed by Trudy Erwin is the performer and Pinza the crown prince who goes incognito with the name of Mr. Imperium. They meet and fall in love, but when his father is on death's door, duty in the person of Prime Minister Cedric Hardwicke intervenes.
World War II and revolution have made Pinza an ex-King and the years were kinder to Turner who became a film star. They meet again at a private resort run by Marjorie Main and her daughter Debbie Reynolds and things do rekindle much to the distress of Turner's patient and long suffering director Barry Sullivan. Will things finally go right for them this time?
Mr. Imperium is not a bad film, but it was hardly the vehicle to launch a film career with. Harold Arlen and Dorothy Fields wrote some original songs for the film, but nothing of the caliber of the Rodgers&Hammestein score Pinza was singing on Broadway.
According to Edward Epstein's book about Lana Turner things were most formal on the set of Mr. Imperium after Turner rebuffed Pinza's advances. And he apparently put on quite the campaign to woo her, but Lana wasn't having any. This all probably had the effect of a most pedestrian performance by her.
Pinza did so much better on stage with South Pacific and later Fanny, too bad he didn't do that film either.
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