At Maria Vargas' funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards ... See full summary »
Matt Brennan runs into Jo Holloway, the Red Cross girl he romanced in Europe when he was a flyer in World War II, when he is offered a job by jet manufacturer Leland Willis as a test pilot.... See full summary »
At Maria Vargas' funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards scouted her at a shabby nightclub where she worked as a flamenco dancer. He convinces her to take a chance on acting and her first film is a huge hit. PR man Oscar Muldoon remembers when Maria was in court supporting her father who was accused of murdering her mother. It was Maria's testimony that got him off and she was a bigger star than ever. Alberto Bravano, one of the richest men is South America, sets his sights on Maria she goes off with him - as much to make Edwards angry as anything - but he treats her badly. When she meets Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini they fall deeply in love. They are married but theirs is not to be a happy life. Written by
Mankiewicz wanted James Mason, whom he had just directed in "Julius Caesar," for the part of the nobleman. MGM executive Nicholas Schenck, who had had a vehement disagreement with the director, would not release Mason for the film. According to Mankiewicz, he ended up with Rossano Brazzi, "who cannot act, cannot be sensual... could hardly speak English..." Ironically, Rosemary Matthews, who was hired to help Brazzi with his English, and Mankiewicz later married. See more »
Harry addresses Maria's dressing room with a lit cigarette in his right hand. In the next shot the cigarette is in his mouth. See more »
"Life, every now and then, behaves as though it had seen too many bad movies, when everything fits too well - the beginning, the middle, the end - from fade-in to fade-out."
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Ava Gardner carries herself--and the film--beautifully.
"The Barefoot Contessa" is a greatly underrated film--which is rather surprising, when you consider the amount of talent involved. First, there's the brilliant script by Joe Mankiewicz, who was always at his best when dissecting Hollywood and its denizens. The movie's best scene may be the Hollywood party where Kirk Edwards gets his comeuppance, all booze, boredom and viciousness ("What she's got, you can't spell. And what you've got, you used to have."); although the scenes of the pathetic/glamorous European jet set are also excellent, the way Mankiewicz can create a small line or gesture that delineates an entire character. Really, the only time his touch fails him is toward the end, when Maria meets her Count and things get a bit melodramatic.
Also magnificent is the cinematography by the always-brilliant Jack Cardiff, who invests everything with color-drenched glamour. (Did you know that, along with shooting such visual masterpieces as "Black Narcissus," "The Red Shoes" and "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman," Cardiff was also the cinematogrpaher on "Rambo: First Blood." Yikes.) Edmond O'Brien won a well-deserved Academy Award for his portrayal of the sleazy PR man Oscar Muldoon, managing to bring hints of depth and dimension to a character that could have easily been pure caricature. Another fine, if brief, supporting turn comes from Mari Aldon as Edwards' long-suffering mistress, Myrna (especially her "I'm just a scared tramp" exit line).
Still, what makes this film work is the presence and performance of Ava Gardner. See "The Barefoot Contessa" and you will understand why many have thought her to be the most beautiful woman ever to grace the screen. She is simply breathtaking. Ava's appearance alone is enough to give credibility to Maria Vargas' legendary magnetism--and, without that, the whole film would fail, as it's really just about three men standing around one woman's coffin, wondering that made her tick--but it's her work as an actress that raises the character from beautiful blank to irresistible enigma. Even when her dialogue is a bit trite and soap-opera, she manages to make it believable by making shallowness appear to conceal depth (if you get what I mean), and even does a fine job with the accent. This was the film that earned her the tag "the world's most beautiful animal," but Ava Gardner was much more than that.
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