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William A. Seiter
Italy, 1757. Lowly tailor Pippo Popolino disguises himself as the great Casanova in order to romance attractive widow Francesca. He little suspects what he's getting into: locked into the incongruous role by the desperation of the real Casanova's creditors, Pippo must journey to Venice on a delicate mission far beyond his capabilities. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT (Norman Z. McLeod, 1954) **1/2
One of Bob Hope's last big-budget studio productions is an elaborate yet rather patchy costumer in Technicolor, with the star only impersonating the famed Venetian lothario (he's played, briefly, by an uncredited Vincent Price!). The film, in fact, has a truly imposing supporting cast (Joan Fontaine, Basil Rathbone, Hugh Marlowe, John Carradine, John Hoyt, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr and Paul Cavanaugh among others) which, however, doesn't really allow any of them to shine while embarrassing somewhat Fontaine (an unlikely comedienne) and Rathbone (in the equally undignified role of Casanova's long-suffering valet); for the record, horror icon Chaney appears in a bit as a crazed prisoner.
The plot has tailor's assistant Hope offering to replace the fleeing and debt-ridden Casanova; he's subsequently involved in a scheme wherein a lady is to be compromised and in which the warmongering Doge of Venice (with the aid of advisers Carradine and Burr, who are naturally just as unscrupulous) sees an opportunity to start a war with a neighboring state. The film offers typical routines and lines for the star (he even gets to appear in drag) which, ultimately, may be its problem as this is clearly a case of 'we've been here once too often' (even if his most obvious earlier title in this vein, MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE , I've yet to catch in its entirety); having said that, Hope did previously star in a film called THE GREAT LOVER (1949) which I've haven't seen either but in it he played a private eye.
Incidentally, the character of Casanova is certainly among the more popular in cinema a subject attracting to it all kinds of stars (not to mention a bevy of beauties) and film-makers: from Riccardo Freda and Vittorio Gassman to Luigi Comencini and Leonard Whiting, from Federico Fellini and Donald Sutherland to Ettore Scola and Marcello Mastroianni not to mention Michael Sarrazin (under the direction of "Euro-Cult" stalwart Enzo G. Castellari), Tony Curtis, Richard Chamberlain and all the way down to the recent Lasse Hallstrom-Heath Ledger outing.
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