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Diane de Poitiers is in a childless marriage with count de Breze. When he is charged with treason, Diane visits king Francis I to successfully plead for her husband's life, something that start a rumor that she has offered her own services in return. Her husband reject her, leading Francis to ask her to come to the royal court to teach prince Henry how to be a gentleman. The prince and Diane fall in love and she becomes the prince's mistress, something that makes his wife Catherine de Medici her enemy. When the prince becomes the king of France, Diane is wielding considerable influence over him. Written by
Lana Turner was a busy actress in the mid-Fifties, appearing in "The Sea Chase" at Warner Brothers, with John Wayne; in Twentieth-Century Fox's lavish remake of "The Rains Came," newly titled "The Rains of Ranchipur," co-starring with Richard Burton; and in her second-to-last at Metro, her long-time home studio, "The Prodigal," one of M-G-M's most expensive made-in-Hollywood spectacles. All were handsomely mounted in CinemaScope and color and all were at least moderately entertaining as well as flattering to the blonde beauty of their leading lady, "Luscious Lana." By the time "Diane" was being lensed on the Culver City soundstages in 1955, M-G-M was in straitened financial circumstances, though one would never know it by observing the deluxe production values liberally applied in the making of this costumer. One month after this picture's release in early 1956, Lana ended her eighteen year association with M-G-M and, for her, it was back to Twentieth for 1957's "Peyton Place" (and a Best Actress Oscar nomination) and thence to Universal-International where, in 1959, Lana and producer Ross Hunter began a run of some extraordinary good luck at the box office, beginning with the ultra-glossy updated remake of "Imitation of Life."
"Diane" provided Lana with a regal departure from M-G-M. All of the elements were liberally provided by M-G-M to support Lana's abilities and beauty. The property was originally planned as a Greta Garbo vehicle some years before; the eventual script was penned by Christopher Isherwood, from a story, departing from historical exactitude, as has always been Hollywood custom, by John Erskine; and visual elements were assigned to the studio's best, including costume designer Water Plunkett, who dressed Lana in a profusion of elaborate black gowns, since Diane is frequently in mourning for one noble or another as the story proceeds to the fadeout. Miklos Rozsa's score is one of his better efforts, sounding a bit less derivative of some of his earlier efforts at musically framing stories with historical settings. Additionally Lana's costars all turn in very professional work, with Marisa Pavan (the sister of the ill-fated actress Pier Angeli) especially effective as Diane's nemesis, Catherine de Medici. As an example of M-G-M's luxurious style of filmmaking, even while the studio teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, this is the kind of entertainment that is rarely reproduced in these sensation-seeking times.
The VHS version is no doubt "formatted" so, unless you are content to wait for a scheduling of this one on Turner Classic Movies, where it most likely would be letterboxed, "Caveat emptor!"
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