Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
In 1930, in Belgium, Gabrielle van der Mal is the stubborn daughter of the prominent surgeon Dr. Pascin Van Der Mal that decides to leave her the upper-class family to enter to a convent, ... See full summary »
By 1812, Napoleon's forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Among the Russian soldiers are Count Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Count Pierre Bezukhov, a friend of Andrei's and self-styled intellectual who is not interested in fighting. Pierre's life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov, Nicholas's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene. The marriage ends when Pierre discovers his wife's true nature. Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. Months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if they postpone it for one year until Natasha turns 17. While Andrei is away on a military mission, ... Written by
The first draft of the screenplay was 506 pages, over 5 times the size of an average screenplay. See more »
When Natasha is sitting next the dying Prince Andrei's bed, she leans her both hands on her legs. In the next shot, when Kolya enters in the room, her right hand is on the top of the bed pole. See more »
Time and patience. Patience and time. The Grand Army is wounded, but is it mortally wounded? An apple should not be plucked while it's green. Patience and time.
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Closing credits epilogue: The most difficult thing - but an essential one - is to love Life, to love it even while one suffers, because Life is all. Life is God, and to love Life means to love God. Tolstoy "WAR and PEACE" See more »
Any allusion to Tolstoy's masterpiece in connection with this film can only be considered libel. The film fails on virtually every level and bears no thematic, emotional, intellectual or philosophical relationship to that great novel. With so many flaws, all that remains is a perfectly ridiculous farce. But it is pretty.
One can gain a cursory introduction to Tolstoy's novel from this film, but little else. Tolstoy envisioned a colossal and sweeping epic of cultural upheaval amidst an intricate tapestry of human drama set against the French invasion of Russia by Napoleon. King Vidor seems to have in mind something a little more akin to a saccharin, tawdry melodrama with great costumes.
The casting decisions are completely incomprehensible. Although I adore Audrey Hepburn and, when properly cast, she was beyond compare, as the complex and conflicted Natasha Rostova her strengths become weaknesses. As the sprightly ingénue, or the naïve gamin, she set the screen on fire. Moreover, as she was, in fact, an aristocrat, her regal bearing is sublime.
There are, however, qualities in the great characters of Russian literature that were simply not within Hepburn's repertoire. Her memorable turn as Holly Golightly may have transformed Capote's layered character into a shallow, though thoroughly delightful, scatterbrain, but her incomparable radiance made it all worthwhile. Sadly, a similarly simplified Natasha did not play as well.
Hepburn's then husband, Mel Ferrer, was equally miscast as the vain and sardonic Prince Andrei. To be fair, he would have been miscast in any serious role, as he was a positively dreadful actor, but like most of the cast, he fails to reflect any of the impact that war can have on people's lives or the epic cultural shifts that were taking place in Russia at the time.
Neither of these sins can hold a candle, however, to the casting of Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov. First, he was, by his own acknowledgment, far too long in the tooth for the role, which he says he merely took for the money. More to the point, his bumpkin blank stares and cloying American earnestness, and a ubiquitous curiously pained expression that defies explanation, his stock in trade in more successful efforts, smother any subtlety that the role requires. Wandering through epic battles like a cow grazing mindlessly in a football field, he could not be more ridiculous. Granted Pierre's application of gematria to determine that Napoleon was the Biblical Antichrist may have been a bit much to put on the big screen in 1956, but are we truly to accept Fonda's placid counting to one thousand to keep his feet from freezing as a reasonable substitute? I suppose that had the film been called "Pretty French and Russian Uniforms" it would have been less objectionable and certainly more honest, but then who would have watched it? As "War and Peace" it is more epic failure than truly epic.
In one scene Fonda as Pierre stands inexplicably on a great battlefield and mutters, "Damn you Napoleon. Damn you to hell." He should have directed this curse at King Vidor, the true villain of the piece, for squandering the legitimate talents of Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda and, one must not forget, Leo Tolstoy on this travesty. Damn you King Vidor. Damn you to hell.
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