Paul Bonnard arrives in Timbuktu in search of a guide to escort him into the Sahara desert. American Joe January takes the job despite misgivings about Bonnard's plans. Dita, a prostitute who has been deeply moved by what appears to be Bonnard's spiritual nature, follows the two men into the desert. Eventually the trio arrives in the ruins of a lost city, where Bonnard hopes to find the treasure his father sought years earlier before disappearing. But what Bonnard finds alters him in unexpected ways, with tragic results. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While in the ruins Loren's dress is clearly torn near her right shoulder, both front and back. Then, while she and Wayne are walking through the desert, the dress is no longer torn. Then it is clearly torn again near the end of the film. See more »
Legend of the Lost is a film that could have been pretty good, but was destroyed because of the lack of chemistry between the leads, John Wayne and Sophia Loren. They don't relate or react to each other at all, and every "intimate" scene between them seems forced.
On the bright side, you have cinematographer Jack Cardiff's gorgeous on-location Technirama cinematography. The deserts of Libya never looked so good. And the script by Ben Hecht was actually quite good.
But Legend of the Lost is a member of an entire genre (or sub-genre) of films that might best be called "Two-person Films." That is, the entire film centers on two or three characters that are somehow isolated from society and exist on their own in some desolate or deserted place. John Huston was a master of this genre, and his films The African Queen and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison may very well be the best examples of the genre. Unfortunately for Legend of the Lost, this type of film mandates that there be great chemistry between the leads, or the whole film breaks down. Look at the great chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen and the great chemistry between Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. This is where Legend of the Lost begins to come apart. Wayne was an actor who was legendary for his ability to relate to his leading ladies on screen. Throughout his six decade long career, he played opposite a wide variety of actresses (from Jean Arthur to Marlene Dietrich to Lauren Bacall to Katharine Hepburn) and was able to light up the screen with just about all of them. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the chemistry between him and Loren just wasn't there. In hindsight, of course, its easy enough to clamor for Maureen O'Hara (who had done similar roles in the many "Arabian Knights" type adventure films she had spent most of the 40's doing), but I do give Wayne credit for taking a chance on the then almost unknown Loren. Unfortunately, things just didn't work out.
Veteran director Henry Hathaway directed Legend of the Lost, and after its failure placed most of the blame on Loren, saying something to the effect that she was gorgeous to look at, but wasn't a very good actress. Although he might have had a point, Hathaway was also likely trying to deflect blame away from himself for the failure. The fact remains that he failed to overcome the casting problems that beset the film. And this is why Hathaway is remembered as a good, but not great director (and I say this as Hathaway's biggest fan). The great directors have the ability to elevate a film above script and casting problems, and Hathaway failed to do that here. Of course, Hathaway would say that given the material and genre it would have been very hard, if not impossible to do that here. And he may very well be right. In hindsight it might have been better to get John Huston himself to direct the film, though considering Wayne and Huston's equally disastrous joint project The Barbarian and the Geisha was still waiting in the future, perhaps its better Huston wasn't involved here.
I've always felt that Legend of the Lost was Batjac's attempt at a "prestige picture." I think that Wayne was trying to impress the critics by producing an "artsy" film that would appeal to them, and when it failed, he went back to the familiar places and faces that he had found success with earlier in his career. It was probably a very wise decision on his part.
Legend of the Lost is not for everyone. With different casting the film could have become a classic. As it is, it survives best as a remembrance of "what might have been."
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