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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."
I first saw this film on television as a kid in the 1960s and loved it. I have seen it many times since, and am now blessed to watch it on DVD in wide screen on an LCD display, and I continue to enjoy it. Okay, it has some corny lines, and Sophia is just too beautiful... but more than that, this film tells a wonderful story of broken promises, hidden agendas, and betrayal from others we believed were above reproach... and there is some terrific character development in the dialog, I feel I know these people. For me, it is one of the most atmospheric films I have come to know. I feel the hot Sahara sun in that Lybian desert, the wind blowing sand in my face, the coolness of the water in the oasis, and the quiet beauty of a desert twilight. This film is haunting to me... and it is one of my very favorites.
Legend of the Lost paired John Wayne and Sophia Loren for their one and
only teaming on the silver screen. Too bad it wasn't in a much better
film than this barely disguised rip off of Rain.
The setting for this film is French West Africa as it was then known in 1957 before it became several new African countries in a few years. The Duke is Joe January, a freebooting American expatriate who hires out as a guide on the desert.
Rossano Brazzi wants to hire Wayne as a guide to take him to a fabled lost city that he swears his father found out in the middle of the Sahara. The father disappeared on a return trip and Brazzi is also looking to find out what happened to him.
In Timbucktu both of them encounter Sophia Loren who's a working girl. She's got the both men going, but it's Brazzi she really loves. Brazzi's a spiritual sort of fellow, talking about doing some good for the native population. When they go out in the desert, she trails after them.
They find the ruins of what was an old Roman city, bet you didn't know the Romans got that far south. Brazzi also learns what happened to his father with a letter found on his remains and two other human remains and some forensic conclusions. For the rest of the story if you've seen any adaption of Somerset Maugham's Rain you know what's going to happen.
I have to say that on the plus side Jack Cardiff's color cinematography of the Libyan desert because that's where the film was shot is breathtakingly beautiful. The rest of it is kind of silly. Forgetting the fact that Sophia with two men on the desert is going to lead to obvious complications, I cannot believe that Wayne was taking booze on the trip. In his role here and in real life Wayne was a prodigious drinker. But alcohol except some small amount for medicinal emergencies is an outright hazard on the desert. The sun will dehydrate you that much quicker if you keep drinking alcohol as well as water. Not to mention traveling by day instead of by night.
My conclusion is that since this was a Batjac production, John Wayne wanted to do something that could be classified as arty. Since he had already done well in The Long Voyage Home, I'm not sure what he felt he had to prove.
I do wonder what Somerset Maugham must have thought when he saw this film though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wayne is a desert guide in Timbuktu and anxious to get out of town for good. Loren is a local lady of questionable morality. Brazzi is a pious visitor seeking a guide to lead him into the deep reaches of the Sahara; he's searching for a lost treasure, the location of which was disclosed to him in a letter from his beloved, saintly father who, he believes, probably died at the site. Brazzi wants the treasure to help the poor and sick, i.e., to carry on the work of his father. Early on, Wayne makes it clear he has no respect for Loren and she returns the feeling, but Brazzi treats her in a kindly way and tries to save her soul. Wayne regards Brazzi as a hollow do-gooder. A very long trek through the Sahara eventually leads them to the treasure site which turns out to be a Roman settlement. There they find the treasure but they also find the body of Brazzi's father entwined with the remains of a woman, a lower-class (or worse) woman judging by the cheap jewelry that remains on the body. Brazzi's father had been stabbed in the back. There's also a love letter in the woman's effects that makes it clear Brazzi's father and she were having an affair. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Brazzi's image of his father (and, derivatively, of himself) collapses and he loses his mind. His father is transformed from saint to sinner and everything about him is revealed as a lie. He no longer wants to save Loren's soul, now he wants her body and he's willing to bribe her with the vast wealth he's discovered. But she wants to stay saved -- she rejects Brazzi's advances. Brazzi decides Loren's really in love with Wayne so he tries to shoot him. In the ensuing confusion, Brazzi steals off with the pack animals, the jewels and the water. Wayne and Loren set off on foot and catch up eventually. I reiterate the plot at some length to clarify two issues raised by other reviewers. First, Brazzi's mental breakdown is dissimilar from that of Fred C. Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Dobbs was motivated by greed and it was his essential paranoia that ultimately worked its way to the surface. Brazzi's character broke down because the core of his personality, i.e., the self-image of the faithful son longing to live the life of his beloved father, disintegrated when he learned the truth of his father's affair. Second, Brazzi and Wayne are not rivals for Loren's love. For most of the movie, Brazzi is protecting Loren from Wayne's ill treatment because he respects her soul; he isn't in love with her. When, later, Brazzi lusts for Loren, he's out of his mind and Loren knows it (she says he's drunk). Legends of the Lost turns out to be a really interesting character study with a fairly clever storyline, good acting by all, and, as many have noted, some gorgeous Technicolor photography. One strange note -- the music sounds like a 50s sci-fi or "chiller theater" score. It's not bad but, at least to me, it sounds out of place.
This is a really underrated movie and i stayed away from it for so long because of all the bad reviews i've seen of it, like Leonard Maltin giving it only two stars. This was directed by Henry Hathaway and this was the first time John Wayne and Hathaway worked together and they would go on to make four more movies, including True Grit. The movie starts out with Rossano Brazzi looking for a guide to take him through the Sahara desert to find a lost city. Brazzi hires Wayne as his guide and Sophia Loren is a women who tags along, against Wayne's wishes. Wayne finds out Brazzi is looking for a lost city full of gold and thinks he is crazy and wants to turn back. It's a underrated movie and one of Wayne's better films.
Henry Hathaway had something in his hands few director's would ever dream of having. A winning combination, to include the screen strength of John Wayne (Joe January) the sexual allure of beautiful Italian goddess, Sophia Loren (Dita) and dashing leading man, Rossano Brazzi (Paul Bonnard,) all in the same film. The Legend of the lost is one of those particular film which should have become a superb adventure/drama, which in turn should have evolved into a classic. But like a Formula One Car which should win the international Gran Prix, unfortunately run short of fuel. The story is that of three people all searching for something which it seems lies beyond them. January seeks enough money to break free of the monotonous cycle of drunken nights in jails, Dita hoping to find someone who appreciates her for herself and not just one night stands and Bonnard, hoping to find a desert treasure left to him by his father. All three struggle against themselves and their weaknesses and then at the temptations which cause them to remember why they failed the first time. Against them is the limitless Shahara which is unforgiving and more than a challenge to lesser adventurers. Expected steamy scenes between the story characters in the novel are abandoned and disappointed viewers are resigned to the "Romance-Lite" they are given. A good film if you don't expect too much from such international greats. ***
This film is invaluable for its exquisite production values. It should not be missed for '50s costuming and make-up conventions, however improbable for a desert expedition. In addition, the no-show direction left all three principals to their own devices; and their natural strengths and weaknesses as performers are exposed. John Wayne fares best here, as he has never been more charismatic...or done more with less of a script. Brazzi fares worst, being unconvincing as a rival to John Wayne and as a romantic match for Sophia Loren. Pay close attention to the fist fight among the three adventurers. You will see each punch miss by at least a foot and a half.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So much potential with big name stars. The Saraha may prove to be the bigger star this time. Joe January(John Wayne), two-fisted, hard-drinking and hard-living, is hired by Paul Bonnard(Rossano Brazi)to lead an expedition in the wasteland of the North African desert. The object is to find Bonnard's father or his grave, as well as a much rumored treasure. Making things real interesting is Dita(Sophia Loren), a local whore, who happens to be in love with Bonnard and follows him into the desert. LEGEND of the LOST is more curious than anything and beautifully photographed. Both men end up in battle for the rights to the gorgeous Dita...as well as their own survival. The Sahara proves to be a harsh mistress. This film is directed by Henry Hathaway and also stars Kurt Kasznar, Sonia Moser and Ibrahim El Hadish.
Timbuktu is the background of this mostly entertaining tale about three
characters , an adventurer scout named Joe January (John Wayne) , an
archaeologist (Rossano Brazzi) and a gorgeous girl (Sophia Loren ) in
search for a lost city in the desert called Ophir and a fabulous
John Wayne leaves his Stetson and horse for a camel in this exotic adventure set in Sahara desert plenty of Tuaregs , sandstorms , mirages and amazing dangers . This exciting picture is packed with adventures, action , thrills , a loving triangle and is quite amusing . Interesting screenplay by Ben Hetch , Billy Wilder's usual writer. Breathtaking cinematography with luminous and bright colors by Jack Cardiff . Atmospheric and evocative musical score by the Italian Angelo Francesco Lavagnino . The motion picture is professionally directed by Henry Hathaway. He had a reputation as being difficult on stars, but some actors such as Cary Cooper , Marilyn Monroe -Niagara- and especially John Wayne , The Duke , benefited under his direction . Big John played for Hathaway various films as ¨The sons of Katie Elder (65), ¨Circus World (64) ¨ certainly not one of his memorable movies , ¨How the west was won (62) ¨, ¨ North to Alaska (60)¨ , but his greatest hit smash was ¨True grit (69)¨ in which Wayne won his only Academy Award . Although Hathaway was a highly successful and reliable director film-making within the Hollywood studio system , his work has received little consideration from reviewers . Rating : Acceptable and passable , well worth watching . The film will appeal to adventure buffs and John Wayne and Sophia Loren fans .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm surprised that others have referred to the script, by Ben Hecht, as
being good. Ben was having an off day when he wrote this one. The
adventurers run into a hostile group of Bedouins, who have a medical
problem with one of their number. Rossano heads into their camp with
his medical kit, and we're expecting to see him pull a chicken bone out
of the guy's throat and save his life. But no! All of a sudden it's
morning and the three adventurers go on their way.
But the one I love is when they're in the ancient lost city of Timgad, and Rossano steals the water, the donkey, and the supplies and sneaks off into the night, while the Duke is sleeping off his nightly booze-out. So in the morning, Sophia and the Duke follow him on foot, with no water. And you would never in a million years guess what happens next! They catch up with him! By this time, without Joe January's desert know-how, Rossano is staggering around aimlessly. Then, a friendly caravan happens along and saves them. And then, movie's over!
It's a gorgeous movie, especially with Sophia to look at, and the photography is terrific. But you know right away when the main character has a phony name like "Joe January," they were running out of ideas. The cast does the best they can. Worth watching once for John Wayne completists, and I'm one.
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