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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Ava's beauty not enough to save dull historical romance...
If THE NAKED MAJA had a better script more faithful to the true life story of Spanish artist Francisco Goya and his affair with the Duchess of Alba, this may have been worth all the expense that went into producing it. There are fine production values including the gorgeous costumes worn by Miss Gardner, the opulent settings, the detailed color photography and the pretty background score full of pseudo-Spanish themes.
As a romantic drama, it only exposes the clash of two different acting styles--the overly intense histrionics employed by ANTHONY FRANCIOSA in the method tradition and the more natural technique of screen acting from AVA GARDNER as the woman he falls helplessly in love with at first sight. Her aloof demeanor only makes her more irresistible and there is one brilliant dance scene where the fiery Spanish flamenco music makes their emotions come to life vividly at least for the length of this sequence. Otherwise, their pairing as lovers never seems as intense as the script would suggest.
Despite an overuse of eye make-up, Gardner at this point in her career was still very attractive in what is basically a one-dimensional role as an aloof woman with a past who cannot bring herself to declare love for the artist until it is too late.
Henry Koster's direction is a tad too slow in pace but the main fault is the script which never permits the two leads to be anything more than one-dimensional in concept.
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