The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)
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Jeanne Moreau is probably the weakest of the trio but elegant in her role as a wife who has a young lover. Shirley Maclaine is the classical stunning dumb blonde who has to make a choice to step into a stable, rich married life. The fascinating Ingrid Bergman chooses to step down from a wealthy peerage to a realistic rustic lifestyle using charming wit for achieving an honest end.
This is Asquith's last film with Jack Hildyard's cinematography that is patchy but stunning at times. As a film it is average but the casting and the performances of the three ladies and George C Scott are notable.
Anthony Asquith's film survives because of its construction, using the car as a lynchpin for three very different stories, character combinations, and situations. The car remains the star (perhaps because of its colour) but there are enjoyable performances here too. It isn't a challenging or particularly exciting film, but helps to pass the time. Personally I find it a better British film centring on a car than the earlier Genevieve, but that might just be my own taste.
You have a proud rich married man with everything he wants. He gets the ball rolling with the yellow Rolls Royce by purchasing it brand new for his wife(Moreau) as an anniversary present. Harrison is confident, classy, debonair and charming. He knows what he wants and he gets it.
But when he catches his wife cheating on him..we see a man utterly destroyed. There are a lot of fine examples in movies of what love can do to a person. Harrison's performance, as subtle and subdued as it is, is staggering. It's like cutting a man in two and seeing his innards in all their glory. In a ways it's profound, as if a new truth were revealed and a new reaction resulted.
I've seen a few of Harrison's performances in various films and I've had respect for him. With The Yellow Rolls Royce, Harrison turns in an extremely moving and touching performance with what little screen time he has due to the length of his respective story. The tortured look on Harrison's face as he makes his way to his beloved yellow Rolls Royce and his beloved wife is worth seeing this movie alone. When he hangs his head low next to his gold cup winning horse, you see a side of a man that probably never existed before that moment. As someone calls to him, he straightens himself, adjusts, turns around..and we see a man forever changed. Very few movies can get something like that across in such an effective way.
So what is one of, if not THE, most important lessons of life learned through Harrison's rich tale? You can seemingly have it all and in reality have nothing. Amidst his riches and ever-growing cache of prizes, we see a man terribly humbled and changed by the discovery of his wife's cheating ways. Towards the end of his story when he proclaims that he will hate living from now on, you believe it and you can sympathize with him and his broken heart because we've all been through it. Love changes you, especially when it damages you.
~ When the next story begins with George C. Scott, Art Carney and Shirley McClaine we are ready for something lighter, funnier and we get it. But there's still plenty of angst to go around, whether in the heart or the back seat of the yellow Rolls Royce.
There's a wonderful moment in an Italian showroom when the salesman briefly explains how the car got 20,000 miles on its odometer. He mentions a maharajah or something like that losing the car while gambling. It makes you want to see what happened in the interim between the first and second story in the movie! The second story of a mobster, his moll and their keeper/buddy/Art Carney is a good one. Light-hearted, but as I said, it still has some weight to it because it's still dealing with matters of love.
This segment is wonderful, the only detracting thing is the horrible makeup job they did to poor Alain Delon! I realize he's supposed to be Italian(Delon is French) but they didn't have to apply the tan makeup so heavy. It's not a terribly distracting thing, although it makes you want to see what Delon really looks like without the brownie batter. The guys handsome with or without it and he emits a charismatic and dare I say "amoral" charm. As a matter of fact, this second story can be titled "Amoral Amore". See the movie, you'll know why.
Oh and also, forget domani! ~ Now the third and last act is a special one. It stars Ingrid Bergman as a politico/ambassador and Omar Sharif as a Yugoslavian revolutionary. Some people may see the parallels between Sharif's role here and his 14 hour opus mega epic Doctor Zhivago.
I recently saw Dr. Z in its entirety for the first time and I was completely underwhelmed.
In my humble opinion, Omar Sharif does more here with his roll in The Yellow Rolls Royce and by turn is GIVEN more to do in his 30 plus minutes segment than all of the illustriously overrated Doctor Zhivago. Hell, they guy sounded infinitely more poetic than his supposed poetic character in Dr. Z!
Ingrid Bergman: an absolute hoot. There are a lot of transformations in this movie. You can see characters actually change, transform and evolve, the yellow Rolls Royce being one of them! It goes from riches to revolutionary rages. Bergman's Miss Millett role is perhaps the character in the movie that goes through the most drastic transformation.
At first she is frigid, uncompassionate, uncaring and selfish. She wants to eat, not be bothered and you better get her her martini. She cares little for people or warnings of invasions. Omar Sharif charms his way into her life and as a result, she changes. She becomes a different person. She becomes caring, compassionate and selfless. It's a remarkable role and I'm not about to compare it to any of her other roles because I haven't seen a lot of Ingrid Bergman's movies.
There's a moment at the end of the movie in which she reflects upon her adventures, turns around to look at the yellow Rolls Royce and she steps back out of frame so we see only the car.
It's quite a moment when a legendary actress gets out of her way for us to look upon a car.
But oh what a car it is.
Interestingly enough both Asquith and Rattigan teamed up before for a similar all star romp with the Taylor-Burton film "The VIPS" another story of intersecting lives brought together by a mode of transportation. In "The VIPS" it was airplanes and here in this charming film it is a resplendent canary yellow automobile.
To add to this heady cocktail the director has blended in a glittering all star cast of first rate talent from the early 1960's. This is a truly international roster of superstars each of which brings their unique talents and charms to bear on this film.
The story is in three acts encompassing events some years apart all involving the Rolls and how it came into and changed the lives of its various owners. In act one Rex Harrison is superb as being well, nothing less than Rex Harrison. The glamorous Jeanne Moreau shows her depth and considerable strengths as his wandering but loving wife. They sparkle and spark as an aristocratic English couple facing a major turning point in their marriage.
Act two really pops with comic genius flavored with a moving drama as Gangster George C. Scott takes his wisecracking Moll, Shirley MacLaine on a tour of Italy. Scott is revelatory in his roll and is complemented by Art Carney as his loyal and street wise right hand man. MacLaine channels a sharp, witty comic performance that stands with her best of the period. And as the amoral gigolo Stefano who opens her heart to real love and a love of life Alain Delon shines. They make a stunningly beautiful screen couple and by the end of the act they pluck the strings of star crossed romance beautifully.
The luminous Ingrid Bergman teams up with Omar Sharif in a romantic tale set at the outbreak of the invasion of Yugoslavia during World War II. Bergman brings to the film a beauty that is timeless and her star persona which is legendary. She is brittle, vain at first, and funny. But with the aid of freedom fighter Sharif she comes to a new understanding of sacrifice and true humanity amidst the tragedy of war.
And all throughout the films we are treated with spectacular vistas and sights of Europe in a travelogue of breathtaking cinemascope grandeur. The excitement of he Ascot races, the lush seductive beauty of Italy and the rough magnificence of the mountains of Yugoslavia.
"The Yellow Rolls Royce" is much more than a star vehicle, it is the distillation of great film-making in a long gone era that both entertains and inspires the heart of all true romantics.
Basically the plot of this film (particularly in the opening sequence with Rex Harrison, Jeanne Moreau, and Edmund Purdom) is an extension (if you will) of a brief scene in the film NOW VOYAGER, where Bette Davis and a young actor playing the wireless officer on a P.& O. Steamer meet in the cab of an automobile that is in the cargo bay of the ship. The Rolls Royce, always a symbol of opulence, is used for lovers' trysts. First between Moreau and Purdom (her aristocratic husband's secretary); second between gangster's moll Shirley Maclaine and photographer Alain Delon); and last between right wing millionaire socialite Ingrid Bergman and Yugoslav partisan leader Omar Shariff.
The stories are separated from each other by two to three years so we are aware as we watch the tales of the coming of the Second World War (although the middle episode deals with American gangster George C. Scott taking care of a rival back home)*. Harrison's Marquis is reminiscent of Lord Halifax and other too accommodating diplomats at Whitehall who were unwilling to counsel a firm, even warlike stand against the Nazis and Fascists. Bergman is like so many upper crust Americans who saw the war as a foreign matter...not for American concerns. She even (like Charles Foster Kane in the newsreel at the start of that film) has met the leaders in Italy and Germany and been reassure by them. It is only after she witnesses an unprovoked bombing on Belgrade where children are wounded that she begins to realize just who the monsters were she was relying on the words of.
(*Interestingly enough there is an episode in the novelization that is just mentioned in passing about an Indian Prince who owns the car after Harrison's Marquis. The Prince spends money quite freely until caught short...and forced to sell the car in Italy. It might have been an interesting episode too if it had been in the film.)
The stories are pretty well told, but it is of three impossible love stories. Moreau may be fooling with Purdom but she has no intention of leaving Harrison (but he is terribly hurt at the end, and even hates the sight of the car at the conclusion of that episode). Maclaine dumps Delon (on the advice of her "chaperone" Art Carney) to save him from Scott (who is aware of what happened, but remains quiet because Maclaine came back in line). Bergman (unlike the other two) would have stayed with Sharif, but he realizes that she is more useful warning her fellow plutocrats of what is really going on...and getting the U.S. ready to help the Europeans end these evil invaders. She and he hope to reunite, but it's a war and they don't know.
The result is a good film, a historic soap opera of the 1930s-1941. The leads are good as are supporting players Carney, Joyce Grenville, and even Wally Cox in a brief scene as a helpless American diplomat trying to get Bergman to return to the U.S. It is a good film (as was said elsewhere) for a rainy afternoon. A film for the ages? Hardly, but it is entertaining enough.
Despite the above, and despite high-quality production values and fabulous European scenery, the movie is not very good. The first segment requires your understanding and sympathy for prewar British aristocrats (you probably aren't going to care about such spoiled people of the dilettante class). The second segment is superficial and based on attractiveness of its stars only. The third segment is about 1941-era Yugoslav partisan activity (a footnote in history but brave). I found it impossible to relate to any of the characters in this movie or in its overall concept that centers all of this around an automobile. Love and war as it relates to a car. I don't get it.
There is a big orchestral main theme by Riz Ortolani that I find pompous but its a matter of taste. I much preferred his beautiful theme (also 1964) for the film "The 7th Dawn".
Overall the movie is too slow (or leisurely, depending on your viewpoint) and the result can be dullness and indifference for some viewers, but you should watch the third segment anyway in order to experience a truly wonderful acting performance by Ingrid Bergman. Also worthwhile to watch Rex Harrison in the first segment, at his most appealing "My Fair Lady" era peak.
My favorite story is the first. Marquess of Frinton (Rex Harrison) buys a new yellow rolls-royce for his French wife (Jeanne Moreau) as a belated anniversary gift. He supplies his wife with gifts and love but realizes she is not happy. Mr. Harrison was given a few good roles after "My Fair Lady": "The Yellow Rolls-Royce", "The Agony and the Ecstasy", "The Honey Pot", and "Doctor Dolittle." It is nice to see Mr. Harrison play a nice husband in "The Yellow Rolls-Royce."
The last two movies the director, Anthony Asquith, directed were very good ensemble movies: ""The VIP's" and "The Yellow Rolls-Royce." Every actor in both movies was superb.
POSSIBLE SPOILER BUT Rex Harrison only owns the car for two days! When he asks that the phone be moved (and some other request) the Rolls Royce man tells him that it will take a week. But Rex needs it that very day as an anniversary present because the following day is the big horse race. They don't have time to move the phone before he takes delivery of the car. When the car arrives he remarks to his wife that he will have the phone moved. But the very next day he sends the car back.
So why does IMDb list as a goof the fact that the car is still on the left side?!
SYNOPSES: (1) Unaware that his wife is conducting an affair with his assistant (Edmund Purdom), an aristocrat (Rex Harrison) buys a Rolls Royce as a present for his wife (Jeanne Moreau) on their wedding anniversary. (2) An Italian photographer (Alain Delon) has an affair with a mobster's moll (Shirley MacLaine), who is forced to send him packing when the mobster (George C. Scott) returns from a business trip to the USA. (3) A rich widow in Trieste (Ingrid Bergman) hides a patriotic Yugoslav (Omar Sharif) from the Nazis.
NOTES: Filming commenced in London on 6 April 1964. Locations were photographed in England, Italy and Austria Film debut of Art Carney Last film of director Anthony Asquith, who died in February 1968.
COMMENT: Disappointing. Considering the amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera, I would have expected a far livelier, far more entertaining film than this languidly handled, tedious and simple-minded affair. Although Asquith's direction remains stolidly heavy-handed throughout, the main fault, of course, lies in the writing. The idea had great possibilities. Look what Julien Duvivier and company did with a simple tail-coat in Tales of Manhattan (1942)!
The First Episode is undoubtedly the most interesting and amusing by far. A sly comedy of manners, it features the debonair Rex Harrison, ideally cast and in great form. Rex can make even the dullest lines seem moderately witty. Moreau and Purdom adequately hold up the other corners of the romantic triangle. More importantly, there are some great supporting cameos, including Gregoire Aslan's flustered ambassador, Michael Hordern's confident car salesman and Lance Percival's bit as his disappointed assistant. Roland Culver and Moira Lister are also on hand (you have to be quick to glimpse her), plus cult favorite, Isa Miranda. This great line-up helps disguise some rather thin material, as well as Rattigan's consistently stodgy direction.
With the Second Episode, Rattigan's writing becomes more shallow, its deficiencies emphasized by the inane miscasting of George C. Scott as an Al Capone-type gangster. Fortunately Alain Delon's charming photographer and the fascinating Italian location scenery help make this segment reasonably watchable. Carney is okay and Miss MacLaine tries hard.
The Bergman piece comes across as a pretty poor misjudgment that wastes her talents. Fortunately, magnificent scenery comes to the rescue once again, this time aided by lively special effects. Plus Joyce Grenfell (employing her deliciously comic American accent) at the beginning and end of the episode. Riz Ortolani's melodic score also rates as a major asset.
A huge cast stars in The Yellow Rolls Royce, a 1964 film, and the production is truly sumptuous, with glorious European scenery. It is a series of three vignettes about people who have owned the car.
The first is set in England, and stars Rex Harrison, Jeanne Moreau, and Edmund Purdom. Harrison buys the car for his wife's (Moreau's) birthday; little does he know that she has a lover (Purdom). Frantic for a place to make love before Purdom leaves the country, they choose the car.
The second is set in Italy, and stars George C. Scott, Shirley Maclaine, Art Carney, and Alain Delon. Scott is an American mobster who brings his girlfriend (Maclaine) to Italy to introduce her to his family. She falls for an Italian photographer (Delon) while Scott is away taking care of some business in America. She and Delon's first tryst is in the yellow Rolls Royce. Delon is better-looking than the scenery despite a heavy coat of tan makeup, which was also done to him in Texas Across the River.
The third is set in Yugoslavia (actually filmed in Austria), where one Mrs. Millet (Ingrid Bergman) finds herself sneaking a rebel (Omar Shariff) into his country to fight the Germans. She takes him to the village where the rebels are gathering and sleeps in her car...until she is joined by a grateful Shariff.
The third episode of this film is the best and the most fun, with Bergman a determined woman who will stop at nothing to do just as she pleases, including pouring wine while the restaurant is being bombed around her. Bergman is truly wonderful in an exciting, warm, and moving story.
The other two parts of the film for me moved somewhat slowly, though they were well acted.
This is a good film. When you see the scenery, you'll wish you were there. And the exterior of the house where Rex Harrison and Jeanne Moreau live - unbelievable!
The first segment is extremely maudlin. Rex Harrison plays a rather out of touch but decent guy who buys the car for his wife (Jeanne Moreau). However, though he loves her dearly, she is having an affair. When he eventually discovers this, the segment soon ends--and ends amazingly abruptly. Too bad, as this segment alone could have made for a decent film had it been hashed out more.
The second was intended as a comedic and romantic piece and it starred George C. Scott as a gangster, Art Carney as his sidekick, Shirley MacLaine as Scott's fiancé and Alain Delon as an Italian photographer (why they chose a French guy for this role is odd). It's a rather disjointed segment because it appears like two different films merged together. While occasionally a tad funny, the romance later in the film seemed forced and unrealistic. Not a bad effort, but rather forgettable.
As for the final segment which starred Ingrid Bergman and Omar Sharif, it was very odd. Bergman played one of the most annoying and selfish characters I have ever seen. Yet, midway through this segment, she has a HUGE turnabout and shows herself to be brave and kind--a complete 180 degree shift. Such changes are seen in film but never in real life, so it was rather fun to see but also pretty vapid and silly.
Overall, it's a time-passer and not much more. None of the three segments were especially compelling and I was left wanting so much more.
The creative well ran a little dry for Terrence Rattigan in The Yellow Rolls Royce, a film of three separate stories involving the owners of a really flashy Yellow Rolls Royce. Rattigan's first two stories are essentially the same story with different characters. In the first diplomat Rex Harrison buys the car spanking new out of the show room for his wife Jeanne Moreau. She uses it of course to meet boyfriend Edmond Purdom who works under Harrison in the Foreign Office and is about to be transfered to South America.
The second story has the car pass to George C. Scott who is an American gangster with moll Shirley MacLaine. She falls for fellow gangster Alain Delon. Both the first two stories resolve themselves in the same way.
The third story is the charm and the original one. By now visiting American dowager Ingrid Bergman has the car and has the charming Omar Sharif talk his way into hitching a ride from Trieste to Belgrade on the eve of the invasion of Yugoslavia by Hitler. That offer of help leads Bergman on an odyssey into how the other half lives she never bargained for. I do so love the scene where just as she's ordering a fine meal in an expensive restaurant in Belgrade, the air attack starts and the disruption of service upsets her so.
If Rattigan had done something a little more original for the second story The Yellow Rolls Royce might truly be a classic. As it is it's not bad. Asquith certainly captured the ambiance of the Thirties and antique car lovers will love this film.