Inspired by a performance of his favorite play, "Volpone," 20th-century millionaire Cecil Fox devises an intricate plan to trick three of his former mistresses into believing he is dying. ... See full summary »
Inspired by a performance of his favorite play, "Volpone," 20th-century millionaire Cecil Fox devises an intricate plan to trick three of his former mistresses into believing he is dying. Although the women are wealthy in their own right, all have good reason to covet his fortune. To assist him in his scheme, Fox hires William McFly, a gigolo and sometime actor, to act as his secretary/servant. Fox is soon visited at his "deathbed" by the three former mistresses: Merle McGill, a fading Hollywood sex symbol; Princess Dominique, who once took a cruise on Fox's yacht; and Lone Star Crockett, a Texas hypochondriac who travels with an enigmatic nurse/companion. As Fox and McFly act out the charade, things take an unexpected turn from comical farce to full-blown murder mystery. Written by
The great Italian cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo died suddenly of hepatitis (aged only 45) during the making of this film, with many weeks of the five-month shooting schedule to go before completion. His operator, Pasquale De Santis, took over as director of photography but refused credit in this capacity, although he would quickly go on to international renown with his work for Visconti, Zeffirelli, Losey and others. See more »
This film is pretty good, but it was a flop in 1967 despite having some good performances by Rex Harrison, Clift Robertson, Susan Hayward, Capucine, Edie Adams, and Maggie Smith. The script and direction of Joseph Mankiewicz were perfect. But it flopped, possibly because the times did not call for a literate murder mystery film.
It's lineage is impeccable since it begins with Ben Jonson's classic Jacobean comedy "Volpone". But actually it is not "Volpone". The film is based on Thomas Sterling's "The Evil of the Day". The story has been changed in one way. Sterling's novel brings together three would-be heirs too, but two are men, and one is Fox's wife (as in the movie - Susan Hayward's role). But the same plot switches go on in the novel as in this film.
I enjoyed the movie, in particular one moment that was rare to see in any film of that period. Harrison has invited his three would-be heirs to come to dinner. Hayward (accompanied by her secretary Smith) comes in first. While they are talking to Harrison and Robertson, both Adams and Capucine show up at the doorway. Neither is willing to let the other go in first. They end up pushing into each other through the door frame into the dining room, thoroughly uncomfortable - but at least neither was forced to wait for the other to make the first move.
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