The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past.
Brian G. Hutton
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While waiting in vain for her married lover to get a divorce, Fran Walker, a lonely chorus girl approaching middle age, falls for Joe Grady, a frustrated musician and compulsive gambler who dreams of escaping Las Vegas for fame and fortune in New York City. Written by
Because Elizabeth Taylor wanted to be near husband Richard Burton, who was at the time filming Staircase (1969) in Europe, she demanded this film, with its Las Vegas setting, be filmed in Paris, France. The studio agreed, thereby increasing the budget considerably as detailed American streetscapes, casinos, apartments and supermarkets had to be recreated in Paris. In the end (after 86 days shooting in Paris) the company had to move to the real Las Vegas anyway for ten additional days of intensive shooting. See more »
When Fran gets off work at Desert Inn at beginning of film, her walk home makes no geographical sense. She is strolling past hotels, chapels and casinos miles apart and in completely opposite directions. See more »
So I finally have gotten to see this film again after 22 years. It is interesting in so many ways I don't know where to begin; First thing: It stars one of the most beautiful and sexiest woman ever on the big screen; no one less then la Taylor. But she has some serious problems with portraying the lead role of Fran Walker, she is very badly cast as a young, single, chorus girls, as so many of the previous commentators have mentioned. The audience at this period was used to see la Taylor plump and alcoholic, playing characters that were badly faded beauties in their late 40s or even 50s; Martha in Wolf and Sissy Goforth in Boom. Here, she is supposed to be not many years older than the young girl la Taylor portrayed in the late 1940s, contemporary to the "old" movies the character Fran Walker watches. This is indeed one of her last "babe"-parts in movies. And her male co-star, is played by a then an up- and coming actor who is five years younger, even more highlights the miscasting. With face covering hairdos, soft focus close-shots, and clever cinematography things get somewhat plausible and under control. She must have crash-diet, and stopped half-way, she has slender legs, but not a dancer's sturdy legs, moves youngish and feminine (she's eating her pizza like a shy princess), but she is still somewhat top-heavy and double-chinned, maybe because of the heavy medication she was on at the time, as described in Burton's memoirs. Or maybe because of the strange fluffy dresses she wears that make her body look like "an apple balanced atop of two toothpicks" to quote a contemporary reviewer. In some scenes though, especially when filmed from a distance, she does still manage to look petite and delicious. And even though it is absurd to think of Taylor as a struggling working-class girl who needs to count every dollar and dime to balance the payments, she really tries hard here to convince us, and sometimes she actually succeeds. Or is it that the film is cleverly cut? We never really know, since Taylor's larger-than-life image interferes and blurs our judgment on her true talent as an actress. Still, she surprises by transcending a low-key and insecure appearance, which I guess was the intention of the original play writer Gilroy.
Second thing: Her co-star is the charming Warren Beatty, who here has some very effective scenes in which he makes his character Joe Grady very much authentic and believable. He resembles a combination of both (as one commentator pointed out before) Frank Sinatra's wit and style and Brad Pitt's Irish charming bad-boyishness. In contrast to Taylor, he is in my opinion very well cast. I sometimes wonder what it would be like, to be Warren Beatty, in Paris in autumn 1968, fresh from the huge success of "Bonnie and Clyde". According to the gossip that Taylor picked up, and reached the ears and notes of Burton, Warren was courted by so many beautiful Parisian women that Taylor hardly got a look of him off the set. Still some years to go before being "outed" by Carly Simon as being "So Vain", here in Paris he was evidently everybody's darling.
Third interesting point: The last star needed the presence of her beloved husband (and unfortunately heavy boozing partner) in order to be able to cope with this film, or anything else for that matter. Mr Burton was at this time busy shooting a farce with Rex Harrison, "Staircase", in Paris, which by the way was set in a grayish London. Maybe the married celebrity couple both needed the Parisian location to evade the US/UK taxes? Hence, a movie whose main plot is nothing less than one of the most American themes one can think of (quest for the big break), had to be shot in Paris! Nowadays the stars of Hollywood earn enormous amount of money, but they can hardly make any demands such as those of la Taylor, and get through with it. It is therefore a pure pleasure to watch the streets and buildings, knowing at least some of them, are entirely build for la Taylor in Paris (if we don't count some scenes that had to be made in Las Vegas very quickly in early Spring of 1969).
Four: The score of Maurice Jarre. Great late 1960s early 1970s feel to it, jazzy and bluesy, in a stylish blend, the very definition of Easy listening.
Fifth: A lushly filmed Hollywood picture like this needs elements that make it "touch the ground". We, as an audience, must still be led to believe that the story enfolded before us could be real. Bathroom and bedroom scenes that are not obviously over-sty. Warren's character IS supposed to be a fly-guy dreamer, who painfully lands in reality after excesses at the casinos. The fairytale needs to touch the audience in-between all its awe and amaze, and technically Stevens and the editor have managed the task.
Sixth and last point I come to think of: In spite of this extravaganza, which is not apparent on the screen if one is not aware of that we are looking at a mini-Vegas built in Paris, this movie apparently flopped painfully when it premiered in 1970. It is since forgotten, overlooked, and its print doomed to deteriorate slowly somewhere in the 20th century Fox archives (in Burbank?). But is the plot of the film dated? I think not. Today, whenever the X-and Y-generation have problems of sorts to deal with, like for instance gambling, we are inclined to make it a pathology that must be treated with therapies and counseling. Couldn't this film be re-dusted as a lecture in how painful and destructive addictions to gambling really is? It deserves it. In spite of all the "half-ways" of this film it is cute and sympathetic lesson in love.
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