Circa 1861, Angelina, ruling countess of an Italian principality, is at a loss when invaded by a Hungarian army. Her lookalike ancestress Francesca, who saved a similar situation 300 years ...
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Circa 1861, Angelina, ruling countess of an Italian principality, is at a loss when invaded by a Hungarian army. Her lookalike ancestress Francesca, who saved a similar situation 300 years before, comes to life from a portrait to help her descendant. Complicating factor: the newlywed countess feels strangely drawn to the handsome invader...Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Watched 'That Lady in Ermine' as an admirer of both Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch and as a fan of classic-era film. It is hard to go wrong too with performers such as Betty Grable, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Caesar Romero on their own and just as big a delight seeing those names in the same film and there was an intriguing story and ideas here.
Ideas that could have been executed much better on the whole. 'That Lady in Ermine' is far from a bad film and there is a good deal to like, but it is very uneven, quite strange and doesn't really come together as an overall whole. While the talent and potential are not completely squandered they are nowhere near close to being fulfilled, all have done much better and deserved better.
Starting with the good things, 'That Lady in Ermine' does look great. It is very lavishly produced and shot in beautiful, vibrant Technicolor. The music is pleasant and charming regardless of its lack of memorability. There are elements of the Lubitsch touch, where there is sparkling wit, sophistication and charm and where the film has more energy.
Despite her later considering 'That Lady in Ermine' her least favourite film of her career, Betty Grable is spunky and charming, it is not a typical role for her but her approach to it is distinctively so. Romero and especially Fairbanks are immensely likeable in their roles and Walter Abel, Harry Davenport and Reginald Gardiner entertain in support.
However, the story is both slight, plot-less often, and overly silly, with a lot of ideas not done anywhere near much with and too many elements that don't gel together. The script is uneven, sometimes witty and at other times clunky and the pace is a mix of just fine to dull in other stretches. The final act is somewhat heavy-handed which jars with a good deal of the rest of the film.
As has been said, this was Lubitsch's last film and mostly his but he sadly died of a heart attack aged 55 during filming and the film was completed by Preminger. Some may say that the transition from one to the other was seamless, personally do not agree with this. The two had very different directing styles to each other and approached their films differently, Lubitsch's films were light, sophisticated and witty while Preminger's were heavier and some exploring darker and ahead of the time themes and subjects, both as great and absorbing as each other in their own way. Both styles can be seen here and don't gel together, with Lubitsch's style being more successful in his own distinctive way and far more enthusiastic while Preminger's was heavy-handed and coarse which is where the film is less interesting.
Overall, uneven but oddly interesting and watchable. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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