At Maria Vargas' funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards scouted her at a shabby nightclub where she worked as a flamenco dancer. He convinces her to take a chance on acting and her first film is a huge hit. PR man Oscar Muldoon remembers when Maria was in court supporting her father who was accused of murdering her mother. It was Maria's testimony that got him off and she was a bigger star than ever. Alberto Bravano, one of the richest men in South America, sets his sights on Maria and she goes off with him - as much to make Edwards angry as anything - but he treats her badly. When she meets Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini they fall deeply in love. They are married but theirs is not to be a happy life.Written by
Joseph L. Mankiewicz wanted James Mason, whom he had just directed in Julius Caesar (1953), for the part of the nobleman. MGM executive Nicholas Schenck, who had had a vehement disagreement with the director, would not release Mason for the film. According to Mankiewicz, he ended up with Rossano Brazzi, "who cannot act, cannot be sensual . . . could hardly speak English . . . " Ironically, Rosemary Matthews, who was hired to help Brazzi with his English, and Mankiewicz later married. See more »
When Harry is talking to Maria, outside of her house, for a moment he is with his left hand in his coat lapel and his right hand holding the cigarette. The next shot shows him with his both hands in the pockets. See more »
Don't worry about your soul. You must have lost it at some preview, a long time ago.
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I had often wondered why it took so long to finally catch up with 'Contessa' now I think perhaps I understand. This must have either played to half filled movie houses or emptied them rather quickly. The undeniably multi-talented Joeseph L. Mankiewicz must have been hoping to cash in on his earlier success with the similarly themed 'All About Eve' here, he transfers the setting from Broadway to Hollywood - but with very different results. Where Eve bristled, Contessa fizzles out like Champaign left uncorked overnight. Gardener only had to look delicious (for those who like their women overly thin) and it often seemed as if she was taking her lines from a prompter. Bogart (foolishly chain smoking) is well cast but looks very unwell and perhaps not comfortable with some of his lines. He fares best of all the cast - even though, surprisingly, Edmond O'Brian took the acting Oscar for his overcooked portrayal as the soulless producers press assistant (what were the Academy thinking?)
Jack Cardiff's location footage glistens but is rarely allowed to shine -saddled with a turgid script that flounders ponderously under its somewhat melodramatic themes. How this painfully obvious treatment garnered so many Rotten Tomato raves is quite beyond belief. Many of the press reviews of the day were more on-the-money, along with numerous IMDb users comments.
Not the best representation of its day and coming in at 2hr 10mins way too long to maintain complete interest. Maybe OK for lovers of the stars or movies about Hollywood, although I think "The Big Knife" may have summed much of it up with less gloss & more succinctly.
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