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 ...
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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
This sometimes slow, but interesting, movie has a number of strengths, most notably its characters, writing, and settings. The cast also features some fine performances from Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Edmund O'Brien. The 'contessa' herself is undeniably the center of attention, but there is also much more to appreciate.
Gardner does well in personifying Maria, a character with an unusual mix of earthiness and innocence. The symbolic contrast between wearing shoes and going barefoot seems at first to be a rather obvious device, but as the character is developed, it gradually takes on more meaning. Gardner, with a lot of help from the Joseph Mankiewicz script, is convincing amidst Maria's changing fortunes in love and in her career.
Bogart is an ideal choice to play the director, whose own nature has an unexpected combination of world-weariness and integrity. And O'Brien gets one of his very best roles, as a press agent who is largely a parasite, but who turns out to have a couple of interesting things inside of him.
On the surface, the story is a relatively simple tale of a young 'discovery' and of what happens to her after she finds sudden fame. Yet the contrasts and conflicts among the characters, and the contrasts between them and their surroundings, make for plenty of good material. The multiple narratives and the dialogue help considerably in bringing out many of these possibilities. It's an interesting and effective movie that makes its characters come alive, and allows you to spend a couple of hours in their world.
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