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Mario Lanza's comeback movie
lanzafan14 May 2002
I cannot condone the fact that Mario was substandard in this film. He had been under the restrictions of an MGM ban, before Warners offered him a chance to return to the filmworld. He was naturally nervous (it shows in some of the scenes) as he had not worked for about three years and his voice was taking on a darker hue. Yes, he was a little overweight, but his singing was superb. He could sing anything and did, with complete conviction. His operatic arias in this film are superb and those of us who are lucky enough to have heard the outtakes from the soundtrack will agree that he was coming to terms with the fact that he had to adjust to his voice getting bigger. It was a really awesome instrument. The power was immense, but he could also sing falsetto when required. His "Ave Maria" in this film is one of the most moving I have ever heard. A good effort by him to re-establish himself and his fans will bear me out. To hell with the plot - listen to the voice of the century.
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Mario Lanza's greatest Movie!
arrival28 November 2005
Some might say that Mario Lanza was overweight and not in his best voice for this Movie, but that would be judging him by those factors alone. This in my opinion ironically is Lanza's best Movie ever! Serenade is a very dramatic Movie with great performances from the likes of Joan Fontaine and in particular Sarita Montiel who really makes this Picture. Add this to the beautiful colourful backdrops and a haunting and dramatic score in the use of 'Serenade', and what you have is a cocktail for a fabulous Movie! For a two hour Film this could have been 'over-long' but in fact the two hours fly by as the whole is so absorbing.

This lush Masterpiece from 1956 is so under-rated as to never have been released on either Video or DVD in the United Kingdom - and only on Video for a limited period in the USA. If you want to own this Movie you're going to have to be patient and hunt madly, but it will be well worth the time spent! And for those who've already seen it, they will want to own it also, and so you'll have some pretty stiff competition in obtaining one of those scarce copies! If you haven't seen it, then book yourself a night in when it is next shown on TV for a great piece of entertainment, and have the chocolates and wine at the ready for a good quality night's viewing!

This is a superb production - oh, and don't forget the tissues!

Simply magic!
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An underrated treasure
Derek McGovern5 February 2003
Serenade is far and away Lanza's most interesting movie. True, The Great Caruso is a more accessible film (and the best introduction to Lanza), but Serenade packs a far greater punch. This is melodrama to the nth degree, and fittingly it contains some of the finest dramatic singing ever recorded.

Let's get the quibbles out of the way first. Injudicious editing has made some of the scenes appear silly and illogical. The speed with which Lanza becomes obsessed with Joan Fontaine seems absurd, and the ending could have been so much better. Would that the scenarists had had the courage to follow more closely the James Cain novel on which this movie is based, but then again, this was Hollywood, 1955. Had the movie been made without the censorship constraints of, say, a mere ten years later, it could have been a masterpiece. All I can say is, read the novel and you'll see what I mean!

I would also criticize Anthony Mann's direction at times. Re-takes of some of Lanza's hammier moments should definitely have been made, and the film lacks (at times) the full dramatic treatment that its subject deserves. Re-takes of Lanza's Nessun Dorma and Di Quella Pira should also have been made. In both arias he sounds uncharacteristically strained, and in each case a second take would have sorted out the problem.

Quibbles aside, Lanza's acting is often outstanding (the Ave Maria scene, for instance, is a revelation). Vincent Price, Lanza's acid-tongued and hilarious manager in the movie, later remarked off-screen how impressed he was with the tenor's dedicated approach to his acting. Sarita Montiel is also outstanding in her role as a fiery Mexican bullfighter's daughter, providing Lanza with his best-ever leading lady.

But what makes this film a vocal masterpiece is Lanza's singing. La Danza, Torna a Surriento, Amor Ti Vieta, O Paradiso, the Otello Monologue (Dio! Mi potevi scagliar...) and the heart-rending Lamento Di Federico are all astonishing feats of singing. By 1955 Lanza's voice had darkened into a lirico spinto tenor that often borders on the dramatic. It is rare indeed to hear a tenor with such baritonal fullness AND a ringing tenorial top. (Eat your heart out, Placido Domingo!) Lanza For my money, the Otello Monologue is the pinnacle of Lanza's operatic legacy, and the finest recording of this aria. The scene in which it appears is also brilliantly acted by Lanza. As the critic John Cargher would later remark, Lanza's rendition of the Otello Monologue alone "would assure him of immortality."

All criticism aside, Serenade remains a source of immense pleasure to me, and it is richly deserving of far wider appreciation.
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Mario Lanza at his Best! Powerful and Magnificent!
lawrence_elliott3 May 2007
I really enjoyed this movie. Mario Lanza's voice is so powerful and beautiful - the most emotionally charged voice I have ever listened to. He was God's gift to us with a beautiful powerful tenor voice. His 'Ave Maria' inspires even if you are an ardent Protestant. This man could sing beyond belief. Any one out there with a musical ear let him hear this man's voice - it will exalt you to the heavens.

The story line is good and the acting okay. I found it thoroughly engaging and who could refuse to like this film when Vincent Price is in it. What a class act he is. Voice, presence, poise - this actor had it all. We will never hear a voice like Lanza again. The tenors of today are technically good but they have no heart, soul and emotion although they try very hard. My eyes are moist whenever Lanza sings it is so beautiful. What a joy to hear him sing. "And Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest"!
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The greatest tenor voice of all
edjavega27 June 2004
"Serenade" is one of the great Mario Lanza's more interesting films, taking on a heavier dramatic tone than his early fluff with MGM. There is true pathos and tragedy in some of the scenes, and you really feel for his character.

Spanish movie legend Sarita Montiel is quite fetching and likeable as his lady love, and for once, we see the American protagonist being saved by the love of a non-Anglo (older movies would always show the brunette as the femme fatale and the blonde girl back home as the virtuous one). Too bad she sings no songs in this movie, although the Mexico scenes are colorful and well-done.

But as usual, it is Mario's great voice which truly shines here. He sings more opera arias in this film than in any other movie of his (except possibly "The Great Caruso"). His combination of lyric sweetness, magnificent dramatic sound and ringing top notes, plus sheer versatility, is unmatched even by some of the greatest classically-trained singers, including Pavarotti and Domingo. And he is certainly better than today's pop opera darling Andrea Bocelli.

Vincent Prince and Joan Fontaine (still gorgeous here) bring their usual great support.

The final scene (at Joan Fontaine's party) actually has great dramatic tension although somewhat marred by a less than satisfying ending to the movie. Still very watchable.
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Sarita saves Mario from Joan's predatory clutches!
Greg Couture28 April 2003
When this one was released I was still dazzled by the sleek beauty of the line of 1956 Lincoln automobiles. So, in the opening sequence, when Joan Fontaine, with her protege, Vince Edwards (playing a hot-headed boxer), in a "long, low, luxurious Lincoln" convertible (top down, of course), stop by the side of a vineyard where Mario Lanza is laboring (quite without any sign of perspiration, by the way...must have been an unseasonably cool day, despite the blazing sunshine!), to ask directions, I was hooked. The fire-engine red Premiere convertible is as lovingly photographed as the stars and it wasn't until Sarita Montiel, playing Mario's true love, Juana, makes her entrance, that I ceased wishing that resplendent automobile would again appear to do justice to the use of Technicolor (oops!), I mean, Warnercolor, in this soap-with-music.

Sarita, though her list of Spanish language films is quite awesome, never enjoyed much of a career in Hollywood films. (We weren't nearly as accepting of non-Anglo leading ladies back then.) She is just gorgeous in this one and her playing as the fiery and passionate (what else?!?) Juana helped Mario convince us that he was a man who could be snatched from the diabolical and devastating ensnarements of Joan Fontaine's spoiled heiress, Kendall Hale. The introduction of her character, when Mario flees in disgrace to Mexico, permits a scenic and worth-the-price-of-admission tour of Mexican locales.

The music is fairly well presented in this one. Not being an opera connoisseur, I am not qualified to comment knowledgeably on Mr. Lanza's renditions of operatic excerpts, but I have always found his tenor voice to be among the most listenable (So many of them just bleat!), and his constant reprising of the title song throughout this movie did not grow tiresome, at least to these ears.

A side note: Mario's father, quite a dear old gentleman, who had remarried, lived down the street in the Huntington Palisades section of Pacific Palisades, in southern California, where my family owned a home. I frequently saw Mario's Cadillac parked in his father's driveway, but, alas!, never caught a glimpse of the golden-voiced Mario himself, who was, you may be sure, his father's pride and joy.
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Lanza's first film away from MGM was one of his worst!
BobLib27 September 1999
Apart from Mario Lanza's singing, which is, as always, wonderful, and Vincent Price's performance as a somewhat less than ethical music critic, there is really very little to recommend about "Serenade." Lanza had been a big fan of the original James M. Cain ("Double Indemnity," et. al.) novel for years, and was always pushing to make it while he was at MGM. After he was fired from MGM, he signed with Warners as part of a three-picture deal, with the provision that "Serenade" be filmed first. Jack Warner, who'd been trying to snag Lanza for years, readily agreed.

The script, by the otherwise excellent Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, is a highly bowdlerized version of the book, retaining not much more than the title and character names. The film almost relentlessly exposes Lanza's considerable weaknesses as an actor in a way MGM never did. His singing, by contrast, is some of his best, especially in the scenes from Verdi's "Otello" with Metropolitan Opera great Licia Albanese as his Desdemona, a role she sang often at the Met.

As was his wont, Lanza's increasingly irresponsible, unpredictable behavior cost him the other two pictures in his Warners contract, even though "Serenade" was a box-office success. Apparently, Jack Warner was no more patient with him than Dore Schary had been. How ironic, then, that his last two films, made independently in Italy, were released in America by none other than MGM!
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Serenade- Lanza's Life Was A Serenade & O So Beautiful ****
edwagreen21 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
By far, Mario Lanza's greatest film. He really showed that he could do some fine acting here in addition to his phenomenal operatic voice.

A temperamental opera singer, who falls under the spell of Joan Fontaine, a wealthy patron of the arts, but in reality a Jezebel if ever there were. For a change, Vincent Price projects no evil and that is why his performance is rather restrained.

Here is the story of a man who threw away a career for the love of a temptress, who would go from man to man. It's the story of the wealthy woman who just doesn't know what she wants out of life. Described best by Harry Bellaver, who was so good as Georgie the year before in "Love Me or Leave Me.," as a tramp.

The picture reveals that salvation is achieved by going back to the land and working on it and meeting the love of his life.

I vividly remember when "Serenade" played at the Radio City Music Hall. Those were the years of quality films, not most of the garbage we have today.
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Super Soap Opera
rbrb28 June 2010
What a marvelous musical drama this is, and grateful to TCM for putting it on their schedules. This is a story of how a vineyard worker rises to be an opera star, but falls victim to the emotional torture of a femme fatale which sends him into apparent oblivion. Then he meets a Mexican beauty and so can she raise him from the ashes?

What drama and what performances!

The voice of Mario Lanza is the greatest in history, and his rendition of "Nessum Dorma" and "Ave Marie" are show stoppers. Full of heart, passion and soul. There is just enough Opera in this film to keep everyone happy, like or loathe it.

The smoldering and intense beauty and performance of Sara Montrel, begs the question, who can surpass her as the most charismatic female on screen in the last 50 years?

Joan Fontaine is a suitably wicked witch and Vincent Price's mere raising of an eyebrow tell's a tale all by itself.

This is a classic movie beautifully filmed and totally underrated by the IMDb voters. Soap from beginning to end, and all the major performers vie to out drama queen each other, even to the final climactic scene.


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A wonderful movie, beautiful music
boo-2526 February 2000
This movie is so beautiful. The music is so wonderful. There is no singer like Mario Lanza. I can see this movie over and over and just listen to his voice. We will never have another Mario Lanza no one can compete with his beautiful voice.
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The best film of all!
Wladislaw Semyonow7 January 2005
Well, I'd like to say that I've seen this film, "Serenade", for not so long time ago - just yesterday. It was dubbed into Russian pretty good. There's a TV channel in Russia called "Culture", and TV programs and films goes there WITHOUT ANY ADDS! Can you imagine it? I can! So, yesterday I've made a very good tape record of "Serenade" (on VHS, NOT SVHS, tape recorder), and I'd like to say a few words on this film. When I watched it for the first time (now it was for the third time), it hasn't made anything to me, that is, I thought the film is good and that's all. But now I think that it is not all. I can tell you that yesterday I hardly could help... crying! Yes, that's it! Because there was Mario Lanza and there certainly was Sara Montiel, the most beautiful woman in the world. If it happened that you haven't seen this film yet, please, watch it! What for? I beg you pardon, if you don't like Mario's singing(!), just watch it to enjoy Sara, her voice and her eyes. Remember NOT TO MISS the scene in the final, in which Sara plays just... so fine that you cannot believe your eyes and your ears. But don't worry about her - she would be all right! There is also a lot of high-class music (not only fascinating Othello's aria from Verdi's opera worths mentioning!). In all aspects, this is indeed one of the best film of all movies of all times and peoples. If I could give it 1,000 - I would, but I can give 10 maximum... Just so fine that you cannot believe yourself! (I'm deeply sorry for my bad English.)
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Lanza in Tortured Love Affair
smithy-820 October 2003
This is Mario Lanza's best movie and best performance. The story is great. It's about an opera singer falling in love with the wrong woman, his benefactor.

He is surrounded by great actors: Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel, Vincent Price, and a great supporting cast. I believe, this is Joan Fontaine's second bad girl role. She is a hoot! Sara Montiel is her rival and plays her good girl role to the hilt. They are both fun to watch. Lanza doesn't play himself this time. He plays an opera singer who can't decide who he loves.
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Cain Not Able to do anything for Mario
bkoganbing2 February 2012
For his one and only film away from an MGM release, Mario Lanza went to Warner Brothers in 1956 to star in a film adaption of James M. Cain's novel Serenade. It's the story of an opera singer discovered and then abandoned by society girl Joan Fontaine and then redeemed by the love of a good woman played by Mexican film star Sarita Montiel.

James M. Cain was an author who had given the screen a few classic films from his work like Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. But Cain was unable to give the screen anything more than a turgid melodrama with Serenade. It was not in the class as a novel or a film as those other three works.

However one watches a Mario Lanza film to hear him sing and he's in good voice with the usual mixture of classical opera, Italian folk songs, and a pair of new songs by Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn who had already given him Be My Love and Because You're Mine. Mario sings the title song and My Destiny from Brodzsky and Cahn and they're good, but not in the league with those two other classics identified with him. My favorite out of the score is La Danza which is sung toward the beginning of the film. Lanza did an outstanding record of this as did his idol Enrico Caruso in the early days of commercial recording.

The Code was still firmly in place or Vincent Price's character as the opera impresario would be more obviously gay. As it is Price gets the best lines in the film and makes the most of them.

If watching Serenade I'd fast forward to Mario's songs and listen to them. They're what gives Serenade any lasting popularity.
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SERENADE (Anthony Mann, 1956) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI27 May 2011
This was the fourth of just 7 starring vehicles for turbulent Italian tenor Mario Lanza; although not his best or most popular (that remains 1951's THE GREAT CARUSO), Anthony Mann was easily the best director he ever had. It was actually Lanza's first film in 4 years, a period marked by the debacle of THE STUDENT PRINCE (1954) where director Curtis Bernhardt decided he had had enough of the star's tantrums, had him summarily fired and replaced by Edmund Purdom (who mimed to Lanza's own singing)!

Anyway, the screenplay here is so predictable that it seems written on autopilot and one is hard-pressed to believe that it was based on a novel penned by hard-boiled noir writer James M. Cain; it comes as no surprise, then, to learn that the film version was heavily bowdlerized! Incidentally, Cain was also behind similar musical soap opera stuff like WHEN TOMORROW COMES (1939) and its remake INTERLUDE (1957) that had equally boasted the services of notable directors (John M. Stahl and Douglas Sirk, respectively) for their transition to the screen! On a personal note, it is unfortunate that, while respected Maltese character actor Joseph Calleia got to work with two of Hollywood's most talented film-makers of that time within the same year, it was only on their least interesting movies: this and Nicholas Ray's HOT BLOOD!; what is even worse is that another Maltese who goes by the name of Joseph Calleia is currently enjoying worldwide fame as a tenor himself - thus endangering his earlier namesake (who died back in 1975)'s own fledgling reputation on his home ground!

The supporting cast of SERENADE is quite good actually: Joan Fontaine (she has the right looks for the role of the bitchy society dame who entraps Lanza in her tangled web but there is next to no chemistry between them!), Sarita Montiel (Mann's wife at the time, she has the role of Lanza's beautiful Mexican redeemer), Vincent Price (a breath of fresh air as the witty, artless impresario), Silvio Minciotti (as Lanza's first restaurateur employer), Vince Edwards (as Fontaine's temperamental prize-fighting pet) and Edward Platt (as the director of Lanza's ill-fated stage debut performance of "Othello" – which he hysterically abandons in mid-aria simply because Fontaine has not turned up to see him!). Similarly histrionic moments occur during a thunderstorm in the Mexican plains (almost evoking John Ford's THE QUIET MAN {1952}!) and when a jealous Montiel (incidentally, she has her own jilted lover to contend with!) loses it by bullfighting a mocking Fontaine at a society party that precipitates an unbelievably contrived climactic traffic accident (with an inevitable happy outcome just as Lanza is about to go live on the airwaves)! To counter such melodramatic (if appropriately operatic) outbursts, perhaps the film's best sequence is the simple and moving one in which Lanza and Montiel enter a Mexican church to pray, and it is here that he regains his self-confidence (having spent some time on the skids and then returned to his roots as a field-worker!) by singing Schubert's "Ave Maria".

Apart from the afore-mentioned "Othello", the film also shows Lanza performing a famous aria from Giuseppe Verdi's "Il Trovatore" (incidentally, I have just acquired Renato Castellani's 10½-hour biopic of the famed Italian composer shot in 1982 for Italian TV with Ronald Pickup in the lead!), as well as 2 new songs in English (one of them 'composed' and played on the piano by Vincent Price and the title tune, which is reprised for the finale). Having mentioned the English numbers just now, it is odd given his proud heritage that, when Lanza is about to leave home early on in search of success (managed by his cousin Harry Bellaver), he treats his paisani to a pop tune – and in a foreign tongue, to boot! By the way, this viewing came via a TCM U.K. broadcast of the Warner Bros. production (albeit screened full-frame).
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Lush musical
jjnxn-131 January 2013
The story is pretty ridiculous but its all presented lushly with all the big studio trimmings. Gorgeous locations in sumptuous Technicolor and a top flight cast all doing good work. Mario is in fine voice even if he doesn't look his best and sings many beautiful songs full of vigor. The script requires more acting than usually asked of him and he pulls it off well enough although no one would ever mistake him for Olivier. Joan Fontaine checks in with the silky brand of villainy that became her stock in trade once her sweet ingénue phase came abruptly to an end sometime after Letter from an Unknown Woman. Did any actress have a more dramatic change of persona than she from dewy vulnerability to brittle hard edged sophistication in so short a time? Anyway she looks incredible and is a fine balance to the breathtaking beauty of Sarita Montiel. The other standout in the cast is Vincent Price in a part that had anybody else with less flair played it would have been nothing. With the sly humor in his voice he makes his lines memorable and walks off with any scene he's in. If you're a fan of any of the stars well worth the time.
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Lanza stars in film adaptation of James Cain novel
blanche-212 May 2011
Mario Lanza, at the age of 34, was a complete mess - bloated from drinking, overweight, and making a film comeback of sorts. Though his voice had been heard in "The Student Prince," he hadn't appeared in a film in four years. "Serenade," based on the novel by James Cain, minus the gay love affair, was the vehicle to return him to the screen. Cain was a great lover of opera and incorporated it into this novel and also into the novel Mildred Pierce.

Lanza plays Damon, a vineyard worker with a golden voice who is discovered by a socialite, Kendall Hale (Joan Fontaine) who sets him up with a major voice teacher. With the help of Kendall and those around her, Damon is given a star buildup. The only problem is, Kendall is someone who encourages artists and then dumps them. Damon is in love with her, and on the night of his debut (we assume at the Met) singing Otello (a good choice for the story, but he never would have sung it until he was in his fifties at a minimum, if at all), she doesn't show up. He is so obsessed with her that right before he strangles Desdemona, he walks off stage, removes his costume and makeup, and goes to Kendall's place. What an idiot. His career in tatters, he goes to Mexico City and gets a job as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. But he's having a nervous breakdown. (No wonder - the role is completely wrong for him.)

Damon winds up ill and is brought back to health by a family which includes Juana (Sarita Monteil). With her help, Damon gradually feels strong enough to try singing again. But can he?

Lanza had a beautiful natural voice. Technique wasn't his strong suit -he scooped a lot and tended to oversing - but he brought opera to the common man. Before him, opera singers in films had been divas and divos - Jeanette MacDonald, Grace Moore et al. - but Lanza always played the truck driver with the beautiful voice. There were comments here on this site that his voice had darkened - frankly, at 34, that shouldn't have happened yet. As a person ages (we're talking 40s and 50s here) the vocal cords thicken and often, the middle voice warms up and becomes stronger, and some of the top goes.

Joan Fontaine, at nearly 40, was a stunning woman with a beautiful, slim figure. At this point in her career, she was playing the society woman, often in roles too young for her, as in "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." But the sweet, naive girl of Rebecca had turned into the rich woman with an educated speaking voice and cool looks. Unlike other actresses of her age, Fontaine managed to eek out more years in good films than some of her counterparts because of this change in image. She does a great job as the cold Kendall. As Juana, Sarita Monteil is beautiful and her passion and intensity are a great contrast to Fontaine. The gowns in the film were gorgeous for both women.

Mario Lanza was a tragic figure, possessed of a beautiful voice and a natural tendency toward stockiness. Due to the pressure on him to lose weight, his crash dieting and drinking eventually affected his heart. In fact, there was nothing wrong with his appearance or his very likable, relaxed screen presence. But, as with Judy Garland, Louis B couldn't leave it alone. Lanza was a problematic individual, difficult to work with and someone who sexually harassed his female costars. He was his own worst enemy, but what a legacy.
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New Lanza fan loved this film!
Billy-3412 February 1999
I just discovered Mario Lanza and I loved this first film of his that I saw...can't wait to see more. Joan Fontaine and Vincent Price provide excellent supporting roles too! A total class act through and through.
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Mario Lanza's Voice Is Inspirational
atlasmb31 January 2017
This film includes Vincent Price and Joan Fontaine. And the stunning beauty of Sara Montiel (whose professional bio is remarkable). But the star of this film is Mario Lanza's voice.

Lanza's career was brief. He is only credited with seven film roles, but he was the premier tenor of his time and, some will say, any time. Thankfully, we have this film to record some of his best performances. For that reason alone, the film deserves a "9". A must see for those who appreciate spectacular singing.

Anything else I might write would be superfluous. But another line is required to finish this review.
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So glad I finally got to see it---
Ishallwearpurple4 April 2013
Thank you Turner Classic Movies! Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine, Vincent Price, Sarita Montiel. Made three years before his death of a heart attack, this film has much to recommend it, mainly his singing. The two songs written for the film are not top notch, but his rendition of "Nessum Dorma" and "Ave Marie" are show stoppers. Joan Fontaine(Kendall), as the cold hearted rich women, who discovers him(Damon) singing in a San Francisco café and finds him a vocal teacher and eventually a debut in opera, is beautiful and has gorgeous clothes to wear. When she is through with him, she abruptly leaves and goes off with a painter, which makes him completely break down and flee the stage. He goes to Mexico and is brought back to living by a beautiful girl who he eventually falls for and marries. The comeback and what happens when Kendall comes back into his life is pure melodrama. This was a film I missed when it came out although I was a huge fan in the years of his Hollywood career. I still tear up at some of his singing, it is so beautiful. 8/10
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Good, classy entertainment!
whatsupomar9 October 2017
At this time it is very easy to pan this outrageously inept rendition of the James M. Cain groundbreaking novel. People forget that back in 1955 it would have been impossible to film "Serenade" as written by the author. You can also say that Anthony Mann was not the ideal director for this kind of musical melodrama since he was more at home in the film noir and western genres. In spite of all that, "Serenade" is not a bad movie and can be enjoyed by all but most specially by opera lovers. Mario Lanza is mesmerizing singing some of the world's most beloved music. In my opinion he was never more effective as a singer than on this Warner Bros Technicolor production. As an actor Mr. Lanza has some good and bad moments playing Damon, the humble California vineyard worker who achieves fame and fortune only to be destroyed by his obsessive passion for beautiful socialite Kendall Hale (Joan Fontaine) who enjoys making stars out of her lovers and then dropping them for the next hopeful in line. When he hits rock bottom in Mexico he is rescued and rehabilitated by a wealthy bullfighter's daughter, the earthy and also beautiful Juana Montes (Sarita Montiel). When Damon goes back to the U.S. with Juana to re-launch his career, Miss Hale shows up again with every intention to manipulate the singer once more. Will she succeed? All that mayhem is worthy just to listen to Lanza's glorious voice sing with outstanding gusto "Torna a Sorrento", a most moving "Ave Maria" (Schubert) or Puccini's "Nessum Dorma" from "Turandot". As both a singer and an actor Lanza is particularly effective in his rendition of Verdi's "Dio Ti Giocondi" from "Othello", doubtless one of the artist's best moments in film. I find the supporting cast brilliant with special mentions going to Vincent Price as the sarcastic, witty opera manager and the gorgeous Sarita as the temperamental Juana.
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Serenade, Lanza's swan song
peters159-15 September 2006
Poor Mario Lanza. I say this because his awful screen career was what did him in. A noted Opera singer who was in The Great Caruso observed that all Mr Lanza wanted to do was sing. MGM did him a disservice and his manager did a greater blame for filling the young singers head when he should have been taking more singing lessons and more engagements like the Hollywood Bowl concert. And should have stayed far away from the siren song of MGM. Mr Lanza had a great voice but alas it was, as he was, undisciplined, he only had 18 minutes of voice. He could not sustain it in a full scale opera. Of course, when MGM had a contract you were at their mercy, and when Mr Lanza's antics became even too much for the great studio they dropped him as quickly as they signed him. And left him for the sharks to devour. And I mean the "boy,s". Pay up now! There was no threat of breaking his legs, they just pulled the plug on him on night. And that was that. Still, it was nice that Warner Bros gave him a chance to sing. And that's why I like Serenade. They really gave him the great chance. Who cares about the plot, Hollywood was always buying James M Cains books and the ignoring the real plots, look at Mildred Pierce, Veda was an Opera singer but in the film she ended up singing some silly ditty called Oceana Roll. Anyway, the original plot to Serenade was too hot for movies at that time. Mario Lanza's life was a real American tragedy and I hope that someday someone will really film his life story - wart's and all - Now, that would be something. Serenade. Thank you Mario Lanza, you showed us what you might have become in that film Too bad for the ending.
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Lanza in magnificent voice but the vehicle is shoddy...
Neil Doyle21 May 2007
SERENADE deserves to be watched for one reason alone--MARIO LANZA, who happens to be in magnificent voice, doing full justice to a number of arias and numbers like LA DANZA and AVE MARIA. The latter is beautifully rendered in ringing tones, upper and lower register sounding better than ever.

But it's too bad his acting remained a constant problem. Not only is he unconvincing in most of his dialog, but JOAN FONTAINE is wildly miscast as his wicked benefactor. Miss Fontaine was a cool beauty but playing women without a moral compass was not her forte. As compensation, SARITA MONTIEL does nicely as a feisty Mexican woman with whom Lanza finds true love.

Based on a novel by James M. Cain (author of tough pulp novels), SERENADE had themes which were too racy for Hollywood to handle in the '50s, but this rewrite of Cain's story fails to capture the raw power of Cain's original story, whitewashed as it is.

Summing up: Worth watching just to hear Lanza's golden voice--but the plot is a weary thing.
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Has replaced The Great Caruso as my choice for Mario Lanza's best film
TheLittleSongbird14 June 2015
While some are better than others(none masterpieces, none abominations either), all of Mario Lanza's films are worth seeing in some shape or form at least once. Of which Serenade, even with its flaws, replaces The Great Caruso as the best of them(not counting The Student Prince, which only had Lanza's voice featuring, as good as that film is). Something to bear in mind is that Serenade is a film that should be judged on its own merits as a film, other than the title and some characters names it does deviate quite substantially from the superb(and superior) book it's based on. As an adaptation, it's pretty much a bowdlerisation being tonally significantly toned down due to censorship, as a film on its own merits while not perfect it's very good.

Serenade's weakest aspect is the script; to sum it up in one word it's patchy, with much of it feeling very bland, with the exception of Winthrop's very witty dialogue, and the writing being rather soap-opera-ish in the frothy and melodramatic sense. The romance between Damon and Kendall's characters also seemed rather hastily written and rushed in development, and the chemistry between the two of them felt cold. Also the ending didn't do much for me, it just felt forced and didn't quite seem to gel with the rest of the story.

The production values are absolutely top-notch though, the costumes and sets being the very meaning of lavish and the photography is rich and vibrant in colour as well as looking so professionally shot, the Ave Maria and Otello Monologue scenes are superbly filmed. It is very difficult to put into words how good the music is without resorting to superlatives, the music score is energetic, sumptuous and whimsical, while Serenade, while no Be My Love or Because You're Mine, is a worthy main song. There are many operatic/classical music favourites here that will delight many an opera fan, with Otello's Monologue, Ave Maria and Lamento di Federico coming off particularly strongly.

Serenade has one of the better-executed stories, perhaps even the best, of any of Lanza's films. Despite being longer than the average Lanza film, at two hours, it didn't feel that long to me, and is more eventful- Lanza's MGM efforts story wise were as thin as a wafer- and less predictable than his earlier films and even is more emotionally investing, the book is darker but the film isn't any less poignant. Mann's directs with a sure hand and the characters engage at least while not having an awful lot of dimension to them. The performances are very good, with the best acting performance coming from Vincent Price, giving one of my favourite supporting performances by far in a Lanza film, who is menacingly urbane and hilariously acid-tongued.

Lanza's performance contains the best overall acting he ever did, he overdoes it occasionally sure and Nessun Dorma sounds uncharacteristically strained, but his achingly sincere acting in Ave Maria and poignancy in Lamento di Federico more than makes up. He is at his best in the Otello Monologue, this is different and very heavy stuff for Lanza to take on but he brings riveting intensity and heart-wrenching emotion that it was difficult to not be moved by him. Lanza is also in golden voice, it's darker and heavier than his earlier films but has lost none of its beauty or what made the voice distinctive, musicality and phrasing are fine too. Joan Fontaine, while not at her absolute best, is both alluring and coolly vindictive, and Sarita Montiel is sensual and fiery with her performance certainly not being devoid of heart, like Lanza her acting(especially in her very telling reaction to hearing him singing) in the Ave Maria scene is magical.

All in all, well worth watching and a must for Mario Lanza fans. Fans of the book beware but opera and Lanza fans will be in heaven, judging the film on its own it has replaced The Great Caruso as my choice for his best film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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"Serenade": Lanza at his best.
mascaras11 August 2008
I agree with those who say this is probably Lanza's best film. I even liked it better than The Great Caruso. And, if it wasn't only for the fabulous music and Mario's performance, just the introduction of Sarita Montiel when she finds him in the street is worth watching again and again. One of the most beautiful faces to ever appear in a Hollywood film. Just a little more than a year after Serenade she'd become one of the most popular stars in the whole world with a singing role in a Spanish film: El Ultimo Cuple. For two years she became the biggest box office attraction in Europe, Latin America and everywhere where there was a movie theater. Vincent Price, as ha always does, gives a wonderful performance and Miss Fontaine ,as usual, is cold and distant.
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Mario on the downslide
artzau8 April 2001
He was overweight, struggling and stumbles through this story based on a cheap thriller but it was still worth the price of admission. The guy could sing like no one else. His acting was often wooden, his lines delivered like the Pennsylvania Grocer's kid he was. His music was marginal, his phrasing and articulation shoddy but damn, he sang like an angel. This guy was living proof that technique does not always an artist make. The story here, with Joan Fontaine miscast as a man-eater and Kathy Jurado as a Mexican Maja who saves the soul of a lost tenor, is a wide departure from the book which touched on themes of homosexuality, a taboo subject back in the 50s. Sadly, there's no video. No big deal, I suppose, the screenplay story is whining and boring with fun moments provided by the beautiful Ms. Jurado and Vinnie Price as the Impresario. But, Mario's singing rescues it and makes another of the cult classics that all his films are. As a former singer, I'm always amazed at how bad he was as an opera singer but, wow. What a voice. If you get a chance to see this on the late show, check it out. Mario's voice will thrill you.
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