Friday, 25 March 2011

The Barefoot Contessa

The Barefoot Contessa is also a balance between the reality of an ultra realist film writer and director, played by Humphrey Bogart and living in her dream a Spanish dancer, Maria Vargas played by Ava Gardiner. The film begins with Bogart a rain swept onlooker at the Funeral of an International film star who only made three films. The film comprises Bogart telling the story of the film star from when he accompanied a film tycoon and a studio publicist (Edmund O’Brien who won an Academy award as best supporting actor) on a trip from Hollywood to Spain to see the night club act of Gardiner which we do not see, but judge from the faces of the audience. The tycoon asks that she dances again and that she joins them both are refused and Bogart is sent to talk to her. She is interested but is out off by the tycoon and goes home. Bogart is told to find bring her before the plane leaves or his career in on the line. He traces her to the family home where he quickly finds she has a tempestuous relationship with her parents and leads a life within her head, searching for the ideal Prince Charming relationship as a Cinderella who likes to go about barefoot.

Bogart plays a man twice married, able to find new partners without difficulty, a writer‘s observer of people who knows from the outset he will not possess her as she needs him as a friend who will not penetrate the defence against reality she built around herself. She travels to Hollywood and becomes an International success which is reinforced by only two other films.

The studio tries to prevent Maria returning home when her father kills her mother after years of abuse. The publicist argues that any involvement with the scandal will finish her career she goes into court to speak for her father and he is acquitted and her standing enhanced.

At a Hollywood Party a notorious wealthy South American who admits his vices ( Marius Goring) makes a play for Gardiner who is tempted to go with him because the tycoon boss insists that she does not. The publicist makes a break with the tycoon after telling home truths and joined the South American

The relationship is short lived and when the South American critices Maria in public for ruining his luck gambling a stranger hits him across the faces and takes Maria away. This is Rossano Brazzi as the Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini.

She immediately falls in love having found the Prince Charming she has searched all her life. She meet up with Bogart who is happily married in Italy where he is filming and he is invited to meet the Count who live with his widowed sister on the family estate close to the sea. Bogart sees that she is love and warns the Count of the responsibility he is taking on. They are married, the impression is given by the Pope with Bogart giving her away.

Only a few weeks later Gardiner arrives where Bogart is staying late at night and reveals that on her wedding night she discovers that her husband lost his masculinity in the war. While he loves her he cannot function as a husband. During the time Bogart has known Gardiner in the film she has had a succession of sordid sexual relationships while unable to give herself to the men who courted her. This time she has gone a step further and set out to become pregnant so she can give her husband the heir he has longed for. Bogart is horrified with what she has done but is helpless to prevent what subsequently happens although he drives out tot he Count’s home when he realises that all her movements are being followed. He is too late as after telling the count what she has dome for him he kills her and the lover adn awaits for the police. He is allowed to attend the funeral before being taken back to prison. Among others in this film about the Hollywood glitterati are Elizabeth Sellers, Diana Decker, Bill Frazer and Valentina Cortessa.

The film is meant to be an intense psycho drama with literary pretension. Some allege that the relationship between Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan inspired the film but Joseph Mankiewicz who Directed and wrote the screenplay said it was based on the actress Anne Chevalier who starred in a film in 1931 called Tabu. I was unable to verify that this was so other that she did feature in the film

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