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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Serenade (1956)

An aspiring opera singer (Mario Lanza, looking bloated) is discovered singing in a cafe in San Francisco. A predatory and manipulative society maven (Joan Fontaine), with a penchant for discarding men when she gets bored with them, helps build his career only to destroy him. Based on the 1937 novel by James M. Cain, the film bears very little resemblance to the book. In the film, Lanza falls in love with a matador's daughter (Sarita Montiel) but in the book, her character is a prostitute and Fontaine's character is a gay male. Too sizzling for 1956 audiences hence the whitewashing. The director, Anthony Mann, doesn't seem much interested in the proceedings nor the extended musicals sequences for Lanza's comeback vehicle (this was his first film in four years). The part, even if seemingly tailored for Lanza here, makes demands on Lanza as an actor that he is ill equipped to fulfill satisfactorily. Even in his singing, he seems to be trying too hard though his rendition of Puccini's Nessun Dorma is lovely. With Vincent Price, Vince Edwards, Joseph Calleia, Edward Platt, Harry Bellaver and Lucia Albanese who plays Desdemona to Lanza's OTELLO.

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