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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mambo (1954)

Returning to her hometown of Venice, a famous dancer (Silvana Mangano) reflects on the two men who lead to her leaving Venice and now make her uncomfortable in returning. One (Vittorio Gassman) was a good for nothing opportunist and the other (Michael Rennie), a debauched aristocrat. As she suspected, both men re-enter her life but for different reasons. An Italian-American co-production, the film was produced by Dino De Laurentis (Mangano's husband) and Carlo Ponti from an original script by three Italian screenwriters and the film's American director, Robert Rossen (THE HUSTLER). It's a rather kitschy soap opera with Mangano suffering in poverty, suffering in wealth and well, just suffering. The best sections of the film involve the dance sequences which were choreographed by the great Katherine Dunham, who plays herself in the film. Unfortunately, as lovely as she is, Mangano lacks a dancer's grace and her dancing is awkward when in the presence of real dancers. As the manager of the almost all black dance troupe, Shelley Winters has some nice scenes before being dispatched way too soon, taking some of the film's life with her. I suppose the decision to shoot the film in black and white, Harold Rosson (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) did the cinematography, might have been an attempt to give the film a grittier look but the Rome and Venice locations scream out for color. The score is by Nino Rota and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. With Eduardo Ciannelli and Julie Robinson (Mrs. Harry Belafonte).

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