The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

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The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

“La Contessa scalza”
Cast
Mari Aldon
Humphrey Bogart
Rossano Brazzi
Robert Brown
Renato Chiantoni
Valentina Cortese (see Il bravo di Venezia)
Carlo Dale
Diana Decker
Gertrude Flynn
Bill Frasier, 1907-1987
Bianca Fusari
Ava Gardner, 1922-1990
Jim Gerald, 1889-1958
Marius Goring
Franco Interlenghi
Bessie Love, 1898-1986
Edmund O’Brien, 1915-1985
John Parrish
Alberto Rabagliati
Riccardo Riolo
Elizabeth Sellars
Tonio Selwart
Barbara Shelley
Enzo Staiola (see Vulcano)
Warren Stevens
Maria Zanoli (see Incantesimo tragico)

Director
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1909-1993 (also writer & executive producer)

Director of Photography
Jack Cardiff

Composer
Mario Nascimbene

Production
Angelo Rizzoli

Background
This recollection by Ava Gardner’s biographer doesn’t seem to coincide with Rossano’s recollection of his experience on the set of the film:

“When Ava got to Cinecittá Studios, her elation over landing the coveted role quickly soured. Filming The Barefoot Contessa was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Mankiewicz was a martinet whose personality generated a constant tension on the set. He worked at grueling speed and was so obsessive about not wasting time that he instituted a series of fines for anyone reporting late for work. And that meant anyone, from the top stars to the lowliest grip. His behavior played havoc with all those around him, keeping them constantly off balance, and especially Ava because it compounded her usual insecurity.

To make things worse, not much camaraderie existed among the cast. Rossano Brazzi, the impotent Italian husband in the picture, complained about everything. He was so wrapped up in his own problems that he hardly seemed to notice that Ava was there at all. Humphrey Bogart, who played the recovered alcoholic movie director who discovers Ava, needled her about her friendship with Luis Miguel, who had accompanied her to Rome. Bogart was a charter member of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, a “club” with no premises, no membership dues, no rules to speak of and no particular activities except drinking and running down the establishment. Other members included Robert Benchley, the humorist, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin. Rosalind Russell was den mother. Sinatra was president. As a true Rat Packer, Bogart disapproved of Ava’s treatment of her husband.”

Ava: A Biography, by Roland Flamini, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York, © 1983.

Synopsis/Review
After “Three Coins In the Fountain”, this was the second of the three films which cemented Rossano’s triumphant return to the American screen. (The third would have to be Summertime).The film also stars Humphrey Bogart, Edmund O’Brien (who won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film), and Ava Gardner.

“I asked him what the Italians thought of his role in The Barefoot Contessa. “They were disappointed. It was very strange.”

“Our critics said you were the only person who could play the role without losing masculine appeal,” I said.

“I don’t know where I get such a reputation — I have been happily married seventeen years. I don’t want to be stuck with just romantic roles. But I understand Hollywood actors were afraid to play the part — Joe Mankiewicz told me that. I don’t feel the role hurt me.”

I asked if his friends kidded him about it, but he said they didn’t because they know him as a person. “They know what a wolf you are,” I told him.

“No, I’m not a wolf, I’m Italian,” he laughed, then hastily added: “I’m becoming so serious — I don’t know why — must be getting old. I liked Ava Gardner and we got along well although I don’t say Ava is my type. I like best someone like Katharine Hepburn. I adore Katie — she’s been so nice to me. I enjoyed every minute of Summertime. Katie will do anything for the part. She is also very realistic.”

Interview with Hedda Hopper, 2/17/57

Notes
Mari Aldon is a Canadian actress who also played the part of Phyl Yeager in Summertime.
Robert Brown, Marius Goring, and Barbara Shelley were British actors.
Bill Frasier and Elizabeth Sellers were Scottish actors.
Jim Gerald’s real name was Jacques Guénod.
Alberto Rabagliati is perhaps better known to Rossano Brazzi fans as “Santa Claus” himself in Il natale che quasi non fu.
Angelo Rizzoli was the head of the Casa Rizzoli publishing house. He also co-produced Mondo Cane.

Sources:
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U.B.S Corner (Unexpected Brazzi Sighting)

On the Comedy Channel, early March 1998: A movie titled, “Delerious” (1991), starring John Candy. In the opening scene, Candy gets a cable repair man to fix his TV … upon which is a close-up of Rossano Brazzi watching Ava Gardner do her gypsy dance in “The Barefoot Contessa”.


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