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Thursday, November 26, 2009

THE YELLOW ROLLS-ROYCE (1964)


Though it was made by the same studio, producer, director, D.P. & writer as THE V.I.P.S/’63, this portmanteau pic about three owners of the posh eponymous car barely comes off. It’s not that the earlier film was better (it may well be worse), but it’s elements were ‘all-of-a-piece’ in a manner that can sometimes turn Pop banality into dramatic building blocks. This one only works in bits & pieces. Story One swoons with swank as Rex Harrison finds himself rich, lordly and cuckolded by Jeanne Moreau. Down in the depths on the 90th floor, as Cole Porter once said. Just at the end, Terrence Rattigan favors Rex with a grand scena, which he nails, but it’s small recompense. Story Two tries to combine Americans abroad gaucherie with droll mob stylings (a la Damon Runyon) as George C. Scott & Shirley MacLaine play gangster & moll in L’Italia. It’s hard to know what’s more blatantly phony, the comic dialogue or the studio mock ups that lenser Jack Hildyard over-lights in typical mid-‘60s fashion. At least Art Carney gets his laughs as a wiseguy bodyguard & Alain Delon is ridiculously handsome as a local tourist hustler. Things improve significantly when an imperious Ingrid Bergman smuggles Yugoslavian freedom-fighter Omar Sharif across the border in the car’s boot. Thirty years after her big screen debut, Bergman remains astonishingly beautiful, especially when her character drops the aristocratic airs and fine clothes. The film was a swan song for it’s producer, Anatole de Grunwald & helmer Anthony Asquith, but Riz Ortolani, who wrote the excruciating score, is still going strong, 200 credits and counting.

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