The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZ

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA/Italy, 1954.  Transoceanic Film, Figaro.  Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by . Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1954.  Golden Globe Awards 1954.

Ava Gardner is usually defined by her appearance in this movie, and the definition is apt; she’s perfectly cast as the irresistibly beautiful and mysterious movie star who comes out of nowhere and dies tragically young.  Humphrey Bogart plays a movie director who finds himself in a town in Spain with an eager publicity agent (Edmond O’Brien) and a maniacal film producer () in the hopes of finding out if a tavern dancer (Gardner) is everything they hear she is. They’re looking for a new face for a film they’re working on, and the minute they see her they know they’ve found it. Immediately becoming a star, Gardner’s attitude towards fame is very nonchalant, her feelings for men seemingly tame until Bogart looks a little closer and realizes that she’s much more complex than he originally thought. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s screenplay, compiled from a variety of inspirational sources (including Judy Garland), doesn’t delve as deep into the seamier side of Hollywood as it seems to want to, but it is more than passable entertainment and gorgeous to look at. Gardner is a marvel, and O’Brien steals a few good scenes as well.

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