Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. France/West Germany, 1978. Bavaria Atelier, Lorimar, NF Geria Filmgesellshaft GmbH, Societe Francaise de Production. Screenplay by Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, based on a story by Tom Tryon. Cinematography by Gerry Fisher. Produced by Billy Wilder. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Alexandre Trauner. Costume Design by Charlotte Flemming. Film Editing by Stefan Arnsten, Fredric Steinkamp.
Penultimate film by Billy Wilder that seeks to recreate the atmosphere of Sunset Boulevard with a similar tale of imagined Hollywood lore. William Holden gives a reliable performance as a struggling film producer who flies to Corfu to find a reclusive movie star named Fedora (Marthe Keller) and convince her to star in his modernized update of Anna Karenina. He has a hard time breaking the protective circle around the actress until he is granted an interview with the elderly countess at the actress’s villa, who tells him that Fedora no longer works in films and will not be available. Holden suspects that the woman is being held against her will by those who would exploit her until a later turn of events prompts the actress’s entourage to tell him the complete tale, in flashback, of a tragedy involving babies out of wedlock, desperate plastic surgery and a conspiracy to shut out the public and the press. Wilder couldn’t raise interest from Hollywood studios to make this film, which given his status as an architect of Hollywood’s golden age is a crime regardless of how this particular project turned out. His being forced to make the film with European money results in compromised production values in many ways: it doesn’t look great (a rare Wilder film with ugly cinematography) and the foreign actors are all badly dubbed, but ultimately it is Wilder and Diamond’s weak script (adapted from a story by Tom Tryon, star of Preminger’s The Cardinal) that undoes the entire thing. It’s a trashy TV movie that has a Kenneth Anger Hollywood Babylon-style story but is not played with the kind of juicy, gossipy tone that would excuse its being so ineffective as a drama about either a dysfunctional family or the inner workings of the most glamorous business in the world. Henry Fonda and Michael York appear in cameos as themselves.