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The Barefoot Contessa

Saturday, May 22, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, US 1954, 128 min., 35mm)

After Mankiewicz left MGM, he formed his own production company, Figaro, and started work on The Barefoot Contessa, which he had originally conceived of as a novel. Reminiscent of his flashback-heavy successes with A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve (as well as 1946’s The Killers as it looks back on a person’s life through the recounts of others), The Barefoot Contessa is narrated by three men looking back on the life of a great starlet. Ava Gardner fills the role of Maria Vargas, an ingenue brought from Europe to Hollywood. Discovered by director Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart in one of his last roles), Maria is shepherded through the process of becoming a star even as she pines for her simpler life back home. Edmond O’Brien won his only Academy Award as one of the three men that tell Maria’s story. This is Mankiewicz’s first color film, and he made the most of the beauty shooting on location in Italy.


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