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End Credits #92: Cinema's Lost Treasures Valentina Cortese

The radiant, refined and elegant Italian actress Valentina Cortese (January 1, 1923 - July 10, 2019) has died at age 96. 


Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided a tribute to her motion picture acting career:



The Film Appearances of Valentina Cortese

In August 1944, producer Edward Small announced that George Sanders would star in the upcoming film BLACK MAGIC and that Douglas Sirk would direct and work on the screenplay. In June 1947, the Hollywood Reporter announced that the picture was to be shot in Mexico with Gabriel Figueroa as cinematographer. The following month, however, Small canceled these plans when he discovered that costs were not as low in Mexico as he had thought.

By September 1947, Small had decided to produce the film in Italy. To finance the production, Small acquired more than 1,000,000 lire in frozen assets earned by several United Artists producers from their Italian distribution receipts. Small took over the entire facility of the Scalera studios in Rome for the production. Gregory Ratoff was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to direct. Actress Nancy Guild was also borrowed from Fox. Reportedly, star Orson Welles directed several of the scenes in this film.

The film concerns “Cagliostro” (Welles), who began his life as Joseph Balsamo, the son of gypsies. When his mother, gifted with clairvoyance, is accused along with his father of forging an alliance with the devil, they are sentenced to hang by “Count DeMontagne” (Stephen Bekassy), who also orders the boy to be whipped and his eyes put out after watching his parents' execution. Just as the guards are about to sear Joseph's eyes with a hot poker, a band of gypsies led by “Gitano” (Akim Tamiroff) comes to his rescue, after which Joseph vows revenge on DeMontagne.

Years later, as an adult, Joseph informs Gitano and “Zoraida” (Valentina Cortese), his lover, that he is changing his name to Cagliostro, the name of the swiftest comet in the night sky. "Count" Cagliostro sweeps through Europe, and, playing on hysterical faith and emotional instability, uses his hypnotic powers to sell himself as an all-powerful healer. Compelled by memories of his youth, Cagliostro returns to France and once again encounters DeMontagne when the Count summons him to examine “Lorenza” (Nancy Guild), a beautiful young woman suffering from shock, and who bears a striking resemblance to Princess Marie Antoinette.

Orson Welles, Valentina Cortese, and Akim Tamiroff in BLACK MAGIC

Orson Welles, Valentina Cortese, and Akim Tamiroff in BLACK MAGIC

Orson Welles often said that making this film was the sheerest fun he had ever had, working in the cinema. Paul Sawtell provided the 1949 film’s unreleased score. The film performed weakly at the U.S. box office, grossing just $1.5 million.


Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the rights to A. I. Bezzerides' unpublished novel The Red of My Blood in January 1948 for $37,500. Bezzerides was hired at $1,000 per week, with a ten-week guarantee, to write the screenplay. The film started production, in the San Francisco produce market, through the cooperation of the Wholesale Fruit and Produce Dealers Association. Later, however, when the novel was scheduled to be published under the title Thieves' Market and the studio decided to use that title for the film, the Dealers Association protested vigorously.

Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck was reluctant to change the title and, in a memo to the Legal Department, wrote, "We state definitely that Thieves' Market pertains only to [character] Mike Figlia's market and we go out of our way to clean up the rest of the market. Therefore it seems to me that we are not guilty in any respect of damaging anyone...You can talk to Mr. Skouras [the studio's president] about it when he gets out here but I refuse to be put in the position of costing the Company added revenue. If we had committed a wrong or if we were harming someone then I would feel differently but this is not the case." Ultimately, however, Fox decided to change the title of their film to THIEVES’ HIGHWAY.

Early casting suggestions for the leading role included Dana Andrews and Victor Mature. But Richard Conte got the lead role of “Nick Garcos,” who returns to his home in Fresno after a long sea voyage working as a mechanic, and is welcomed home by his parents and girlfriend, “Polly Faber” (Barbara Lawrence). Nick, who has saved a lot of his pay and plans to go into business with Polly's father, is unaware that his father has lost his legs in a truck accident, which appears to have been arranged by “Mike Figlia” (Lee J. Cobb), a crooked fruit and produce dealer in San Francisco. Valentina Cortese plays “Rica,” a girl who works for Figlia.

The film encountered problems with the Production Code Authority (PCA). In February 1949, the PCA stated that it could not "approve this picture in its present form because of the characterization of the girl Rica as a prostitute...Some extensive eliminations must be made as well as the addition of several new scenes." Producer Robert Bassler agreed, in late February, to shoot a new scene introducing Rica and indicating that she had regular, paid employment as a fortune teller. Bassler also agreed that excisions would be made, in dialogue and action, in scenes between Rica and Nick. Retakes were scheduled for early March 1949. The PCA issued a certificate in June "with the understanding that all prints are to be identical with the cut version shown in our projection room on June 13th." It is assumed that this is the version released, but in some prints there is still no scene in which Rica is established as anything other than a prostitute until the very end when she is seen reading cards in a bar.

Jules Dassin directed this 1949 drama. Alfred Newman provided the unreleased score, which was orchestrated by Earle Hagen. THIEVES’ HIGHWAY grossed a decent $4.2 million at the box office.


MALAYA opens with the voice-over narration of "John Manchester" (Lionel Barrymore) reading a letter written by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Manchester Boddy, the real-life basis for the character of “John Manchester.” According to a 1944 article in the Los Angeles Daily News of which Boddy was the publisher, in 1941, a disastrous fire and explosion at Fall River, MA destroyed the government's stockpile of rubber, thus necessitating rubber drives to collect scrap.

Boddy was on the air every night for more than four months, appealing to the public to collect and turn in their scrap rubber. In a memo to President Roosevelt, Boddy outlined a plan to get rubber out of Malaya. Three weeks after he had written the memo, Boddy received a letter from the President thanking him for the idea and telling him that the operation was under way. Boddy's story was bought by Dore Schary, then head of production of RKO, who took the property with him when he moved over to MGM and purchased it from RKO.

Following the real-life events, the film’s story involves newspaperman “John Royer” (James Stewart), who convinces government officials of a plan to obtain rubber by stealing it out from under the Japanese. Royer’s friend “Carnahan” (Spencer Tracy) is let out of Alcatraz to help. The pair travel to Malaya, and in the Malay city of Penang, Carnahan is warmly embraced by his former lover, the opportunistic singer “Luana” (Valentina Cortese). Cortese was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to appear in this film.

Valentina Cortese in MALAYA

Valentina Cortese in MALAYA

Richard Thorpe directed the 1949 film, which has an unreleased score by Bronislau Kaper. MALAYA pulled in a reasonable $5.4 million at the box office.


In THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL, concentration camp survivor “Victoria Kowelska” (Valentina Cortese) finds herself involved in mystery, greed, and murder when she assumes the identity of a dead friend “Karin” in order to gain passage to America. Once in America, she meets “Alan Spender” (Richard Basehart), a relative of Karin’s aunt. But some people have doubts concerning Vicky's claim to be Karin.

Dana Lyon's novel The Frightened Child was purchased in March 1948 by Twentieth Century-Fox, prior to its serialization in Harper's Magazine in April 1948, and was assigned to producer Walter Morosco. But it was Robert Bassler that ended up producing the film. Writers David Hertz, Irmgard Von Cube, Allen Vincent, Robert Hill and Karl Kamb worked on the screenplay before Elick Moll and Frank Partos, who receive onscreen credit. It does not appear, however, that these writers contributed to the final film.

Valentina Cortese and William Lundigan in THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL

Valentina Cortese and William Lundigan in THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL

Robert Wise directed the 1951 film. Some filming was done at various locations in San Francisco, and the studio's art department converted the Julius' Castle Restaurant, a well-known San Francisco landmark, and its adjoining property into the exterior of the house used in the film. Built in 1922, Julius’ Castle served as a high-class restaurant until it closed in 2008. Sol Kaplan’s score was released by Intrada in 2011.

Footage of displaced persons boarding an International Refugee Organization ship was included in the film at the request of the United Nations as a public service for "making the world conscious of the United Nations and its activities," according to a letter in the studio files.

THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL received an Academy Award nomination in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) category. The film did poorly at the box office, grossing only $1.5 million. Following production of this film, Richard Basehart and Valentina Cortese were married in 1951.


The story of THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA is told in flashback through the narration, in turn, of three principal characters: film writer and director “Harry Dawes” (Humphrey Bogart), obsequious press agent “Oscar Muldoon” (Edmond O'Brien), and old, Italian Count “Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini” (Rossano Brazzi). These people tell who “Maria Vargas” (Ava Gardner) was and the impact she had on them. Valentina Cortese plays the Count’s widowed sister “Eleanora Torlato-Favrini.”

The character of Maria Vargas is said to be based on Rita Hayworth, who was actually offered the part. Hayworth was a Latina who later married a prince, Prince Aly Khan. However, some elements were taken from Ava Gardner's life as well. The stormy relationship between Maria and tycoon movie producer “Kirk Edwards” (Warren Stevens) is based on Gardner's own relationship with billionaire film producer Howard Hughes.

Changes were made to the soundtrack just days before the film's New York opening. These were required after Howard Hughes had learned that the character "Kirk Edwards" bore striking similarities to him and threatened to sue. Included among the changes made was one that characterized "Edwards" as a Wall Street financier, instead of a Texas tycoon.

Rosanno Brazzi, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Valentina Cortese in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

Rosanno Brazzi, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Valentina Cortese in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

Marlon Brando turned down the role of Harry Dawes, telling Joseph L. Mankiewicz, "I'm not making pictures about movie stars this year. I'm not even into being a movie star, myself." While Humphrey Bogart’s “Dawes” and Ava Gardner’s “Vargas” had good chemistry on screen, off screen Bogart wasn't particularly impressed with Gardner as an actress. He commented that Gardner gave him nothing to work with when they were performing together. Some believe Bogart's unfavorable feelings towards Gardner were due to the divorce between Gardner and his close friend Frank Sinatra. For her part, Gardner said in her biography that Bogart was not easy to work with, because he argued about anything.

Mankiewicz wanted James Mason, whom he had just directed in JULIUS CAESAR (1953), for the part of the Count. MGM executive Nicholas Schenck, who had had a vehement disagreement with the director on that film, would not release Mason for this new film. According to Mankiewicz, he ended up with Rossano Brazzi, "who cannot act, cannot be sensual . . . could hardly speak English . . . "

When Mankiewicz approached MGM about borrowing Ava Gardner, they stuck him for $200,000 - twice what he was paying Humphrey Bogart - plus ten percent of the gross. Gardner ended up costing Mankiewicz $1 million, while MGM only had to pay Gardner her contracted weekly salary, which came to $60,000.

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA was Joseph L. Mankiewicz's first film as a writer, director and producer, although he had previously produced and directed or produced and written several films. It was also the first for his own production company, Figaro, Inc., which had financial backing from United Artists, and his first film in color. In addition to production at Cinecittà, location filming took place in and around Rome as well as in San Remo and Portofino, Italy. Edmond O'Brien won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Mankiewicz was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay.

Seventeen minutes of Mario Nascimbene’s score was issued on a 1994 Legend CD. This was expanded to 23 minutes for a 1996 DRG release. The complete isolated music and effects track appeared on Twilight Time’s 2016 Blu-ray of the film. The film broke into the top 30 at the box office, grossing $9.4 million.


In LE AMICHE (The Girlfriends), “Clelia” (Eleonora Rossi Drago) is a young and very ambitious woman who has returned to her native Turin and landed her dream job -- managing a chic fashion house. While staying in one of the city's top hotels, she discovers an unconscious woman in one of the rooms. Soon it becomes obvious that the woman has tried to commit suicide because she has fallen in love with a man who is already in a serious relationship. The heartbroken woman's name is “Rosetta” (Madeleine Fischer).

Through Rosetta, Clelia befriends a group of wealthy women and men – “Momina” (Yvonne Furneaux), an overconfident beauty who likes to be in control; “Nene” (Valentina Cortese), a talented artist who is engaged to an egoistical man (Gabriele Ferzetti) whose secret life is slowly spinning out of control; and “Mariella” (Anna Maria Pancani), a capricious, flirtatious and conceited beauty who does not mind kissing on a first date. While the fashion house is getting rebuilt and decorated, Clelia also befriends the chief architect's assistant, “Carlo” (Ettore Manni).

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1955, LE AMICHE did not receive a U.S. release until 1963, where it was generally seen to not equal his later films. Giovanni Fusco provided the film’s unreleased score.


MAGIC FIRE was a 1956 biopic of German composer Richard Wagner (Alan Badel). Valentina Cortese played Mathilde Wesendonk, the wife of wealthy businessman Otto Wesendonk (Peter Cushing). Mathidle becomes involved in an affair with Wagner.

MAGIC FIRE marked the final film of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897—1957), who adapted Wagner’s music for the film. Korngold also appears on screen as conductor Hans Richter. Korngold had to take the small role when the actor originally cast failed to show up. With over 1,000 extras in full costume on set, director William Dieterle pleaded with Korngold to take the non-speaking part, to save the shoot. The film's Wagner soundtrack was released on CD by Varese Sarabande in 2007.


Anthony Quinn was appearing on Broadway in "Becket" (as King Henry II) when he was approached to appear in BARABBAS. Producer Dino De Laurentiis had to buy up his Broadway contract to secure his release from the play - something Quinn was anxious for him to do, as he greatly disliked his co-star, Laurence Olivier. After Quinn had departed, Olivier continued in the play, but took over Quinn's part instead of continuing in the title role.

Supporting Quinn in the film were Arthur Kennedy as Pontius Pilate, Harry Andrews as Peter, Jack Palance as Torvald, and Valentina Cortese as Julia. Nero was played by 62-year-old Ivan Triesault, although the emperor died at 30.

Dino de Laurentiis financed the film, the highest-budgeted movie in Italian cinema history at the time, largely with profits he made from being the producer of several 1950s international hits directed by Federico Fellini.

[foreground] Valentina Cortese, Jack Palance, and Norman Wooland in BARABBAS

[foreground] Valentina Cortese, Jack Palance, and Norman Wooland in BARABBAS

Director Richard Fleischer delayed shooting in order to capture a real solar eclipse that takes place during the crucifixion scene in the film. The event occurred on 15 February 1961. Eighteen-year-old Sharon Tate was an extra in the amphitheater scene. According to Richard Fleischer, she and 42-year-old Jack Palance had an affair during the production of the movie.

While on location in Italy Anthony Quinn met Jolanda Addolori, a costumer on the film. They began a romance, and she gave birth to two of his sons. In 1966, when she was pregnant with their third child, they married.

Mario Nascimbene’s score for the film was released on a Colpix LP. CD re-issues from Legend (1989) and DRG (1996) dropped one or another track, until Hallmark released a gray market disc of the full LP in 2014. BARABBAS cracked the top 30 films at the box office in 1961, grossing $8.3 million.


In THE EVIL EYE, “Nora Davis” (Letícia Román) arrives in Rome hoping to have a good time, but her aunt dies shortly after she unpacks her bags. Nora then gets mugged on her way to a local hospital and witnesses the murder of a beautiful woman. She reports the murder to the local authorities, but they fail to discover the body and conclude that her mind might have played a trick on her.

During the funeral ceremony, Nora is approached by “Laura Torrani” (Valentina Cortese), a friend of her aunt, who later invites her to stay at her lavish home while she visits her husband in Bern, Switzerland. Nora accepts, and when Laura leaves she discovers a box with newspaper clippings from local reports about the mysterious Alphabet Killer, who apparently attacked his victims in the same area where she witnessed the murder of the beautiful woman.

Convinced that there is a connection between the missing body of the beautiful woman and the Alphabet Killer, Nora begins asking questions. She is assisted by “Dr. Marcello Bassi” (John Saxon), who took care of her aunt while she was alive.

Valentina Cortese, Letícia Román, and John Saxon in THE EVIL EYE

Valentina Cortese, Letícia Román, and John Saxon in THE EVIL EYE

THE EVIL EYE was directed by Mario Bava, his final black and white production. Today, the film is regarded as one of the seminal works in what became known as the "Giallo" genre. Roberto Nicolosi’s score for the 1963 film was released by Digitmovies in 2005. The U.S. release of the film by American International Pictures in 1964 was re-scored by Les Baxter. His score has not had a release.


“Karla Zachanassian” (Ingrid Bergman), reportedly the world's richest woman, returns to her birthplace, the small European town of Guellen. The people of the economically depressed town prepare for THE VISIT, hoping that she will give them financial aid. She arrives in her Rolls-Royce, accompanied by bodyguards and a pet leopard. During a banquet in her honor, Karla shocks the townspeople by offering them $2 million to kill “Serge Miller” (Anthony Quinn), the owner of the general store, who was once her lover. Valentina Cortese has a supporting role as Miller’s wife, “Mathilda.”

THE VISIT was an Italian-German-French co-production, with a French producer (Julien Derode), German director (Bernhard Wicki), and an Italian crew (the director of photography was Armando Nannuzzi), which often caused language barriers on set. The film was scored by Hans-Martin Majewski and Richard Arnell. THE VISIT grossed a meager $2.3 million at the box office.


Director Federico Fellini claimed he took LSD in preparation for making 1965’s JULIET OF THE SPIRITS. Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina plays the Juliet of the title. She is a frumpish, sad, withdrawn housewife whose emotional duress leads to a bizarre spiritual awakening. It's an anniversary party for “Giulietta Boldrini” (Masina) and her husband “Giorgio” (Mario Pisu). Attending the party is Giulietta's friend “Valentina” (Valentina Cortese), “Dolores” (Silvana Jachino), and a Valentina’s lover, a clairvoyant (Genius). The clairvoyant decides to contact spirits for several people, while Giorgio and his friend are outside. During the party, Giulietta faints though she quickly recovers. The next day at the beach with her friends and sisters “Adele” (Luisa Della Noce) and “Sylva” (Sylva Koscina), surreal images start to appear, and from that point on, real or imagined, the spirit world is speaking to Giulietta.

JULIET OF THE SPIRITS was Fellini's first color film. Nino Rota’s score was released on a Mainstream LP in the U.S. and by CAM in Italy. The most recent of several CD re-issues has come from Sugar Records in 2012.


In THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, a dictatorial film director (Peter Finch) hires an unknown actress (Kim Novak) to play the lead role in a planned movie biography of a late, great Hollywood star. The film’s Tinsel Town denizens include Coral Browne as a columnist with a wooden leg, Rosella Falk as a talkative lesbian, and Valentina Cortese as flashy costume designer “Countess Bozo Bedoni.” Robert Aldrich directed the 1968 film, which has an unreleased score by Frank DeVol.


In August 1966, producer-director Stanley Kramer acquired screen rights to Robert Crichton’s recently published novel, THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA, after frenzied bidding from other parties. Kramer paid $275,000 plus a fee for Crichton’s services as a technical advisor. Additional money was promised to Crichton if television rights were sold, and Kramer agreed to spend $25,000 to advertise the novel at the time of the film’s release, a figure that publisher Simon & Schuster was obligated to match. Paperback rights to the best-selling book were later acquired by Dell Publishing for $500,000, and the Ladies Home Journal planned to print a segment of Crichton’s work in its January 1967 issue. The book’s story was set during WWII in Italy, where a wine producing village hides a million bottles from the Germans.

THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA was set to be Kramer’s last in a six-picture deal with United Artists. Kramer was quoted as saying that he first offered the role of “Italo Bombolini” to Spencer Tracy, with whom he was working on GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967), but Tracy declined, claiming his Italian accent was “lousy,” and recommended Anthony Quinn, instead. With Quinn on board, Kramer approached Max von Sydow to co-star. However, von Sydow’s participation dependant on the success of his upcoming production of Match Play, slated to open on Broadway in March 1968. The play was a success, and Hardy Krüger ultimately got the male co-starring role as German Captain “Sepp von Prum.” Meanwhile, Quinn decided his character should be physically large and set about gaining thirty pounds for the role.

Italian actress Anna Magnani, who was cast opposite Quinn, had previously performed with him in 1958’s WILD IS THE WIND. Magnani, who had a reputation for being tempestuous, reportedly arrived on the set of the film with a team of Italian writers, hoping to convince Kramer to enhance her role. However, Kramer refused, and Magnani backed down. The director and actress continued to have a strained relationship, with Kramer stating that the actress had refused to be shot in profile and had sometimes declined to work for no reason. Valentina Cortese had a supporting role as “Gabriella” in the film.

Production aides scouted over 150 villages before selecting the town of Anticoli Corrado, Italy, to stand in for Santa Vittoria, which was found to be too modernized and posed unpredictable weather conditions. As an overture to Anticoli Corrado’s 1,200 inhabitants, Kramer arranged a gathering at the town square to address locals on “working together.” But the filmmakers eventually ran into problems with some residents obstructing filming sites until they were paid off. In addition, one man registered a song with the same melody as a local “nursery song” used in a bottle-passing scene, forcing Kramer to buy the rights to the newly copyrighted tune. The town was not altered heavily by the art department, although a bell steeple, a building façade, an archway, a water tower, and a statue of a turtle on a fountain were added. The 28 August 1968 Variety stated that Anticoli Corrado would benefit from some improvements made by filmmakers, including upgrades to its electrical wiring system. Location fees were said to have been earmarked by local authorities for restoration of a church.

Principal photography began on 17 June 1968. Kramer planned to capture only “direct sound,” thus necessitating English lessons for the Italian actors. Principal cast members Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi, Renato Rascel, Giancarlo Giannini, and Patrizia Valturri were said to have spent months working with dialogue coaches before shooting began. The picture was cited in a 23 October 1968 Variety brief as “the first major film to use direct sound in Italy.”

Following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy on 6 June 1968, Italian crewmembers wrote Kramer a letter, offering to work an extra hour the following Saturday, 8 June 1968, in Kennedy’s honor. Kramer was moved by the gesture and stated that it had “no parallel in motion picture history.”

The eighty-nine day production schedule concluded with four weeks of filming at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. Shooting ended on 15 October 1968, and a final production cost of $6 million was cited.

Prior to filming, a promotional tie-in was established with the Italian company, Cinzano, which provided most of the 200,000 bottles of wine seen in the film. A Los Angeles Times article called the picture “the longest and costliest ($5 million plus) ad for a trade name ever attempted by a commercial studio.” Cross-promotions would include Cinzano sample giveaways at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

Following mixed reviews, THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA went on to gross $7.7 million at the box office and take in $2.7 million in film rentals by early 1971. It won a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and received Academy Award nominations for Film Editing and for Music (Original Score—for a motion picture [not a musical]) for Ernest Gold.

Golden Globe award nominations also went to Anthony Quinn for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy; Ernest Gold for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and Best Original Song – Motion Picture (“Stay”); Stanley Kramer for Best Director – Motion Picture; and Anna Magnani for Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy.

Ernest Gold lost both the Academy and the Golden Globe Awards to Burt Bacharach for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Gold’s score was re-recorded for a United Artists LP, which was reissued on CD by Film Score Monthly in 2002.


Maximilian Schell made his directorial debut, and played the father of a 16-year-old (John Moulder-Brown) who is smitten with an older girl (Dominique Sanda) in the Swiss film FIRST LOVE. Valentina Cortese played the boy’s mother. Schell also co-wrote the film, and co-produced it with Barry Levinson.

Mark London provided the film’s unreleased score. UMC released FIRST LOVE in the U.S., and it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 1970's Academy Awards.


BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON was inspired by the story of St. Francis of Assisi, who was born Giovanni Francesco Bernardone (1181--1226); however, the film is not intended as a factual account of the saint’s life. Near the beginning of the film, a series of flashbacks occur, which establish facts about the life of the character “Francesco” prior to his going to war, including nightmares of his battle experiences. The flashbacks are interspersed with shots of Francesco in bed as he recuperates from an illness. The title of the film was taken from the song “Canticle of the Creatures,” also known as “Laudes creaturarum” ("Praise of the Creatures"), which was written by St. Francis.

As depicted in the film, Francesco (Graham Faulkner) was the son of a well-to-do Italian cloth merchant, Pietro di Bernardone (Lee Montague), and his French wife “Pica” (Valentina Cortese). Francesco fought in Assisi’s war against the neighboring town of Perugia, in which many of his friends and neighbors were killed or captured. After a year in captivity, he was ransomed, and afterward answered the call for knights for the Fourth Crusade. However, on his journey, he had a dream that God told him to return home. Francesco began praying and spending time in the countryside. While praying at the ruins of the ancient church at San Damiano, Francesco heard Christ speak from the crucifix, asking that he repair the church. When Pietro discovered that Francesco had sold cloth from his shop to raise money to repair the crumbling edifice, he dragged Francesco before Guido, the Bishop of Assisi (John Sharp).

Francesco returned the money and, stripping off the clothes his father had given him, claimed that Pietro was no longer his father. Francesco then begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church, and began to attract followers who lived in poverty with him. Eventually, as depicted in the film, Francesco sought and was given permission to continue his ministry from Pope Innocent III (Alec Guinness). This was the origin of the religious Order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans. As shown in the film, among Francesco’s followers were his friend and fellow soldier, Bernardo di Quintovalle (Leigh Lawson), and the well-born Clare of Assisi (Judi Bowker), who later founded the Order of Poor Ladies, or Order of Clare, in the Franciscan tradition. Weakened by a life of poverty, Francesco died at the age of 45, and was sanctified two years later. He is considered the patron saint of animals, birds, the environment and Italy.

Soon after the success of his 1968 film ROMEO AND JULIET, Franco Zeffirelli approached Paramount, to which he was under a four-year, exclusive contract, about his idea for a film about St. Francis. Zeffirelli claimed that Paramount was reluctant to do big budget films but provided “minimum financing” for the project for two years. A 6 January 1970 Daily Variety news item reported that Paramount was bowing out of the project, despite having Dustin Hoffman attached to the script and a score by Leonard Bernstein (neither of whom contributed to the final film), and that Warner Bros. was considering taking over. In early 1970, Paramount negotiated with companies to finance against release rights for areas outside the U.S. and Canada. In October 1970, Euro International agreed to produce the film and give Paramount western hemisphere distribution rights and other options. Euro, an Italian company, was the majority 70-percent investment partner and the British company Vic Films the minority co-producer, with Paramount partially funding Euro's investment.

The film was shot over nine months in order to film during different seasons. The picture was shot on location in Italy and at Centro Dear Studios in Rome. The towers of Assisi were shot in San Gimignano, Umbria. Shooting also occurred at Gubbio and Bevagna, and a church at Castelluccio was used for the church of San Damiano. An earthquake in the Umbrian area struck the historic town of Tuscania, where Zeffirelli had planned to shoot a major scene in a ninth century church.

Singer-songwriter Donovan arranged and wrote lyrics for medieval musical themes provided to him by the research of scholar Alfredo Bianchini. The film was shot in English, and an Italian version was first released in Europe in 1972. Both the U.S. and Italian versions have a mix of music by Donovan and Riz Ortolani, coordinated, arranged, and conducted by Ken Thorne. Donovan’s English-language songs have not been released, but several LPs and CDs of Ortolani’s music (with some Donovan themes sung in Italian) have been issued. BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON was not a success at the U.S. box office, grossing only $3.6 million.


After having been forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1929, Leon Trotsky (Richard Burton) has ended up in Mexico. In 1940, he is still busy with politics, promoting socialism to the world. But Stalin has ordered THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY. He has sent out assassin Frank Jackson (Alain Delon), who befriends a young communist and gets an invitation to Trotsky's house. Valentina Cortese plays Trotsky’s wife, Natalia Sedowa Trotsky, in this 1972 film.

Director Joseph Losey originally offered the part of Leon Trotsky to Dirk Bogarde, with whom he had made five other films. Losey admitted that the script was terrible, but told Bogarde that it would be revised. Bogarde turned the role down, embittering Losey, who felt that Bogarde didn't trust him. Richard Burton, who had worked with Losey on BOOM! (1968) did trust Losey enough to take the part.

Richard Burton, Valentina Cortese, and Romy Schneider in THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY

Richard Burton, Valentina Cortese, and Romy Schneider in THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY

Judging by his private diaries, Burton seems to have genuinely thought at first that the film had the potential to be a "blockbuster" on the scale of his recent action hit WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968). He appears only to have read the script after accepting the part "and discovered that almost every scene I do takes place on 'the Patio of Trotsky's house'". His journal records his gradual realization that the limited English of other actors, combined with the static, dialogue-heavy script, would materially harm the film.

The set representing Leon Trotsky's house was stocked with genuine books and 1940s magazines, and Burton's greatest pleasure during filming seems to have been reading these in breaks from shooting. Egisto Macchi’s score for the film was released by Beat Records in 1990. The film was a bomb at the U.S. box office, grossing only $200,000.


In DAY FOR NIGHT, the film-within-a film Meet Pamela is starting to shoot in Nice and director “Ferrand” (Francois Truffaut) has just learned his shooting schedule has been cut. His cast is a handful of personal problems: “Séverine,” an aging actress who turns to drink (Valentina Cortese); “Julie Baker,” a leading lady who just had a nervous breakdown (Jacqueline Bisset); “Alphonse,” a youthful male lead who is immature and reckless (Jean-Pierre Léaud); and “Alexandre,” an older leading man with his own romantic secrets (Jean-Pierre Aumont). Fortunately, Ferrand also has good help on his side in his script girl (Nathalie Baye) and costume girl (Nike Arrighi), and his jack-of-all-trades propman (Bernard Menez). But can he wade through the various romances and tantrums and get his movie made?

The English title DAY FOR NIGHT refers to a technique for filming night scenes in broad daylight, achieved by either lowering the lens aperture or through the use of filters. The French call it the "American night,”, hence the French title of the film “La nuit américaine.” Ferrand uses this literal translation when talking about the car crash shooting, but Julie cannot understand what he means ("What is American night?," she asks.).

In the film, Séverine (Valentina Cortese) has more and more trouble remembering her lines (blowing several takes). Ferrand eventually writes her lines on pieces of paper that can be stuck up on the set out of sight of the camera, so that she can read them. It doesn't really work here. However, Truffaut used the same trick for himself when he was having trouble remembering his English lines in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977).

Séverine reminisces about the days when she and Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont) arrived in Hollywood at the same time, both treated as sexy/romantic and exotic, implying that they are about the same age. Now, she laments, he is still playing romantic leads, while she is relegated to playing the mother of the juvenile lead. In fact, Jean-Pierre Aumont was twelve years older than Valentina Cortese.

When actress Nathalie Baye first heard that Billy Wilder asked Truffaut if he used a real script girl for the part of Joelle, she felt a bit offended as she was trying hard to be a proper actress. Later, she eventually admitted it was the best compliment she could receive.

Valentina Cortese in DAY FOR NIGHT

Valentina Cortese in DAY FOR NIGHT

At one point, Georges Delerue (who did the score for this film and many of Truffaut's films), appears as an actor and calls to play Ferrand a piece of music, later used in the costume ball scene. This music was from Truffaut and Delerue's earlier collaboration, TWO ENGLISH GIRLS (1971). In fact the opening sequence primarily uses outtakes from TWO ENGLISH GIRLS' scoring session. Twelve minutes of music from DAY FOR NIGHT have been released on several Delerue compilations.

The film was nominated for Academy Awards in two years: As best foreign language film of 1973, and for director, supporting actress (Valentina Cortese), and screenplay in 1974. This happened because the eligibility periods for foreign language films were different than other awards, and were dependent on the films’ release in their originating countries. Academy rules have since been amended, limiting nominations in all categories to the same year.

Truffaut received his only Best Director Oscar nod for this film, losing to Francis Ford Coppola for THE GODFATHER, PART II. Valentina Cortese received her only Oscar nomination for this film, losing to Ingrid Bergman for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Cortese also received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress, losing to Linda Blair for THE EXORCIST. However, Cortese did win the Best Supporting Actress Awards from the BAFTA, the National Society of Film Critics, and the New York Film Critics Circle.

After the release of DAY FOR NIGHT, Jean-Luc Godard sent François Truffaut a letter criticizing the way the film depicts filmmaking and called him a liar for it. Godard also criticized Truffaut for pandering to the mainstream, something they were both critical of filmmakers doing when they were critics at Cahiers du Cinema. Godard went on to say that because the film was not truth, and because the film was a hit, that they should make a film together about the filmmaking process; Truffaut would produce, Godard would direct, and they would both co-write the script.

Godard's return address was of Jacques Daniel-Norman, a virtually unknown filmmaker whose films were loved by Truffaut and Godard when they were film critics, hinting at a return to a simpler time. Ignoring this hint, Truffaut was insulted by the letter and responded by telling Godard that he was demeaning and pretentious and that he pretended to be poor, when in reality he was the wealthiest of their circle of friends. The response also included a line in which Truffaut flat out called Godard a "shit". It is believed that this quarrel is what ended their lifelong friendship. Godard later regretted writing this letter, especially after Truffaut's early death in 1984, and went as far as to write a moving tribute to his former friend.

Even though DAY FOR NIGHT won the Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film, it still grossed only $1.2 million at the U.S. box office. By contrast, Fellini’s AMARCORD, released in the U.S. the following year, and also the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar-winner, grossed $7.0 million.


In 1974’s APPASSIONATA, star Gabriele Ferzetti appears as middle-aged dentist “Emilio,” who starts re-assessing his life after his teenage daughter's best friend “Nicola” (Eleonora Giorgi) seduces him from his dentist chair. However, Nicola behaves with such detachment after the act that, in one of the film's scattered moments of humor, Emilio wonders if maybe she simply had a strange reaction to Novocain. At home, Emilio's wife “Elisa” (Valentina Cortese) is perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while constantly mourning a failed career as a concert pianist. Their daughter “Eugenia” (Ornella Muti) hates and antagonizes her mother, while using her nubile young body to flirt creepily with her father.

Valentina Cortese and Ninetto Davoli in APPASSIONATA

Valentina Cortese and Ninetto Davoli in APPASSIONATA

Gianluigi Calderone directed this 1974 release. It’s unclear whether the film had any U.S. release. Piero Piccioni’s score was released on a Cinevox LP, which was re-issued in an expanded version on CD by Japan’s Soundtrack Listeners Communications in 1996. In 2011, Quartet released the original LP and the full score on a 2-CD set.


Valentina Cortese’s second film for director Franco Zeffirelli was JESUS OF NAZARETH, an epic re-telling of the story of Jesus Christ, made as a television mini-series. Robert Powell starred in the title role, and the film featured nearly two dozen well-known actors and actresses in other roles. Cortese played Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas (Christopher Plummer).

Zeffirelli had considered Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino for the part of Jesus, and Robert Powell to play Judas. Tom Courtenay was offered the role, but declined. Once Powell got the lead role, Peter O'Toole was cast as Judas, but had to back out of the project, due to illness. Ian McShane ultimately played the part.

Zeffirelli wanted Marcello Mastroianni for the role of Pontius Pilate, but they couldn't agree on financial terms. Zeffirelli was happy in the end, as he felt that Rod Steiger was a "magnificent Pilate". Maria Schneider was originally offered the role of the Virgin Mary, but declined, and later regretted the decision. Olivia Hussey played the part. Elizabeth Taylor was interested in playing Mary Magdalene, but the role went to Anne Bancroft.

The film was shot primarily in Tunisia and Morocco. According to Ernest Borgnine (The Centurion), many local extras had to be dubbed because they couldn't speak English very well. Zeffirelli decided to avoid recording sound altogether in many parts, and simply sent the principal actors and actresses to dub their own characters in the studio later. Norman Bowler, Fernando Rey, and Ian Bannen were dubbed by others.

At a cost estimated between twelve and twenty million dollars, this mini-series had a budget equivalent to many feature films of the time, and was by far the most expensive made-for-television movie at the time of production, a record it would hold for several years.

The mini-series premiered on NBC as "The Big Event" in two three-hour installments with limited commercials on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday (April 3 and April 10, 1977). Additional footage was added for a 1979 re-run, which was broadcast in four two-hour installments. The film has been released on VHS and DVD as one complete presentation with one set of credits.

The film received Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Special and for James Farentino as Outstanding Supporting Actor, for playing Simon Peter. Zeffirelli received a BAFTA nomination for Best Direction of a Single Play. Maurice Jarre’s score for the film was released on an RCA LP in the U.S., and on Pye Records in the UK. The first CD release came from RCA Italy in 1996. An expanded release was issued in Italy by Legend in 2010.


In 1980’s WHEN TIME RAN OUT…, an active volcano threatens a south Pacific island resort and its guests. Paul Newman is “Hank Anderson,” an oil driller concerned for the safety of the vacationers. But William Holden's hotel magnate “Shelby Gilmore” has been swayed by Anderson's self-serving partner “Bob Spangler” (James Franciscus) into thinking that the volcano poses no threat. Gilmore's girlfriend “Kay Kirby” (Jacqueline Bisset) wants to re-start her torrid romance with Hank, while Bob callously plans to ditch his wife “Nikki,” Gilmore's daughter (Veronica Hamel of Hill Street Blues) and run off with hotel employee “Iolani” (Barbara Carrera), who breaks off her engagement to fellow hotel clerk “Brian” (Edward Albert). Among the guests are Red Buttons as an embezzler and Ernest Borgnine as the New York cop on his tail. Valentina Cortese and Burgess Meredith are a happy pair of retired circus aerialists. "Special Guest Volcano Victims" include Alex Karras, John Considine, Sheila Matthews and Pat Morita.

Producer Irwin Allen bought the rights to the book The Day the World Ended, a factual depiction of the 1902 Martinique earthquake. The film was originally written as a period piece set in Martinique with a script by Edward Anhalt. After Allen’s decision to switch the picture to a contemporary setting, writer Nelson Gidding was hired. But Gidding’s script was rejected in spring 1976, and screenwriters Carl Foreman and Stirling Silliphant were hired to write a new script.

The 14 June 1976 Daily Variety stated the movie’s budget was $15 million; however, Twentieth-Century Fox executives withdrew from the project when costs became too high. In October 1978, Fox sold the rights to Warner Bros. for $1 million. Warner Bros. gave the film a green light based on its impressive cast, with the condition that Irwin Allen could not direct. A start date was announced for December 1978, but other delays followed. With the hiring of director James Goldstone, principal photography began 8 or 9 February 1979 on Hawaii’s Kona Coast. The film was scheduled for a seventy-two day shoot on a $20 million budget. But rainstorms on location caused long delays in shooting.

Paul Newman, William Holden, Veronica Hamel, Ernest Borgnine, and Red Buttons were all under contract with Irwin Allen, and appeared in this film to fulfill their contracts. Toward the end of his life, Paul Newman confessed in interviews that this was the only film he ever did solely for the money. He called it "that volcano movie" and said that he and most of the cast knew it would be a bomb from day one. Many believe that part of his salary from this movie was used as seed money for a salad dressing business he was setting up with A.E. Hotchner, with 100% of the profits, after taxes, going to educational and charitable organizations. Newman's Own, established in 1982, has raised over $260 million for charities all over the world, and continues to grow and prosper.

William Holden was hospitalized for six days during production to treat his alcoholism after director James Goldstone convinced Irwin Allen that Holden was a danger to himself and others in the cast.

A tidal wave was simulated by forcing thousands of gallons of water through chutes attached to dump tanks on Stage 15 at The Burbank Studios. Other special effects were completed during postproduction, which lasted for five or six months. In his memoirs, Ernest Borgnine claimed that the film's special effects looked so cheap because so much of the budget went toward location shooting.

Lalo Schifrin’s score for the film has not had a release. WHEN TIME RAN OUT… was a dud at the box office, grossing only $4.0 million. This was Irwin Allen's third big budget/all-star movie in a row to bomb at the box office (After THE SWARM and BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE). It killed off the disaster movie genre and prevented Allen from any further big-screen projects. Everything he made after that was for television. It was also director James Goldstone’s final feature film. He would spend the next decade in television before his retirement in 1990.


THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN explores the world of a famous German nobleman during the Ottoman Wars of the late 18th Century. He returns to save a town ravaged by war, since he felt responsible for being the one that caused all of it. With the help of a young girl named “Sally” (Sarah Polley), Baron Munchausen (John Neville) travels through different worlds to retrieve the men who had helped him in his many adventures yet is battling age and the new realities of his quest as it plays into the idea of fantasy vs. reality.

The film is filled with odd and wondrous characters: the fast-running “Berthold” (Eric Idle), the strongman “Albrecht” (Winston Dennis), the midget with strong ears and wind-power “Gustavus” (Jack Purvis), and the sharpshooter “Adolphus” (Charles McKeown). They all reluctantly join Munchausen even as they share a sense of resentment towards him.

Valentina Cortese has a dual role as “Queen Ariadne” who is a former lover of Munchausen as well as stage actress “Violet” who is in love with Munchausen. Peter Jeffrey is the “Sultan Mahmud I” who starts a war only because of a wager he lost to Munchausen. Uma Thurman has has a dual role as the young actress “Rose” who is trying get some attention as well as the role of “Venus” whose beauty is indescribable as she is charmed by Munchausen. Oliver Reed is the eccentric yet hot-tempered fire god “Vulcan” who welcomes Munchausen only to be upset when Munchausen gets to dance with Venus. Jonathan Pryce is the very smarmy city official the “Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson.”

Robin Williams played the “King of the Moon.” The role was intended for Sean Connery until the part was largely cut. Connery didn't think it was "kingly" enough and bowed out. Williams was a last-minute casting choice after the budget had run out, and he performed his role uncredited and unpaid. The credits list "Ray D. Tutto". This is the English transliteration of the Italian phrase "Re di Tutto", which means "King of Everything", which is how the King of the Moon introduces himself to the Baron. Most of Williams' dialogue was ad-libbed. He performed the part as soon as he arrived in England after a transatlantic flight.

Robin Williams and Valentina Cortese in THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN

Robin Williams and Valentina Cortese in THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN

Terry Gilliam directed this 1988 fantasy, which was a UK-West German co-production. The film was over budget. What was originally budgeted at $23.5 million, grew to a reported $46.63 million. Terry Gilliam, while acknowledging he had gone over budget, said its final costs had been nowhere near $40 million. Either way, the film flopped in the U.S. market, grossing only $8.1 million. Michael Kamen’s score was released by Warner Bros.


THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN was Valentina Cortese’s last film to play in America. She made her final film appearance playing a Mother Superior in the 1993 Italian period drama SPARROW (Storia di una capinera ) directed by Franco Zeffirelli.