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GOLDEN COACH, THE (aka: LE CARRISSE D’OR) (director/writer: Jean Renoir; screenwriters: Renzo Avanzo/Jack Kirkland/Giulio Macchi/Ginette Doynel/based on a Prosper Merimee stage work; cinematographer: Claude Renoir; editors: Mario Serandrei/D. Hawkins; music: Vivaldi; cast: Anna Magnani (Camilla), Paul Campbell (Felipe), Ricardo Rioli (Ramon, the Bull Fighter), Duncan Lamont (The Viceroy), Odoardo Spadaro (Don Antonio), Nada Fiorelli (Isabella), Dante (Harlequin), Jean Debucourt (Eveque de Carmol), Ralph Truman (The Duke), George Higgins (Martinez), William C. Tubbs (The Innkeeper); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Francesco Alliata; The Criterion Collection; 1952-France/Italy-in English)
“It’s an escapist theatrical comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Humanist filmmaker Jean Renoir (“Nana”/”La Chienne”/”The Elusive Corporal”)lightheartedly directs this ornate Technicolor costume period drama. It’s an escapist theatrical comedy based on a Prosper Merimee stage work that Renoir co-writes withRenzo Avanzo, Jack Kirkland, Giulio Macchi and Ginette Doynel. This film was the first leg of a trilogy that also featured the French Cancan (1955) and Elena and Her Men (1956). The masterful camerawork is by Jean’s nephew Claude Renoir, who makes it one of the greatest color films.

It was filmed in English at Rome’s Cinecitta studios, as a play-within-a-play. The theatrical film opensand closes with a stage curtain, inviting the viewer to enjoy the silly romp as a sincere homage to the theater and with the realization that “life is life and the stage is the stage.”

In the 18th century the robust Camilla (Anna Magnani), a commedia dell’arte star performer, arrives for a tour in colonial Peru to open a new theater with her ragtag struggling Italian troupe. The Peruvian town is ruled by the arrogant Spanish viceroy (Duncan Lamont), who along with a vain local bullfighter (Ricardo Rioli) and a brave Spanish gentleman soldier (Paul Campbell) woo the actress. Each offers his love, and the bullfighter and soldier are willing to fight a duel over her. The viceroy dumps his beautiful mistress (Nada Fiorelli) and offers the earthy Camilla a golden coach made in Italy that’s been used for his royal duties. This upsets the Duke (Ralph Truman), who threatens to depose the viceroy if he gives this symbol of the colony’s power away to Camilla. But the viceroy’s love turns out to be so strong that he gives Camilla the gift despite the consequences. In turn, in a gesture of peace and good will, Camilla donates the golden coach to the church and returns to her first love the theater.

For Renoir, it’s an easy choice to choose the stage life over that of the real world.

The coarse Magnani seemed hardly the beauty to attract such passionate lovers and therefore her casting seems problematic, while the ridiculous opera-like story is a bore. What works are the colorful sets in the background, the exuberance in the telling of such a nonsense tale and the love Renoir offers to the actors.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”