An Enchanted Evening
Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) remembers when he first met Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner) he was working for movie mogul Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens) who along with PR man Oscar Muldoon (Edmond O'Brien) had travelled to Spain in search of a new face having been told of this captivating beauty who danced at a bar. There was just some thing about her which captivated Harry and she became close to him, seeking him for support and guidance having agreed to become a movie star. But now here he finds himself at the end of her journey, at her funeral in Italy having married Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini (Rossano Brazzi) who saved her from an unhappy time spent with Alberto Bravano (Marius Goring), one of the richest men in South America.
And that synopsis perfectly tells you what you get in "The Barefoot Contessa" a Hollywood movie from 1954 which when watched now reminds you of how Hollywood stars once were. Here is a movie which sees Ava Gardner in figure hugging outfits, dancing sexily with her jet black hair glistening in the light and her lips a vibrant red yet she doesn't look slutty or cheap she looks glamorous and sexy. Quite simply Gardner is spellbinding in "The Barefoot Contessa" and you realise watching her that there is not a single actress alive today who could deliver the performance she does in this and make it this level of sexy rather than slutty.
"The Barefoot Contessa" isn't just about Gardner even if she is the main thing you will remember, there is also Humphrey Bogart who in that almost stand off-ish tone which he had delivers one of his most charming and sympathetic performances. Right from the first encounter between Harry and Maria you get a sense of a connection that Harry felt something for Maria which neither of them really understood as it wasn't passion or desire but some thing deeper which made him like a father figure for her. And it is beautiful because to be honest there have been times in my life where I have wondered what the fuss was about when it came to Bogart but seeing him in this makes you see what it was.
Now I have to be honest and say that whilst "The Barefoot Contessa" is a great movie it isn't perfect and that sadly comes down to the casting else where with Marius Goring as Bravano and Rossano Brazzi as the Count both ending up coming across as stiff. Maybe that is exactly what writer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz wanted so that it highlighted how wrong they were for Maria but for me it felt off. And to be honest whilst Edmond O'Brien won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role there are times when he seems to overplay his part, trying to be too wise cracking as a Hollywood PR man.
What this all boils down to is that "The Barefoot Contessa" is simply captivating thanks to the performances of Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart. And it is thanks to those actors that when you watch "The Barefoot Contessa" now it makes you realise what star power once was.