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The Bride Wore Red
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MGM. 103 minutes.
US release: 10/15/37
VHS release: 6/24/92.
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Anni"), Franchot Tone, Robert Young, Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, Lynne Carver, George Zucco, Mary Phillips, Paul Porcasi, Dickie Moore, Frank Puglia.
Credits: Based on the unproduced play "The Girl from Trieste" by Ferenc Molnar. Screenplay: Tess Slesinger and Bradbury Foote. Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Director: Dorothy Arzner. Camera: George Folsey. Art Director: Cedric Gibbons. Music: Franz Waxman. Costumes: Adrian. Editor: Adrienne Fazan.
Plot Summary: Based on The Bride from Trieste by Ferenc Molnar, The Bride Wore Red stars Joan Crawford as the eponymous heroine. A singer in a seedy Budapest dive, Anni (Crawford) is mistaken for a socialite thanks to a practical joke perpetrated by the cynical Count Armalia (George Zucco). Though a bit confused about her new favored status, Anni happily hobnobs with the "best people" on the Tyrol, including handsome Rudi Pal (Robert Young), who falls in love with her. She manages to pull off her charade for two full weeks, at which time the Count callously reveals the truth. Rudi Pal gallantly offers to marry Anni anyway, but she settles for a happier -- if less financially advantageous -- union with humble village postman Guilio (Franchot Tone, Crawford's husband at the time). When all is said and done, The Bride Wore Red is essentially a showcase for MGM's wardrobe department, with Joan Crawford garbed in a variety of gorgeous gowns, each one more dazzling than the last. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Notes: In production from 6/5/37 to 8/10/37.
Howard Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune:
Joan Crawford has a glamorous field day in The Bride Wore Red.... With a new hair-do and more wide-eyed than ever, she plays at being a slattern, a fine lady, and a peasant with all of the well-known Crawford sorcery. It is not entirely her fault that she always remains herself. [The film] has no dramatic conviction and little of the comic flavor that might have made it amusing though slight. Your enjoyment of it will depend on how much of Miss Crawford you can take at one stretch.... The direction of Dorothy Arzner is always interesting and sometimes...is extraordinarily imaginative, but here she has not been able to give a vapid Cinderella pipe dream more than a handsome pictorial front.
Frank S. Nugent in the New York Times:
Gowns by Adrian and settings by Cedric Gibbons do not entirely conceal the underlying shabbiness of The Bride Wore Red, one of those seasonal discoveries of Cinderella which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer turned into the Capitol yesterday. Now it has Miss Joan Crawford who puts on an emotional circus as the shoddy cabaret girl (with dreams) who has been given two glorious weeks with high society in the Tyrol and tries desperately to have the clock stopped before her witching hour strikes.... If anything at all, it is a woman's picture--smouldering with its heroine's indecision and consumed with talk of love and fashions. Tall talk, mostly.
If you've seen The Bride Wore Red and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Feel free to include a photo of yourself to accompany your review, a star-rating (with 5 stars the best), and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Michael Lia (October 2009)
Rating: of 5
This movie belongs in the same category as No More Ladies -- strange and probably a bad movie. But there is something about it that I like and find fascinating. It might be like an awful piece of artwork, but is there such a thing? At an art gallery you cannot use the word ”interesting,” but in films you can. This is an interesting film.
One day I did cocaine and vodka and some pot, and I watched The Bride Wore Red. In my state of mind I found this to be as good as any movie I'd ever seen -- I mean really good! It was deep and scary and romantic and very intense. Miss Crawford looked intriguingly beautiful. The scenes she shares with real-life husband Franchot Tone are really quite believable, and their love story can be written for any up-and-coming actress in today’s life (we still want to make it and not work in a dump). This is a love story.
If the original script had stayed the same, it wouldn’t have worked because Crawford’s fans did not like when she stepped out too far! When dropped out, the script was revamped for MGM's Cinderella. Dorothy Arzner, the director, did what she could with the material at hand.
(But other than Craig’s Wife, name another movie of hers quickly!)
The cast has some of my favorites: in a nice, bitchy role. who played lots of fun characters, even a crack at Sherlock Holmes! He is engaging to watch. The little girlfriend was played by Lynn Carver, and she died sadly, quite early. (She appeared in the 1938 version of The Christmas Carol .) Mary Phillips needs credit as the hotel maid; she was once married to Bogart and lasted awhile doing character parts. (Look for her in Mannequin, as well; she is a little like Glenda Farrell.)
Robert Young: No wonder he drank in later years. He can play a mean guy, and when he plays a nice guy he still has an edge; you know he is all wrong for Miss Crawford, but she persists, and he plays along, and so does the script. He is definitely miscast.
Now, Mr. Franchot Tone I think did a fine piece of acting. I like him and I like his character and I would not mind his job. He seemed to know how everything was going to turn out, and he got the gal in the end! (I like men like that.)
A Bride Wore Red fun fact: Look for Ann Rutherford in a small bit as one of the peasant girls. She is still going strong today!
So, do what you have to do to get in the right frame of mind and watch this movie.
Susanne (September 2009)
Rating: of 5
Old Hollywood was always fabulous in using subtext, and this film is another example of this ability.
Joan´s character Anni is introduced in a typical murky bar scene, but what makes the difference are the lyrics of her song: "Who wants love? I can live without it, I know too much about it...who wants love?" A few lines are enough to tell us some facts about her without being direct: She is a prostitute, offering "love for sale," with no illusions left. Later on this song is used like a leitmotif when she is dealing with rich Rudi (Robert Young) -- "high-class" selling now, but she is still selling herself.
In contrast, Julio (Franchot Tone) has background music of his own, a nice rural theme; this one stands for what he is offering her: true love -- he knows from the beginning that she is a crook -- and a life with him in the country.
These two men embody contrasting principles: rich - poor, high society - peasant, citylife - countrylife and, last not least, true love -- and, well, not so true love... In short, the refined society comes across not very sympathetically; using Anni as a human guinea pig isn´t so nice to start with, and the "countryfolks" stand for everything which is pure and true -- like idealised nature itself.
Nature plays an important part in The Bride Wore Red. There are some beautiful scenes of Anni running around in the woods, and, alone, to see this girlish side of Joan again makes watching the film worthwhile. Anni is another person when she is outside; you get a glimpse of what she could have been under other circumstances: just a nice girl, the one with whom Julio falls in love.
A splendidly used prop is the red dress of the title -- a remarkable expensive Adrian creation. Anni`s long dreamed of, valuable possession, which stands for her desire for a better life, is the one thing that unmasks her in the end -- a rather interesting plot twist for an actress who was a fashion icon of her time.
To add some woe to the praise: Of course nature mostly looked artificial in Old Hollywood, and The Bride Wore Red isn´t an exception to the rule. The contrasting concepts are a little bit too harshly displayed in "good and bad," which gives the whole movie an unrealistic air... but also a beautiful, magical one!
Also worth noting: A little gem which comes along in a setting of a wonderful cast and a high value production, just listen to the "commenting" score of Waxman!
Jeff Barnes (September 2009)
Rating: of 5
Even though was a bomb at the box office, I love this movie and you should too!
In hyper-typical MGM fashion, Joan is whisked out of poverty and placed into high society where she “naturally” fits in without any questions from the highbrows. Directed by Dorothy Arzner, this Cinderella story is set in Trieste and the mountains above it. Joan plays Anni Pavlovitch, who is employed at a horrible waterfront bar as a ... shall I say, lounge singer (in the play the character is a prostitute). Singing is the one thing Joan just couldn’t do, so if you can get past her wobbling through “Who Wants Love” in the first few minutes of the movie, the rest is smooth sailing.
Joan’s Anni is a bit too highbrow to be working in a dirty bar to begin with, but here she is singing for her supper in an ill-fitting satin evening gown. But on this fateful night, she is approached by a drunken Count Armalia (George Zucco) who believes he can pass Anni off as a “Lady” to his highbrow friends at a luxury mountain hotel in Terrano. Anni jumps at the chance, her only demand being that of a red evening dress with beads. Seconds later an Adrian draped Anni is being dropped off by train in Terrano, where she meets Julio (Franchot Tone) who is equally too highbrow for his job as the village postman.
When the limo from the hotel fails to appear, Anni is again whisked away (this time by the postman's donkey cart) to the hotel. Franchot Tone is so adorable in this film and his character is so likeable you want to slap Joan for even thinking about not falling in love with him, but I digress. Once at the hotel Anni amazingly runs into another former “bar employee” Maria (Mary Phillips), who has forged references just to get a maid's job at the hotel. This tells you just how bad the bar back in Trieste is. With her friend now by her side, Anni is able to relax a bit and take in the luxury surrounding her. “For two weeks I’m a lady” she says as she unpacks her stunning new wardrobe courtesy of Count Armalia.
That evening at dinner, Anni catches the eye of (can’t keep it in his pants) Rudi Pal, played by a very young and handsome Robert Young. As Anni fumbles her way through dinner, Rudi Pal entices her to join his crowd. This includes his long-suffering fiancée Maddelena (Lynne Carver), The Contessa (played to the hilt by a pre Wizard of Oz Billie Burke) and his fiancé’s father Admiral Monti (Reginald Owen). But already there is trouble brewing for Anni. She finds herself falling in love with Julio, but she wants the big bucks and Rudi Pal is the kind of man that can give it her; how can she choose? Anni’s scheming begins immediately as she pretends to know people she doesn't, lies about her childhood and blatantly flirts with Rudi Pal right in front of his fiancé. The Contessa hates Anni the instant they meet and she warns Maddelena to “Watch out.”
With her "I’m going to bag me a rich one" plan in action, Anni becomes almost bipolar in her relationship with Julio. In one scene she is really nice to him, then in the next she rips him a new one and practically spits in his face. When she is not brutalizing Julio, she is ratcheting up the sexual tension between herself and Rudi Pal. But Anni is running out of time: her two week vacation is almost up and she has not bagged either one of the two men who have fallen in love with her in the previous 84 minutes.
The showdown comes on the night of the Festa, an annual Bavarian-themed fair where class is set aside and all the rich and poor people dress like peasants. This is Anni’s last chance to get a marriage proposal from Rudi Pal. At the same time a drunken Julio has wondered into the forest where Anni is making her grandstanding "it’s me or her" speech to Rudi Pal. Julio hears the whole thing and he confronts Anni.
Unfortunately for Anni, Julio is also the telegraph operator in the village and he has intercepted a wire from Count Armalia back in Trieste informing the Contessa in Terrano that Anni is a “cabaret girl” he picked up one night and TEE HEE fooled you. Once alone, Julio tells Anni that he overheard her and Rudi Pal and he knows her secret! He also informs Anni that he will tell everyone at the hotel she is a “cabaret girl” from Trieste if she accepts Rudi Pal’s marriage proposal!
This is a really bad night for Anni. On the one hand Rudi Pal has proposed marriage and is going to end his relationship with his fiancée. On the other hand if she does not get Rudi Pal out of Terrano fast, Julio is going to blow the whole deal by revealing her true identity. You can cut the tension with a buzz saw at this point in film as Anni, dressed in her Bavarian outfit, runs about trying to keep her secret and put off Julio at all costs!
Morning comes and Julio has given Anni until nightfall to tell Rudi Pal the truth; of course she doesn't and she spends the day smoking, eating chocolates and yelling at her friend Maria. By this time Maria has had just about enough of Anni and she cracks up, telling Anni she is a gold-digging, selfish monster and that she is "frightened of her." Anni has no time for these theatrics and she dons her "red dress with beads" and heads down to dinner where afterward she and Rudi Pal are running off to be married "at once."
The ending finds the cast at dinner where Anni fidgets and acts somewhat wacko hoping to get through dinner and out of town before Julio exposes her ...
What will happen to Anni?
Does she get Rudi Pal out of town before Julio arrives?
Does Julio expose her and is she vilified by everyone in the hotel and surrounding countryside?
Does Maria get caught in her lie and get sent back to the bar in Trieste, never to clean again?
The answers to these and other heart-pounding questions will be answered when you watch the film yourself. I can’t tell you everything!
I highly recommend this movie for unintentional laughter, excellent production values, great one-liners, Joan looking beautiful, Billie Burke’s great performance as the bitchy Contessa, fast-paced story and it’s just cute in its own peculiar way.
I give it 3 out of 5 Pepsi Bottles.
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