DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE ANGEL WORE RED (director/writer: Nunnally Johnson; screenwriter: from the novel "The Fair Bride" by Bruce Marshall; cinematographer: Guiseppe Rotunno; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: Ava Gardner (Soledad), Dirk Bogarde (Arturo Carrera), Joseph Cotten (Hawthorne), Vittorio De Sica (Gen. Clave), Aldo Fabrizi (Canon Rota), Arnoldo Fo (Insurgent major), Finlay Currie (Bishop), Rossanna Rory (Mercedes), Enrico Maria Salerno (Capt. Botargus); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Goffredo Lombardo; MGM; 1960)

"An unsatisfactory obscure political film about the Spanish Civil War."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unsatisfactory obscure political film about the Spanish Civil War, set in 1936, that was shot in Italy. It plays out as a vacuous forbidden love story between a disillusioned defrocked priest (Dirk Bogarde),on the run from the revolutionists and the government, and a good-natured cabaret entertainer prostitute (Ava Gardner). They are both captured by the anti-Franco forces.

It failed both as a love story and as a political story, as the romance had no sparks and the political story made little sense.

Director Nunnally Johnson ("The Three Faces of Eve"/"The Man Who Understood Women"/"Black Widow"), usually a screenwriter, was overwhelmed shooting in Italy, where he was interfered with by the union, the Mafia and the church. They demanded a daily count of how many extras were Catholics or Commies, which Johnson had to provide. Johnson commented he never saw the final version, whereby the studio had final cut. The film was received so poorly by the studio, that the talented screenwriter Johnson never directed again.

It was based on the novel "The Fair Bride" by Bruce Marshall. The confusing wartime drama has the priest say at one point his faith has failed him. That the priest, who joined the Loyalist cause, regains his faith after Ava's death, seemed a stretch. In any case, Johnson was praised for writing the script and ripped for his weak direction.

The cast also includes Joseph Cotten as an American newsman in Spain and the Italian director Vittorio De Sica playing a disenchanted Communist general.

REVIEWED ON 1/6/2016       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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