Apart from Mario Lanza's singing, which is, as always, wonderful, and Vincent Price's performance as a somewhat less than ethical music critic, there is really very little to recommend about 'Serenade.' Lanza had been a big fan of the original James M. Cain ('Double Indemnity,' et. Al.) novel for years, and was always pushing to make it while he was at MGM. After he was fired from MGM, he signed with Warners as part of a three-picture deal, with the provision that 'Serenade' be filmed first.
Jack Warner, who'd been trying to snag Lanza for years, readily agreed. The script, by the otherwise excellent Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, is a highly bowdlerized version of the book, retaining not much more than the title and character names. The film almost relentlessly exposes Lanza's considerable weaknesses as an actor in a way MGM never did.
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His singing, by contrast, is some of his best, especially in the scenes from Verdi's 'Otello' with Metropolitan Opera great Licia Albanese as his Desdemona, a role she sang often at the Met. Kursovoj proekt mnogoetazhnogo zhilogo doma. As was his wont, Lanza's increasingly irresponsible, unpredictable behavior cost him the other two pictures in his Warners contract, even though 'Serenade' was a box-office success. Apparently, Jack Warner was no more patient with him than Dore Schary had been. How ironic, then, that his last two films, made independently in Italy, were released in America by none other than MGM!
Contents • • • • • • • • • Plot [ ] Serenade tells the story of poor vineyard worker Damon Vincenti (Mario Lanza), who becomes an operatic tenor, and is involved with two women — one a high society hostess, Kendall Hale (Joan Fontaine), the other a Mexican bullfighter's daughter, Juana Montes (Sara Montiel). The tenor has a breakdown because of his unrequited love for the society woman, but finds love (and a happy ending) with the Mexican girl. Highly melodramatic, the film features a great deal of operatic music, all of it sung by Lanza. Of note are the Act III Monologue from 's and an extract from the duet 'Dio Ti Giocondi' from the same opera featuring soprano. Cast [ ] • as Damon Vincenti • as Kendall Hale • as Juana Montes (as Sarita Montiel) • as Charles Winthrop • as Maestro Marcatello • as Tonio • as Marco Roselli • as Lardelli • as Manuel Montes • as Everett Carter • as Desdemona in Otello • as Soprano in San Francisco Differences from the source novel [ ] The movie differs greatly from the source novel. In the book, the male protagonist is John Howard Spring, a professional opera singer who has lost his voice and fled the United States to Mexico in a crisis of confidence after being sexually wooed (not unsuccessfully, though details are vague) by a male socialite and impresario. Juana Montes is a Mexican prostitute who sees Spring as gay and therefore a trouble-free partner to open a brothel with.
But after having sex in a deserted church with Juana, Spring recovers his voice and his preferred sexual identity. The two lovers come into conflict with the local police and flee to Los Angeles, where Spring reestablishes his singing career, more successful than ever. But once they move to New York, the singer must struggle against the renewed blandishments of the gay impresario, whom Juana eventually murders with a torero's sword. As none of this material could be considered suitable for an American movie in 1956, the story's male impresario becomes female instead and the Mexican prostitute becomes a Mexican bullfighter's daughter. Production [ ] Film rights to the novel were bought in 1946 by the production company of. Reception [ ] Reviewing the film in, A.H.