Cyrano de Bergerac (1950 film)

Cyrano de Bergerac (1950 film)

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Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1950 black-and-white
Black-and-white
Black-and-white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is a term referring to a number of monochrome forms in visual arts.Black-and-white as a description is also something of a misnomer, for in addition to black and white, most of these media included varying shades of gray...

 feature film
Feature film
In the film industry, a feature film is a film production made for initial distribution in theaters and being the main attraction of the screening, rather than a short film screened before it; a full length movie...

 based on the 1897 French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 Alexandrine verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac (play)
Cyrano de Bergerac is a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. Although there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac, the play bears very scant resemblance to his life....

by Edmond Rostand
Edmond Rostand
Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand was a French poet and dramatist. He is associated with neo-romanticism, and is best known for his play Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand's romantic plays provided an alternative to the naturalistic theatre popular during the late nineteenth century...

. It uses poet Brian Hooker
Brian Hooker (poet)
William Brian Hooker was an American poet, educator, lyricist, and librettist. He was born to Elizabeth Work and William Augustus Hooker who was a mining engineer for the New York firm of Hooker and Lawrence...

's 1923 English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 blank verse
Blank verse
Blank verse is poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the sixteenth century" and Paul Fussell has claimed that "about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse."The first...

 translation as the basis for its screenplay. The film was the first motion picture version in English of Rostand's play, though there were several earlier adaptations in different languages.

The 1950 film was produced by Stanley Kramer
Stanley Kramer
Stanley Earl Kramer was an American film director and producer. Kramer was responsible for some of Hollywood's most famous "message" movies...

 and directed by Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon (film director)
Michael Gordon was an American stage actor and stage and film director.-Life and career:Gordon was born in Baltimore and raised in a middle class Jewish community. He was a member of the Group Theatre , and was blacklisted as a Communist in the days of McCarthyism...

. José Ferrer
José Ferrer
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón , best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director...

 received the Academy Award for Best Actor
Academy Award for Best Actor
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance while working within the film industry...

 for his starring performance as Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac
Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a French dramatist and duelist. He is now best remembered for the works of fiction which have been woven, often very loosely, around his life story, most notably the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand...

. Mala Powers
Mala Powers
Mary Ellen "Mala" Powers was an American film actress.She was born in San Francisco, California. In 1940, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her father was an executive with United Press. In the summer of her relocation, Powers attended the Max Reinhardt Junior Workshop where she enjoyed her first...

 played Roxane, and William Prince
William Prince (actor)
William LeRoy Prince was an American actor who appeared in numerous soap operas and made dozens of guest appearances on primetime series as well as playing villains in movies like The Gauntlet and Spontaneous Combustion.-Biography:Prince was born in Nichols, New York, the son of Myrtle , a nurse...

 portrayed Christian de Neuvillette.

The film is now in the public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

, and is available in both VHS and DVD formats.

Plot


In seventeenth century Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, poet and supreme swordsman Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac
Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a French dramatist and duelist. He is now best remembered for the works of fiction which have been woven, often very loosely, around his life story, most notably the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand...

 (José Ferrer
José Ferrer
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón , best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director...

) stops a play from being shown because he cannot stand the bombastic style of the principal actor, Montfleury (Arthur Blake). An annoyed aristocratic fop, the Vicomte de Valvert (Albert Cavens
Albert Cavens
Albert Cavens was a Belgian-American silent film child actor.-Biography:Cavens moved to the United States soon after birth and began his career only aged 8 in a number of films in 1914, including The Town of Nazareth, also starring Charlotte Burton. However after 1914, Cavens took a break from...

), provokes him into a duel
Duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

 by tritely insulting Cyrano's enormous nose. Cyrano first mocks his lack of wit, improvising numerous inventive ways in which Valvert could have phrased it (much to the amusement of the audience). He then composes a ballade
Ballade
The ballade is a form of French poetry. It was one of the three formes fixes and one of the verse forms in France most commonly set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries....

 for the occasion on the spot and recites it during the swordfight. With the last line, he stabs his opponent.

Cyrano's friend Le Bret (Morris Carnovsky
Morris Carnovsky
Morris Carnovsky was an American stage and film actor born in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked briefly in the Yiddish theatre before attending Washington University in St. Louis...

), Captain of the Gascony guards, warns him he has made powerful enemies of his victim's friends, but he is unconcerned. When Le Bret presses him to reveal the real reason he hates Montfleury, Cyrano admits that he became jealous when he saw his beautiful cousin Roxane (Mala Powers
Mala Powers
Mary Ellen "Mala" Powers was an American film actress.She was born in San Francisco, California. In 1940, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her father was an executive with United Press. In the summer of her relocation, Powers attended the Max Reinhardt Junior Workshop where she enjoyed her first...

) being smiled at by the actor. He confesses that he is in love with her, but harbors no hope of it being returned because of his nose. When he receives a request from Roxane to see her in the morning, he is finally emboldened to act.

Then pastry chef and fellow poet Ragueneau (Lloyd Corrigan
Lloyd Corrigan
Lloyd Corrigan was an American film actor, producer, screenwriter and director who began working in films in the 1920s...

) approaches him for help. Ragueneau has learned that a nobleman he had mocked with his verses, the Comte De Guiche (Ralph Clanton
Ralph Clanton
Ralph Clanton was an American character actor. Although his name is not familiar to audiences, he did play a significant supporting role in a classic film which is revived regularly...

), has hired a hundred ruffians to teach him a lesson. Cyrano escorts him, kills eight of the horde, and drives off the rest.

The next day, before he can tell Roxane of his feelings, she informs him that she has fallen in love with a handsome guardsman, Christian de Neuvillette (William Prince
William Prince (actor)
William LeRoy Prince was an American actor who appeared in numerous soap operas and made dozens of guest appearances on primetime series as well as playing villains in movies like The Gauntlet and Spontaneous Combustion.-Biography:Prince was born in Nichols, New York, the son of Myrtle , a nurse...

), though she has not even spoken to him. Cyrano hides his devastation and agrees to help her.

Cyrano befriends the young man and discovers that he is infatuated with Roxane, but is too inept with words to woo her. To help him, Cyrano composes Christian's love letters to Roxane, which she finds irresistible. Later, Christian decides he wants no more help and tries to speak to Roxane face to face, but fails miserably; Cyrano, hiding in the bushes, has to come to his rescue, but this time by imitating Christian's voice and speaking to Roxane from under her balcony, after she has re-entered her house in an angry huff. He is so eloquent that he (unintentionally) wins a kiss for Christian from Roxane.

When the arrogant Comte De Guiche, who is also wooing Roxane, pressures Roxane to marry him, Cyrano delays him long enough for her to wed Christian. Furious, De Guiche, Christian's commander, orders him to join his unit immediately for a war against the Spanish, preventing the couple from spending their wedding night together.

With Cyrano under his command as well, De Guiche earns the swordsman's respect by his conduct in the war. From the field, Cyrano sends Roxane letters every day supposedly written by Christian. Roxane visits her husband in camp and tells him that she now has fallen in love with him not merely for his looks but because of his words, and would love him even if he were ugly. Realizing that she really loves Cyrano, Christian gets his rival to agree to tell Roxane the truth and let her decide between them. But before the opportunity arises, Christian volunteers for a dangerous mission and is fatally wounded, silencing Cyrano.

Roxane enters a convent in mourning. Years pass, with Cyrano visiting Roxane weekly. De Guiche, who has also befriended her, has overheard a courtier plotting against Cyrano, who has continued to write satirical articles mocking the nobility, and warns her that Cyrano's life may be in danger. One night, Cyrano is lured into an ambush; the poet is run down by a carriage. Near death, he hides his injuries and goes to keep his appointment with Roxane for the last time. His secret love for Roxane is finally revealed when he recites from memory one of the love letters she has kept, but it is too late. Cyrano first slips into delirium, then dies, leaving Roxane to mourn a second time.

Cast

  • José Ferrer
    José Ferrer
    José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón , best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director...

     as Cyrano de Bergerac
  • Mala Powers
    Mala Powers
    Mary Ellen "Mala" Powers was an American film actress.She was born in San Francisco, California. In 1940, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her father was an executive with United Press. In the summer of her relocation, Powers attended the Max Reinhardt Junior Workshop where she enjoyed her first...

     as Roxane
  • William Prince
    William Prince (actor)
    William LeRoy Prince was an American actor who appeared in numerous soap operas and made dozens of guest appearances on primetime series as well as playing villains in movies like The Gauntlet and Spontaneous Combustion.-Biography:Prince was born in Nichols, New York, the son of Myrtle , a nurse...

     as Christian de Neuvillette
  • Morris Carnovsky
    Morris Carnovsky
    Morris Carnovsky was an American stage and film actor born in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked briefly in the Yiddish theatre before attending Washington University in St. Louis...

     as Le Bret
  • Ralph Clanton
    Ralph Clanton
    Ralph Clanton was an American character actor. Although his name is not familiar to audiences, he did play a significant supporting role in a classic film which is revived regularly...

     as Antoine, Comte de Guiche
  • Lloyd Corrigan
    Lloyd Corrigan
    Lloyd Corrigan was an American film actor, producer, screenwriter and director who began working in films in the 1920s...

     as Ragueneau
  • Virginia Farmer as Roxane's duenna
  • Edgar Barrier
    Edgar Barrier
    Edgar Barrier was an American actor who appeared on radio, stage, and screen. In the 1930s he was a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre and played Simon Templar on The Saint radio show....

     as Cardinal Richelieu
  • Elena Verdugo
    Elena Verdugo
    Elena Verdugo is an American actress who began in films at the age of six in Cavalier of the West . Her career in radio, television, and film spanned six decades....

     as the Orange Girl
  • Albert Cavens
    Albert Cavens
    Albert Cavens was a Belgian-American silent film child actor.-Biography:Cavens moved to the United States soon after birth and began his career only aged 8 in a number of films in 1914, including The Town of Nazareth, also starring Charlotte Burton. However after 1914, Cavens took a break from...

     as the Viscount de Valvert
  • Arthur Blake as Montfleury
  • Don Beddoe
    Don Beddoe
    -Career:Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Beddoe made his Broadway acting debut in 1929, receiving top billing in Nigger Rich....

     as The Meddler
  • Percy Helton
    Percy Helton
    Percy Helton was an American film and television actor.One of his most memorable supporting roles was playing a drunken Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street. He also appeared in small but memorable roles in Criss Cross , The Set-Up , Kiss Me Deadly and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...

     as Bellerose


Ferrer and Ralph Clanton had previously appeared in the 1946 Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 revival of the play in the same roles that they played in the film.

Production


The film was produced on a significantly lower budget than most costume dramas, because the producers were afraid that it would fail at the box office (it did). The sparseness of the sets is concealed by camera angles and by the lighting. Darkness is frequently used to hide the fact that the production design was not especially elaborate.

Additions to the screenplay


The screenplay for the film, written by Carl Foreman
Carl Foreman
Carl Foreman, CBE was an American screenwriter and film producer who wrote the notable film High Noon. He was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.-Biography:...

, was mostly faithful to the play and to Brian Hooker's translation, though it was trimmed to 113 minutes (Cyrano plays for more than two-and-a-half hours onstage). However, Foreman did add his own dialogue for two or three additional scenes inserted into the film for better continuity between the five acts of the original play, and these are obviously not in verse.

The play characters of Le Bret and Carbon de Castel-Jaloux were combined, as were those of Ragueneau and Ligniere (although Ragueneau is not a drunk in the film). Le Bret consequently has a much larger and more important role in the film than in the play, and Ragueneau's role is slightly increased by his being the one threatened by a hundred ruffians that Cyrano fights off. The fight is shown in the film; in the play it takes place offstage between Acts I and II (Cyrano is in five acts).

The role of the unnamed cardinal (Richelieu, to judge from his appearance) was specially written for the film.

In the film, Cyrano dies after being trampled by a carriage as part of an ambush rather than by being hit on the head by a falling log as in the play. As with the fight against the hundred ruffians, the attack on Cyrano is shown onscreen rather than taking place offstage. Previous to this, there is a new scene in which his enemies are seen discussing the possibility of his being killed in a so-called "accidental" way.

Reception


If the film is decried for its low-budget, stagy look, as well as for some of its supporting actors, it is almost universally admired for Ferrer's star performance, in what is acknowledged to be his greatest role. On the other hand, in a rare criticism, Chicago Reader critic Dave Kehr
Dave Kehr
Dave Kehr is an American film critic. A critic at the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Tribune for many years, he writes a weekly column for The New York Times on DVD releases, in addition to contributing occasional pieces on individual films or filmmakers.-Early life and education:Dave Kehr did...

 called Ferrer's performance "easily the worst...to win an Academy Award". New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther
Bosley Crowther
Bosley Crowther was a journalist and author who was film critic for The New York Times for 27 years. His reviews and articles helped shape the careers of actors, directors and screenwriters, though his reviews, at times, were unnecessarily mean...

 praised Ferrer, stating that he "speaks the poetry of Rostand with richness and clarity such as only a few other actors have managed on the screen." However, he was less than impressed with Powers ("a lovely but lifeless girl"), Prince ("a solemn young dunce"), and Ferrer in his romantic moments, opining that "his maundering and mooning over Roxane is considerably hard to take."

Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine was also mixed in its review. It called Ferrer "the very embodiment of Rostand's self-sacrificing, self-dramatizing hero" while deriding the play's "soft core of unblushing sentiment, unstinted gallantry, unending heroics". However, it was more kind than Crowther to Powers ("uniformly good support") and Prince ("does well as the tongue-tied Christian").

Awards and nominations


Ferrer won the Academy Award for Best Actor and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
The Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture - Drama was first awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as a separate category in 1951...

. A Golden Globe for Best Cinematography - Black and White went to Franz Planer
Franz Planer
Franz Planer, A.S.C. was a cinematographer born in Karlsbad, Austria-Hungary ,-Biography:...

.

The film also received two Golden Globe nominations, for Picture, and New Star Of The Year for Powers. Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon (film director)
Michael Gordon was an American stage actor and stage and film director.-Life and career:Gordon was born in Baltimore and raised in a middle class Jewish community. He was a member of the Group Theatre , and was blacklisted as a Communist in the days of McCarthyism...

 was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.