Musical Monday: Serenade (1956)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Serenade” –Musical #510

serena3

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Anthony Mann

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel, Vincent Price, Joseph Callelia, Vince Edwards, Ed Platt

Plot:
Vineyard worker Damon (Lanza) has dreams of becoming an opera star. When socialite Kendall Hale (Fontaine) gets lost and spots him in vineyard, makes Damon her project to make him famous. But like other countless athletes and artists, Kendall builds them up to toss them aside, causing destruction to each one. Damon is no exception. After a break down, Damon goes to Mexico where he tries to rebuild his life.

Trivia:

Mario Lanza dressed in costume "Othello."

Mario Lanza dressed in costume “Othello.”

-Adapted from a James M. Cain novel.
-Metropolitan Opera Singer Licia Albanese is featured in the “Othello” scene.
-Mario Lanza’s first film in three years.
-A brief part of “Othello” is performed in the film. While Lanza is only in costume for 14 minutes, the makeup took four hours, according to a March 24, 1956, “Miami News” article.
-In the film, Juana (Montiel) becomes Damon’s wife. In the Cain book, she is a prostitute and the two open a brothel together. Also in the book, Damon struggles with bisexuality.

Notable Songs:
-“Dio Ti Giocondi” performed by Mario Lanza and Licia Albanese
-“Serenade” performed by Mario Lanza
-“Ave Maria” performed by Mario Lanza

The only really exciting part of the film.

The only really exciting part of the film.

My Review:
Simply put, “Serenade” is dull.
It’s a slow moving, predictable plot. The plot is predictable and not new: the mature society lady who molds an artist just to move on to the next project. The most interesting characters were played by the secondary roles. Vincent Price was the most interesting character as he helps Lanza with his career. It’s also interesting to see character actor Joseph Calleia as an elderly music lover.
The most sympathetic character was Juana, played by Sara Montiel. She was lovely and also brought two rather exciting scenes to an otherwise boring movie.
While Mario Lanza has a beautiful voice and I enjoy opera, his songs are also boring. It is disappointing that the “Othello” scene is so brief.
“Serenade” is overly dramatic and overly long. Even Anthony Mann’s direction and beautiful music could not save this film.

 

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