That Lady in Ermine – The ups and downs of the 1948 film

A married countess and a forbidden romance with an enemy Hungarian colonel: sound like the making for a perfect film. But of course, we must at a meddlesome doppelgänger, living ancestral portraits, a couple dream sequences.

The Countess Angelina has just married Mario, who leaves for his regiment the same night as the enemy Hungarians take their castle. The ancestors of Angelina conspire to get rid of the enemy, as Angelina’s great great grandmother (whom she bears a remarkable resemblance to) Francesca conspires to manipulate the colonel. The colonel immediately in love with Francesca, but through only her portrait. From here he of course develops an attraction to Angelina, and she struggles with to stay a faithful wife or follow her heart. But during a dream created by Francesca, the colonel falls hopelessly in love with Angelina. She, however, continues to play the part (even though she realizes she does not love her husband) of a devout wife and the Hungarian leaves her and spares Mario, who had been in the castle disguised as a gypsy.

Now while I thought this movie certainly had it’s beautiful moments, especially aided by a symphony playing “This is the Moment”, it was a muddled mess a great deal of the time. The characters felt inconsistent, except for the Colonel and the Luigi the butler, but frankly, the whole doppelgänger thing I felt led to inconsistent characterization for Angelina and Francesca. Francesca’s character, as a matter of fact, was the most confusing and counts be difficult to figure out.

The dream sequence had the best and worst moments of the movie. When both Grable and Fairbanks Jr sing “This is the Moment,” it is moving and lovely. However, when Grable (as Francesca) does some vulgar dance, and yes I know she is more out going, and then later the two fly up through the roof it ruined the entire scene.

The score and Grable’s delightful costumes I felt really saved this movie. As the colonel rides away with his regiment, and both Angelina and the colonel are looking at each other as “This is the Moment” plays is probably the most wonderful scene of the whole movie in my opinion.

And here’s another interesting tidbit, the first song where the other ancestors are looking for Countess Francesca and then the song sung on the top of the tower remind me a great deal of the music from both Camelot, My Fair Lady and Gigi. It is very reminiscent of Lerner and Loewe’s style of writing, especially with that sing-speak kind of song.

This isn’t the top movie on my recommendation list, but if your looking for a simple, slightly confusing at times, family-friendly movie, I would recommend this to you.

And don’t worry, it all works out in the front end. I promise.


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