In Argentina, family man Julio Madariaga (Lee J. Cobb) is the patriarch of his family and considers his farm paradise on Earth. One of his daughters, Dona Luisa Desnoyers (Harriet E. MacGibbon), has married French immigrant Marcelo Desnoyers (Charles Boyer) and they have one son, the playboy Julio (Glenn Ford), and one daughter, the gorgeous student of Sorbonne Chi Chi (Yvette Mimieux). His other daughter, Elena von Hartrott (Kathryn Givney), has married German Karl von Hartrott (Paul Lukas), and they have three sons: Heinrich (Karlheinz Böhm), Gustav (Brian Avery), and Franz (Richard Franchot). In 1938, Heinrich returns from Germany for a family reunion and when he tells that he has joined the S.S., the displeased Julio Madariaga has a heart attack and dies. When France is occupied by the Germans, the family reunites in Paris, and Franz is the Nazi administrator in France. The alienated Julio has a studio where he paints, and has a love affair with Marguerite Laurier (Ingrid Thulin),…
A near-miss for Minnelli.
When I saw this during its first-run release, I was already an avid Minnelli fan but had been forewarned by the reviews that this was not one of his best. I recall enjoying it, nevertheless, and much of my pleasure was due to Minnelli’s always inventive visual style, the expensive mounting in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, the interesting cast (not all of them well-chosen, especially the deadly-dull Glenn Ford, who was being assigned to what seemed like every other big budget M-G-M picture during that period), the astute use of Angela Lansbury to dub Ingrid Thulin’s lines (though I’m sure that Miss Thulin’s own voice, even if she had learned her lines phonetically, would have been preferable), and Andre Previn’s very expressive score. (Mr. Previn came to disown a lot of his Hollywood work once he concentrated on conducting major classical orchestras, but I suspect he wouldn’t have included this one among those he would prefer that we forget.) Tony Duquette’s Four Horsemen figures are a striking addition to the lavish mounting of this production. It’s not available on DVD (yet, anyway) and it’s probably a safe bet that the VHS version is (ugh!) “formatted”…don’t bother! You’ll be missing the greater percentage of this film’s achievement.