Friday, April 4, 2014

Madamigella di maupin (1966)

Large Italian Fotobusta Poster

Madamigella di maupin, a period costume comedy directed by Mauro Bolognini and based on a book by Theophile Gautier, was an Italian-French co-production filmed in Italy and Yugoslavia in the late summer and early fall of 1965.  Catherine is clearly the star of the film, playing Magdeleine, the young niece of an aristocrat who is forced from his castle in the countryside by invading troops.  For the escape, the uncle dresses as an old lady, and Magdeleine and her cousin are disguised as young priests on their way to a nearby monastery.  The cousin stays at the monastery, but young Magdeleine (now calling herself Theodore), flees into the countryside to see the world disguised as a young man.  Unfortunately for Magdeleine, she soon finds herself forced to join the King's army and serve as the aide to Captain Alcibiade (played by Robert Hossein).  Magdeleine quickly starts to fall in love with the dashing Captain, who is troubled by the obvious attraction that he starts to feel for "Theodore."  To complicate matters even more, the group encounters d'Albert (played by Tomas Milian), a poet and reluctant lover of a deceased general's widow.  d'Albert, immediately smitten with "Theodore," is somewhat concerned that his ideal beauty resides in the body of a man, but he suspects that Theodore might not be exactly as represented.  d'Albert soons learns Magdeleine's secret and pursues her across the countryside, professing his love and constantly threatening to expose her to the Captain.  Finally, in a brothel, Magdeleine presents herself to the Captain, dressed as a beautiful woman.  His first reaction is to rage at Theodore for dressing as a woman!  Not surprisingly, Magdeleine has to show him her breasts (off-camera) in order to convince him that she is really a woman, and they presumably live happily ever after. 

For me, this film has more of a French feel to it than Italian.  Catherine gives a good performance, but that is not surprising.  She is a good actress, who in my opinion, rarely turned in a poor performance (even though she sometimes had weak material with which to work).  Hossein was a good choice for the dashing Captain.  Milian, in a role much different than those for which he became famous in the 1970's, is good as d'Albert.  Some of the more humorous scenes are those between the reluctant lover, d'Albert, and the general's widow, who constantly demands his attention.

Bolognini's work is solid, but I doubt many people would include Madamigella di maupin amongst his best work.  He won the prize for Best Director for this film in 1966 at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain.

The film is never boring and boasts some beautiful location scenery, but it also never rises to the level of being really good.  I would classify it as a "decent" film.  You just have to suspend all reality and believe that the men in the film could possibly mistake Catherine for a young man (regardless of how she is dressed).  It is a movie that all Catherine fans should watch, but I would not classify it as "classic Spaak." 

A couple of tidbits that crossed my mind:
  • Sante Achilli was a cameraman for the film.  As stated in previous posts, we know that he became Catherine's constant companion at the end of 1963 upon her split with Fabrizio, but I do not know when Catherine and Achilli parted ways.
  • This film has the first real on-screen nudity, albeit extremely tame, for any of Catherine's characters.  I've always found it funny how the press constantly talked of Catherine's "nude" scenes and gave her such a wild image, when in fact all of the "nudity" was implied and off-camera.  In this film, when Magdeleine is getting out of a bathtub, her rear-end is clearly shown in the reflection of the shiny floor.  Since there is nothing about the shot to show that it was indeed Catherine, my presumption is that it was a body double.
For some reason, Catherine spent the first half of 1965 doing things other than shooting a new film.  Her activities for the year will be detailed in an upcoming post.  Reporting in Variety in early 1965 indicated a spring start for Madamigella di maupin, with Catherine's co-stars expected to be Horst Buchholz and Jean Claude Brialy.  Her co-stars ended up being Robert Hossein and Tomas Milian, and the film was primarily shot in the August to September (perhaps October) time frame in 1965.  
  • The September 8, 1965 Variety reported from Rome that "Miss Spaak is currently busy in Yugoslavia on a [costumer], Silvio Clementelli's production of 'Mademoiselle de Maupin" (title will probably be changed for the international market for which pic is slated) directed by Mauro Bolognini.  It co-features Robert Hossein and Tomas Milian.  Pic is budgeted at $1,500,000-a sizable sum by local standards.  It's being shot in Technicolor and with an English track, now considered a must for pix intended to travel internationally.  Story, loosely based on a w.k. novel by Theophile Gauthier, is a about a young woman who in the 1700's rebels against the customs of her times and sets out to discover the opposite sex by a very simple expedient:  she dresses up as a man."  
  • The September 29, 1965 Variety reported "Catherine Spaak back from Yugoslavian locations of 'Mademoiselle de Maupin'."
  • Finally, the November 10, 1965 Variety reported:  Catherine Spaak starrer "Mademoiselle de Maupin," finished under Mauro Bolognini's direction."
Although I have found no concrete release date information for the film, it appears to have been released in Italy in early 1966 and performed well.  The February 16, 1966 Variety (with a February 8, Rome date-line), has an article, "Catherine Spaak's Next."  The article says:  "Success in Italo keys of latest Catherine Spaak starrer, 'Mademoiselle de Maupin,' produced by Silvio Clementelli for Jolly Films, has prompted Clementelli to a rapid followup.  Next on Miss Spaak's slate is 'La Sirena' (The Siren), to be directed by Franco Rossi, with Clementelli producing.  It likely will be via an Italo-Yank pre-production deal which the producer is currently mulling."  (Note:  It appears that La Sirena was ultimately filmed later in 1966, after Hotel, and was called Non faccio la guerra, faccio l'amore.)

As reported above, the film was apparently shot with at least an alternative English-dubbed track.  Efforts were made to sell the film for distribution in America, but I have not found any information to indicate that the film was ever released in the U.S.A., or any other English-speaking country.  Furthermore, I have never come across an English-dubbed version of the film.
Jolly Film's co-owner, Arrigo Colombo, was reported in the December 22, 1965 issue of Variety as having been in New York the previous week to negotiate deals for distribution of Jolly product. "Principal reason for the visit, however, was to make initial contacts with American distributors for Jolly's two big films of the moment-'Fistful' and a costumer, ...starring Miss Spaak, 'Mlle. de Maupin,' an Italian-French coproduction directed by Mauro Bolognini.  'Maupin,' which will have a title change, is based on a book by Theophile Gautier and deals with the rebellion of a young girl by dressing as a man and being drafted into the army.  Tomas ('Agony and Ecstasy') Milian and Robert Hossein have principal male roles.  Because of the transvestite gimmick and pic's comedy slant, Colombo believes that its U.S. potential, if sold and exploited along the lines of 'Tom Jones,' is great."

The February 9, 1966 Variety reported:  "Silvio Clementelli plans U.S. trip soon with English-titled print of 'Mademoiselle de Maupin,' Catherine Spaak starrer shot in Italy and Yugoslavia."

Since it appears that no distributor was ever found for a U.S. release (and I have seen no indication of a release in any other English-speaking countries), I have to wonder whether this film was a disappointment for the producer, given its large budget and plans to distribute it internationally.  My presumption is that it would have had to be one of the bigger hits in Europe that year in order to become immediately profitable.  I am not surprised that it did not find a U.S. distributor, because the film does not strike me as something that would have generally played well in U.S. theaters in 1966.

Here are some Italian posters:

Still photos:

Italian soundtrack album:

I think that this is a Spanish poster:

A French poster:

Mexican lobby cards:

A Japanese magazine clipping:

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