movie film review | chris tookey

Barefoot Contessa

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  Barefoot Contessa Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
5.80 /10
Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O%27Brien
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Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by: Joseph L Mankiewicz

Released: 1954
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 128

Gypsy dancer (Ava Gardner) is moulded by Hollywood film-maker (Humphrey Bogart) into a movie star, whereupon she marries an impotent count (Rosanno Brazzi).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Over-the-top melodrama with a verbose but occasionally witty script: entertaining, though not to be taken seriously. Mankiewicz was evidently trying to do the same to Hollywood as he did in All About Eve, and Ava's rise to stardom works well: Edmond O'Brien steals the film as a press agent. Mankiewicz is on less sure ground when he enters the world of the European aristocracy. Gardner, incidentally, was billed as "the world's most beautiful animal".


Has a few startlingly good lines and situations, and several embarrassingly bad ones, but even the neat lines, Bogart's expert delivery and some effectively acid scenes fail to make Contessa much more than an international-set soap opera.


A trash masterpiece: a Cinderella story in which the prince turns out to be impotent. It’s hard to believe Mankiewicz ever spent an hour in Hollywood; the alternative supposition is that he spent too many hours there.

(Pauline Kael, 1968)


Of what value is all this stupidity? At least it provides a glimpse into Mankiewicz’s curious psyche. What do we see? An ambivalent hatred and envy for the aristocracy; an ambivalent distaste for a truckling to the proletariat; a surprising amount of Hollywood and Vine vulgarity and irresponsibility.

(Henry Hart, Films in Review)

A thinnish slice of the old baloney.

(Daily Telegraph)

This vastly blown-up example of the higher tosh.

(Financial Times)

This example of the Higher Lunacy must vie with Johnny Guitar for the silliest film of the year.

(Gavin Lambert)

Thanks to a pompous and at times depressingly pretentious script, the movie was more notable and enjoyable for the performances than for its content, and at over two hours, it was painfully over-length.

(Alan Frank, long after release)

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