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Serenade

Serenade(1956)

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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Damon Vincente, an Italian American with a beautiful operatic singing voice, leaves his job picking grapes at a California vineyard when he gets an audition at Lardelli's, a San Francisco opera restaurant where several great tenors have gotten their starts. One night, Charles Winthrop, a famous concert promoter, visits Lardelli's with Kendall Hale, a beautiful heiress whom Damon had met one day when she and prizefighter Marco Roselli were lost in the wine country. After the show, Winthrop invites Damon to join him and Kendall at the Mark Hopkins hotel for dinner, and when he arrives, she introduces him to Maestro Marcatello, a famous opera coach. Damon explains that as a child he received singing lessons only when the harvest was good, and that after his parents died, he worked making wine and had little time for artistic instruction. Marcatello asks Damon to sing, and the young man shows so much potential that the maestro offers to train him. As the group discusses Damon's talents, Roselli arrives and screams at Kendall for not having attended his championship fight that night, and storms out. After Kendall declares to the group that she never told Roselli that she loved him, she asks Damon to stay once the others have left. He declines, and in the cab on the way home, Winthrop tells him that Kendall is a dangerous woman. Later, at Lardelli's, Damon's cousin Tonio makes elaborate plans for the tenor, but Damon, who is falling in love with Kendall and fighting against it, is worried that his life is changing too quickly. Finally having given in to Kendall's seductions, Damon invites her and Winthrop to go on tour with him. In New York, however, he is forced to cancel a date with Kendall in order to rehearse for his debut at the Met, where he is to sing Othello. After the rehearsal, Damon finds Kendall with a young sculptor, Russell Hanson, who is sculpting a bust of the icy blonde, and grows jealous. While he sings the part of Othello on stage at the Met, Damon looks anxiously around the hall for Kendall, who never shows up. In the middle of a duet with a soprano, he shocks everyone by storming offstage. He rushes to Kendall's home and learns that she has left on a trip with Russell. Enraged, Damon leaves and heads for Mexico City, where he is scheduled to sing at the National Theatre. During a rehearsal, he loses his voice and breaks down. After the directors replace him, Damon goes to the small town of San Miguel de Allende, where, during a fiesta, he falls ill with a malaria-like disease. Juana Montes, a Mexican girl, tends to him and then brings him to recuperate at the Montes farm, where she lives with her aunt and uncle, Manuel and Rosa. Damon offers to work in the fields to pay back the money that Juana has spent on his hotel and doctor's fees. One day, Damon picks up a guitar and discovers that he still cannot sing. When Juana suggests that he return to singing after the harvest is over, Damon bitterly replies that his voice is gone for good. Juana insists that it is the fault of the "Americana," and that he must find his voice again. At a fiesta commemorating the death of Juana's father, a bullfighter who died in the ring, Juana dresses up as a toreador and reenacts the bullfight. Felipe, a young man who is in love with Juana and jealous of Damon, calls Juana's father a coward, prompting Juana to threaten him with her drawn sword. When Damon goes to comfort her, she explains to him that when her mother ran away with another man, her father lost his will to live and became easy prey to a charging bull. Juana goes to church to ask for forgiveness, and Damon follows her. When he hears her pray for him, he begins to sing "Ave Maria," and then cries tears of joy. Damon announces that he will return to the U.S. to sing in the opera and asks Juana to accompany him, but she refuses. As she drives him to the airport at Mazatlan, however, a storm breaks out and the pair is stranded in the mud. Juana tries to resist Damon's advances, but finally gives in and they kiss. Back in San Francisco, Damon shows up at Lardelli's with Juana as his bride. Later, after Damon is reunited with cousin Tonio, Winthrop arrives at the restaurant and offers Damon a chance to regain his celebrity by singing with the San Francisco Opera. Kendall attends the performance with the intent of winning Damon back, and a jealous Juana encourages Damon to take a job in New York, even though Kendall will be nearby. Kendall invites the couple to a cocktail party, and when they arrive, she takes Juana aside, ostensibly to show her the Mexican treasures she bought when she was looking for Damon south-of-the-border. When she gets Juana alone, she warns the girl that she will take Damon away from her and make him a big star. While still in the bedroom, Juana finds a bullfighter's sword and performs her toreador reenactment for the guests, brandishing the sword at Kendall's throat. After Damon calls Juana from her trance, she runs away, whereupon Damon tells Kendall with confidence that he no longer has feelings for her. Out in the street, Juana is hit by a bus, and when Damon finds her, she tells him that he must go to his performance and not worry about her. At the concert, Damon sings the song "Serenade" in dedication to his beloved, and begins to cry when Tonio tells him from backstage that Juana will recover.