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The beauties of Brazil and Rhonda Fleming are generously displayed in the 1964 romantic comedy Instant Love. Fleming stars as an American film star who falls in love with coffee planter Rossano Brazzi during a Brazilian vacation only to find herself butting heads with him over Brazilian traditions, particularly his decidedly macho view of a wife's role. Playing the increasingly frustrated wife gave Fleming the chance to show off more range as an actress than she was allowed in most of her routine Hollywood assignments. Not only does she have to move from wisecracks to tears, but also in some of her wackier scenes she resembles another famous redhead of the day, Lucille Ball.
With the decline of the studio system, stars like Fleming found themselves without the long-term contracts that had originally nurtured them and helped them develop as actors and screen personalities. To keep working, she turned to television guest shots and, as many before her had done, foreign films. At the time she made Instant Love, in fact, she had not appeared in a U.S.-made feature since The Crowded Sky (1960) four years earlier. In 1960 she had followed the trail most familiar to Hollywood stars, traveling to Italy to star in Revolt of the Slaves. But for Instant Love, she forged a new path, working for the burgeoning Brazilian film industry.
Having earned the title "The Queen of Technicolor" due to the many action genre films she made in the '50s, she proved herself the queen of Eastmancolor in this Brazilian adventure. Not only did the color process set off her red hair and creamy complexion to perfection, but she also dazzled audiences with about 25 costumes, each playing up her impressive figure and fiery hair. The costume changes may have gotten a little out of hand, however, when her character miraculously changes clothes after packing for her plane flight back to the U.S. (the flight is eventually revealed to be a ploy to awaken Brazzi's ardor).
Brazzi played opposite her as Claudio, who jumps through a bachelor's fire at a traditional "Festa Junina" (June Party) to impress Fleming, lighting his cigarette while also setting his tie on fire in the process; he also proves something of a cold fish when they date and a total chauvinist when they're married. After rising through the Italian film industry, Brazzi had won international stardom romancing American tourist Katharine Hepburn in Summertime (1955). That had led to strong roles in U.S. films, most notably Emile de Becque in South Pacific (1958), but less successful films had hurt his industry standing by the time he starred in Instant Love. Oddly, he had played opposite Deborah Kerr in another film about a hasty marriage that leads to a cultural clash, Count Your Blessings (1959).
Fleming wasn't the only American hired for this film. The U.S. government efficiency expert who courts Fleming unsuccessfully then tries to steal her from her husband was played by William Redfield, a former child actor who had co-founded the Actors Studio and would be best known to film audiences as one of the state hospital inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). At the time he made Instant Love, the New York-based actor was working primarily on stage and television, and would play Guildenstern in Richard Burton's production of Hamlet, directed by John Gielgud. The film also marked the feature debut of pop star-composer Neil Sedaka, although he had previously received screen credit for the theme song for Where the Boys Are (1960), performed by Connie Francis. Not only did Sedaka write two songs for Instant Love and sing the U.S. version's title song over the opening credits, but he appeared as himself in a nightclub sequence. Though neither of his songs from the film made it to the pop charts, he is in excellent voice here.
Instant Love was one of only two features directed by art director Paul Sylbert, best known for his work on such modern classics as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Writer Francis Swann, a Hollywood veteran who would later pen scripts for daytime's cult horror drama Dark Shadows, adapted the script from a play by Brazilian writer Guilherme Figueiredo, whose most famous work, The Fox and the Grapes, was a biography of Aesop. The film has a fable quality to it as well, with Fleming quickly learning the errors of succumbing to Instant Love without finding out her suitor's attitudes toward minor things like women, marriage and morality.
The film marked the producing debut of Martin B. Cohen, who would spend most of his career making exploitation classics such as Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969) and Humanoids from the Deep (1980). Cohen certainly crammed high production values into the 90 minute feature, but he also had his share of troubles on Instant Love. The production ran out of money during filming. When Cohen could not immediately come up with completion funds, the film's release was held up so that it never received theatrical distribution in the U.S. The television prints, skillfully restored by Harrison Engle with post production help from Warner Bros. and Chace Audio, mark its U.S. debut.
Producer: Martin B. CohenDirector: Paul Sylbert
Screenplay: Guilherme Figueiredo (play), Francis Swann
Cinematography: Amleto Daisse, Osvaldo Cruz Kemeny, Mario Pages
Art Direction: Alexandre Horvat
Music: Remo Usai
Film Editing: Rafael Justo Valverde
Cast: Carlos Alberto, Peter Bashka, Rossano Brazzi, Teresa Costelo, Dick Edwards, Osmar Ferrao, Rhonda Fleming, Leila Lane, Odete Lara, Annik Malvil.
by Frank Miller