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Marlene Dietrich accepted the invitation of her friend, renowned Italian actor-director Vittorio De Sica, to costar opposite him in United Artists' The Monte Carlo Story (1956). This romantic tale focuses on a love affair between two compulsive gamblers who maintain their resplendent images even while down on their luck. Maria Riva, Dietrich's daughter, writes in her 1992 biography Marlene Dietrich that her mother had great respect for De Sica as "the genius who had made The Bicycle Thief" (1948). It was understood that, although Sam Taylor was the official director of The Monte Carlo Story, De Sica also would have a hand in the direction.
The bulk of the film was shot on location in Monte Carlo's actual hotels, casinos and restaurants, with only brief shooting later at a movie studio in Rome. Dietrich, an expert in matters of lighting and cinematography, wrote to Riva at the time that the "makeshift lighting" of the Monte Carlo scenes proved more becoming to her than the harsher lights of the studio, where "our little cameraman is inexperienced."
Dietrich helped ensure her character's glamour by working with designer Jean Louis to create more than 10 chic costumes, which are very important because her clothes are one reason De Sica's character is attracted to her. She also corrected De Sica's appearance for the film, writing Riva that "His makeup is thick and pasty. . . . In America people will laugh at a man who looks made-up, men don't make up with grease in Hollywood. For color they have a water-soluble makeup which does not show. . . ."
Dietrich also wrote her daughter that, in the style of Italian movies of the day, the entire film was dubbed: "They more or less mouth their lines like we do when we shoot a song and the soundtrack is playing. They do a silent picture and concentrate on the expression and the eyes and say the words rather tonelessly." Later, in dubbing sessions, the dialogue is added with more expressive speech. "I should have been a silent film star or Italian to start with," wrote Dietrich. "They have an easy life."
Producer: Marcello Girosi
Director: Sam Taylor, Vittorio De Sica (uncredited)
Screenplay: Samuel A. Taylor, from the story by Marcello Girosi and Dino Risi
Art Direction: Gastone Medin
Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno
Costume Design: Jean Louis
Original Music: Michael Emer, James F. Hanley, Renato Rascel
Cast: Marlene Dietrich (Maria de Crevecouer), Vittorio De Sica (Count Dino della Fiaba), Arthur O'Connell (Mr. Hinkley), Natalie Trundy (Jane Hinkley), Jane Rose (Mrs. Freeman).
by Roger Fristoe