Flame and the Flesh


1h 44m 1954

Brief Synopsis

American Madeline (Lana Turner), a no-better-than-she-has-to-be (and then only when pushed)traveler arrives in Naples. She has an eye for men and a penchant for getting by on her wits---a 1954 term for body---and soon has a well-meaning (dumb) young composer, Ciccio (Bonar Colleano)providing her with room and board. But she has a male counterpart in Ciccio's friend, cafe-singer Nino (Carlos Thompson), who recognizes her for what she is and he decides to intercede on behalf of his friend. Black Widow Madeline welcomes him into her parlor, in a manner of speaking to get past the censors, and the next thing Nino knows, he has abandoned his wedding plans with sweet-young-thing Lisa (Pier Angeli), and runs off with Madeline. Lisa and Ciccio are left with wringing hands, and Madeline and Nino become an American/Italian version of the "Battling Bickersons" or "The Honeymooners", with none of the fun.

Film Details

Release Date
May 28, 1954
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 1 May 1954; New York opening: 2 May 1954
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; Naples,Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Naples au baiser de fue by Auguste Bailly (Paris, 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1
Film Length
9,393ft (11 reels)

Synopsis

In Naples, Italy, down-on-her-luck opportunist Madeline Duvain is thrown out by her irate landlady and wanders the streets, hoping to find a place to stay. When a car almost runs her down, kind musician Ciccio Duvario stops to help her. Madeline pretends to feel faint and tells Ciccio that she is hungry and has nowhere to go because she has just arrived from Milan. Ciccio, who is attracted to the sensuous Madeline, cooks dinner for her and offers to let her spend the night in his comfortable apartment. Madeline takes sole possession of the bedroom while the mild-mannered Ciccio goes to work at Enrico's nightclub. Meanwhile, at a large restaurant, Ciccio's roommate Nino, a popular singer, is performing for the adoring women who flock to hear his love songs. Lisa, restaurant owner Peppe's daughter, is in love with Nino, but he is currently involved with Francesca, a married woman. Peppe wants Lisa to forget about the flirtatious Nino and marry Filiberto, a successful restaurant supply company owner. Nino walks home with Lisa and Peppe, then, when Peppe leaves them alone, tells Lisa that he is no longer interested in Francesca. When Lisa gives Nino her mother's locket, he says he thinks of marriage with a girl like her. Overhearing this, Peppe quickly invites Nino in. Later, at the apartment, Nino sees the sleeping Madeline and is attracted to her, but assures the suspicious Ciccio about his engagement to Lisa. The next morning, Ciccio asks Nino to sing a new song he has written and introduces him to Madeline. When they are alone on the terrace, Madeline tells Nino stories about her travels, but he knows they are lies and warns her not to hurt the vulnerable Ciccio. Before Ciccio goes out for the day, he urges her to stay with him as long as she likes, then buys her a new dress. As the weeks pass, Madeline stays at the apartment, accepting all of Ciccio's gifts and kindnesses, but secretly going out at night. One day, Nino demands to know where she spends her evenings, and she claims that she has been going to see Ciccio at Enrico's. When Nino sees that she is wearing Lisa's locket, he is furious and demands that she take it off, but as they argue they kiss. That night, after he finishes singing, he goes to Enrico's and sees Madeline at a table. Nino and Madeline then dance, after asking Ciccio's permission, then, when Madeline flirts with another man, Nino and the other man start a fight, which is observed by Filiberto. The next day, after Filiberto tells Lisa and her father about the fight, Lisa goes to the apartment. Madeline implies that it is Nino, not Ciccio, who is her "friend," and a concerned Lisa tells her to give Nino the message that their marriage date has been moved up to the day after tomorrow. On the way home, Lisa runs into Nino, who tells her that he loves only her and that Madeline is Ciccio's girl. Back at the apartment, Ciccio brings gifts for Madeline and proposes, but she will not give him an answer and is startled when he says that Nino is moving out. At that moment, Madeline looks from the terrace and sees Nino and Lisa happily embracing. Neither Madeline nor Nino can sleep that night, and the next day, Madeline asks him to come back to the apartment at 4:00, after Ciccio leaves for work. In the afternoon, Nino goes to the dressmaker with Lisa, then wanders the streets alone. At 4:30, just as Madeline is losing hope that Nino will come to her, he arrives and they share a passionate kiss. Late that night, Lisa goes to Enrico's to tell Ciccio that Nino never came to work. Together, they go to the apartment and discover that neither Madeline nor Nino are there, and all of their things are gone. Enraged at his betrayal, Ciccio promises to find and kill them. Some time later, Nino and Madeline walk to a seaside town, where Nino will try and find a job as a singer. They are in love, but Nino has become possessively jealous and Madeline resents their poverty. When Nino cannot find work, they move on to Amalfi, where he gets a singing job, but quickly loses it after making a jealous scene over Madeline that is seen by Filiberto. Later, Nino admits to Madeline that he loves her, but does not like her. The next day, in Naples, Ciccio tells Lisa that he has not been successful locating Nino, when Filiberto arrives and tells them what he saw. Ciccio quickly drives to Amalfi but Nino and Madeline have already left. In another seaside town, Nino gets a singing job at a marina club, but only after Madeline secretly plays up to the wealthy proprietor. That night, as she tells a tale about how she met Nino, Ciccio shows up and is hurt by her lies that he was an abusive lover. When the proprietor takes Madeline to his private quarters, Ciccio finally realizes what she is and goes to Nino. While the proprietor tells Madeline that she should be with him because she and Nino are bad for each other, Nino breaks in on them. Madeline acts as if she does not care and sends Nino away. When she resumes having drinks with the proprietor, Nino knocks the proprietor down and slaps Madeline. Nino then leaves, and Madeline realizes that for the first time in her life she truly loved someone. She watches as Nino and Ciccio drive off together and walks away, alone, ignoring the proprietor's calls for her to come back.

Film Details

Release Date
May 28, 1954
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 1 May 1954; New York opening: 2 May 1954
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; Naples,Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Naples au baiser de fue by Auguste Bailly (Paris, 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1
Film Length
9,393ft (11 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Some contemporary sources list the film's title as The Flame and the Flesh. According to various Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts, exteriors for the film were shot on location in Naples, Italy, while interiors were completed at the M-G-M British Studios. Hollywood Reporter news items include Liverpool Symphony Orchestra bass violinist Emanual Shulman as a soloist in the film and contributor to the film's background music, but the extent of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. Hollywood Reporter "Assignments" columns in late December 1953 list two different sets of sound editors; one lists Harold Humbrock and John Logan, while the other listed Funn Ulback and Scott Perry. It has not been determined which of these men worked on the film.
       As noted in reviews, blonde M-G-M star Lana Turner's hair was dyed dark brown for the film to give her more of a traditional Italian appearance. Some reviews indicate that Turner played an American in the film; the character was Italian, although Turner did not speak with an Italian accent. In her autobiography, Turner recalled that the studio offered her a choice between Mogambo and Flame and the Flesh. Turner wrote, "The Mogambo script didn't appeal to me, and I elected to do Flame and the Flesh. A big mistake!" The role in Mogambo eventually went to Ava Gardner (see below).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring May 1954

Released in United States Spring May 1954