Lady L


2h 4m 1966
Lady L

Brief Synopsis

A beautiful laundress rises through European society.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 May 1966
Production Company
C. C. Champion; Les Films Concordia; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Switzerland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Lady L by Romain Gary (Paris, 1963).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Lady Lendale is celebrating her 80th birthday at her castle in Yorkshire. In reminiscing to her biographer, Sir Percy, she recalls that many years before, while known as Louise, she left her job as a laundress in Corsica for employment in a Paris brothel. There she met the one love in her life--Armand, a thief and an anarchist. Together they went to Switzerland, where Armand became involved in a plot to assassinate Prince Otto of Bavaria. While expecting Armand's child, Louise posed as a widowed countess in a hotel in Nice, where she tried to rob Lord Lendale. Though he knew all about her, Lord Lendale was so anxious to have a wife that he offered to save Armand from the police in return for Louise's hand. Since she had replaced the bomb that Armand planned to toss at Prince Otto with a dummy, Louise accepted the marriage offer. She later joined Armand in Italy and, for a while, supported his anarchist activities with her husband's money. Eventually she tired of his useless plans and went to England to assume her responsibilities as Lady Lendale. As she concludes her story, Lady L startles Sir Percy by telling him that she continues to see Armand and that all of her children are his; she married him in Switzerland, she says, and Lord Lendale consented to an arrangement whereby Armand remained both her husband and lover while posing as the family chauffeur.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 May 1966
Production Company
C. C. Champion; Les Films Concordia; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Switzerland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Lady L by Romain Gary (Paris, 1963).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Lady L


Lady L, Romain Gary's novel about an elderly duchess recalling her beginnings as a laundress who loves an anarchist but marries an English lord, endured a long and circuitous path to the screen. MGM had begun production on a film version in 1961, with Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida, and Ralph Richardson in the leading roles, and George Cukor directing. But there were script problems, and clashes between Cukor and Lollobrigida. With the sets built, and extras waiting around for the first scene to be shot, Cukor backed out, claiming illness. The production was cancelled. In late 1964, MGM struck a deal with producer Carlo Ponti to take over the production of Lady L (1965). Ponti's wife, Sophia Loren, and Paul Newman were set to star, and Peter Ustinov was hired to rewrite the script and to direct.

The film had originally been written as a romantic melodrama. Ustinov wisely ignored previous screenplay drafts and started over from scratch, re-imagining Lady L as a picaresque comedy. He also cast his old friend, David Niven, a master of sophisticated comedy, as the third point of the romantic triangle. (Niven and Ustinov had become lifelong friends when they served together in World War II.) Ustinov himself made a comic cameo appearance in Lady L as the dotty Prince Otto, the target of one of anarchist Newman's bombs. And he also dubbed the voice of French actor Philippe Noiret, who played Gerome. Lady L is set in the early 20th century, and the locations included the visual splendors of Paris, the south of France and Switzerland, as well as the magnificent Castle Howard in the English countryside. That stately home would later become famous as the setting for the television miniseries, Brideshead Revisited (1981).

Real locations were of the utmost importance for the director who was quoted in Ustinov in Focus by Tony Thomas, saying, "I tried to get the style of the times, and with the new sensitivity of film stock you can now use real locations, which is highly preferable to using sets, no matter how marvelous they might be. You can now shoot indoors, which is more difficult to do but eminently worth it because you get production values of the sort you couldn't build. This was particularly true with Lady L because there is now a growing appreciation for the art and decor of that period: people are beginning to see merit and beauty in what was once dismissed as Victorian, Neo-baroque vulgarity...The railway station we used in Monaco - that's gone. There are many aspects of this film that are of historical value because we put on record things that are paradoxically coming back into vogue again. But so many things have been destroyed because people hadn't the patience to wait a bit longer, and potential Parthenons are obliterated."

According to some sources, producer Ponti was so pleased with the finished film that he planned to release it as a 150-minute road show attraction. Instead, according to Ustinov, Ponti and MGM made so many cuts that the film made no sense. These editing problems may account for the delay in releasing Lady L. Finished in April of 1965, it did not open in Europe until November, and in the U.S. until May of 1966.

Another problem was that, of the three principals, only Niven was perfectly cast. Most critics agreed that Newman, while competent, was too American and too modern to play a turn-of-the century European anarchist. Among the most scathing comments was the New Yorker's: "Mr. Newman has not troubled to think himself very deeply into his silly role, and seems about as far from Paris and anarchism, as say, Akron and the Young Republicans are." Loren was also damned with faint praise. Harold Rogers noted in the Christian Science Monitor: " An actress who has depths within depths, she is limited when dealing with superficial and tasteless pleasantries." Ustinov's script and direction generally fared best with the critics. Elliot Fremont-Smith wrote in the New York Times, "The pacing is fast, the wit is sure, the scenes are gorgeous." The mixed reviews and troubled production history no doubt contributed to Lady L's box-office failure. But artistically, an accurate assessment might be Fremont-Smith's summary: "imperfect [but] droll, rewarding and technically very interesting entertainment."

Director: Peter Ustinov
Producer: Carlo Ponti
Screenplay: Peter Ustinov, based on the novel by Romain Gary
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Editor: Roger Dwyre
Costume Design: Marcel Escoffier, Jacqueline Guyot
Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne, Auguste Capelier; set designs, Maurice Barnathan
Music: Jean Francaix
Cast: Sophia Loren (Lady L), Paul Newman (Armand), David Niven (Lord Lendale), Cecil Parker (Sir Percy), Claude Dauphin (Inspector Mercier), Philippe Noiret (Ambroise Gerome), Michel Piccoli (Lecoeur), Marcel Dalio (Sapper).
C-109m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri
Lady L

Lady L

Lady L, Romain Gary's novel about an elderly duchess recalling her beginnings as a laundress who loves an anarchist but marries an English lord, endured a long and circuitous path to the screen. MGM had begun production on a film version in 1961, with Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida, and Ralph Richardson in the leading roles, and George Cukor directing. But there were script problems, and clashes between Cukor and Lollobrigida. With the sets built, and extras waiting around for the first scene to be shot, Cukor backed out, claiming illness. The production was cancelled. In late 1964, MGM struck a deal with producer Carlo Ponti to take over the production of Lady L (1965). Ponti's wife, Sophia Loren, and Paul Newman were set to star, and Peter Ustinov was hired to rewrite the script and to direct. The film had originally been written as a romantic melodrama. Ustinov wisely ignored previous screenplay drafts and started over from scratch, re-imagining Lady L as a picaresque comedy. He also cast his old friend, David Niven, a master of sophisticated comedy, as the third point of the romantic triangle. (Niven and Ustinov had become lifelong friends when they served together in World War II.) Ustinov himself made a comic cameo appearance in Lady L as the dotty Prince Otto, the target of one of anarchist Newman's bombs. And he also dubbed the voice of French actor Philippe Noiret, who played Gerome. Lady L is set in the early 20th century, and the locations included the visual splendors of Paris, the south of France and Switzerland, as well as the magnificent Castle Howard in the English countryside. That stately home would later become famous as the setting for the television miniseries, Brideshead Revisited (1981). Real locations were of the utmost importance for the director who was quoted in Ustinov in Focus by Tony Thomas, saying, "I tried to get the style of the times, and with the new sensitivity of film stock you can now use real locations, which is highly preferable to using sets, no matter how marvelous they might be. You can now shoot indoors, which is more difficult to do but eminently worth it because you get production values of the sort you couldn't build. This was particularly true with Lady L because there is now a growing appreciation for the art and decor of that period: people are beginning to see merit and beauty in what was once dismissed as Victorian, Neo-baroque vulgarity...The railway station we used in Monaco - that's gone. There are many aspects of this film that are of historical value because we put on record things that are paradoxically coming back into vogue again. But so many things have been destroyed because people hadn't the patience to wait a bit longer, and potential Parthenons are obliterated." According to some sources, producer Ponti was so pleased with the finished film that he planned to release it as a 150-minute road show attraction. Instead, according to Ustinov, Ponti and MGM made so many cuts that the film made no sense. These editing problems may account for the delay in releasing Lady L. Finished in April of 1965, it did not open in Europe until November, and in the U.S. until May of 1966. Another problem was that, of the three principals, only Niven was perfectly cast. Most critics agreed that Newman, while competent, was too American and too modern to play a turn-of-the century European anarchist. Among the most scathing comments was the New Yorker's: "Mr. Newman has not troubled to think himself very deeply into his silly role, and seems about as far from Paris and anarchism, as say, Akron and the Young Republicans are." Loren was also damned with faint praise. Harold Rogers noted in the Christian Science Monitor: " An actress who has depths within depths, she is limited when dealing with superficial and tasteless pleasantries." Ustinov's script and direction generally fared best with the critics. Elliot Fremont-Smith wrote in the New York Times, "The pacing is fast, the wit is sure, the scenes are gorgeous." The mixed reviews and troubled production history no doubt contributed to Lady L's box-office failure. But artistically, an accurate assessment might be Fremont-Smith's summary: "imperfect [but] droll, rewarding and technically very interesting entertainment." Director: Peter Ustinov Producer: Carlo Ponti Screenplay: Peter Ustinov, based on the novel by Romain Gary Cinematography: Henri Alekan Editor: Roger Dwyre Costume Design: Marcel Escoffier, Jacqueline Guyot Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne, Auguste Capelier; set designs, Maurice Barnathan Music: Jean Francaix Cast: Sophia Loren (Lady L), Paul Newman (Armand), David Niven (Lord Lendale), Cecil Parker (Sir Percy), Claude Dauphin (Inspector Mercier), Philippe Noiret (Ambroise Gerome), Michel Piccoli (Lecoeur), Marcel Dalio (Sapper). C-109m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)


Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82.

He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.

His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).

He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.

After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.

Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).

The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).

He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).

Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.

Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82. He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut. His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942). He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough. After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following. Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960). The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964). He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986). Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency. Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

The film was originally intended as a comedy vehicle for 'Curtis, Tony' , Gina Lollobrigida, and Sir Ralph Richardson with George Cukor as its director.

Notes

Copyright length: 108 min. Filmed in Paris, London, and Switzerland. Rome opening: December 1965; running time: 115 min; Paris opening: December 1965; running time: 90 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in France December 1965

Released in Italy December 1965

Released in United States May 18, 1966

Released in United States Spring May 18, 1966

Panavision

c Eastmancolor

Released in United States May 18, 1966

Released in United States Spring May 18, 1966

Released in France December 1965

Released in Italy December 1965