Cast & Crew
In Austria in 1907, Princess Olympia is exiled from the court of the emperor, Frances Joseph I, for "scandalous indiscretions" that caused her ex-husband to attempt suicide. Bored and impetuous, Olympia rides her wild stallion to her remote hunting cabin, and on the way is thrown from the horse when a mining engineer from Pittsburgh, Charles Foster, drives his automobile off the road. Feigning an injury to attract the handsome man's attention, Olympia skillfully manipulates Charlie into carrying her all the way to the lodge. There, she introduces herself as Lucretia, a peasant farmer, and attempts to seduce the diffident Charlie, whose American mores forbid him to consider taking advantage of a young lady. She asks to don Charlie's pajamas, after which he mistakenly administers a headache tonic that puts her to sleep, foiling her plans to share his bed. In the morning, Olympia awakens to find a note from Charlie proclaiming his love. Although she sees her pajama bottoms on the floor, she does not remember that she passed out and then kicked them off during the night, and so remains unsure about the events of the evening. While Charlie is outside fixing his jalopy, Olympia returns home, where she is informed that the emperor has finally pardoned her. Thrilled, she rushes back to Vienna without sending word to Charlie. At the home of her parents, Prince Philip and Princess Eugenie, Olympia learns that she is to be married to Prussia's Prince Ruprecht, their union intended to unite the two countries. Eugenie warns Olympia that her behavior must remain flawless until the wedding occurs, as any breath of scandal will destroy the accord. While they plan a party to welcome Ruprecht, Charlie, who hopes to negotiate with Philip for his company to mine bauxite in Vienna, arrives at the palace, where Philip admires the car. Inside, Charlie is denied an audience with Philip, but upon hearing about the party, determines to sneak in. On the night of the party, as Charlie slips in with the orchestra, Countess Lina Schwatzenfeld plots to discredit Olympia, hoping to continue her affair with Ruprecht, through which she has finagled an important post for her husband Albert. As Ruprecht and Olympia dance, Charlie finds his way to Philip's study, where he corners the amiable prince and attempts to convince him to champion his business proposition to the emperor. Spotting Olympia, Charlie cuts in on her dance with Ruprecht, and although she remains attracted to the American, she asks him to leave. Lina notices the guards leading Charlie away and has him followed, so that the next day, she is able to invite him to attend Olympia's equestrian contest with her. Lina also invites Count Sandor, the emperor's minister of protocol, who reports any moral indiscretions to the court. When, in front of Sandor, Lina questions Charlie about his relationship to Olympia, Charlie realizes she is trying to smear the princess' reputation, and later tells Olympia that he will remain silent in exchange for a date with her that night. She brings him to a cabaret where they will not be recognized, and there explains to him the mores of her society: aristocrats marry for politics rather than love, then conduct affairs on the side. Charlie is scandalized, especially when he spots Philip with can-can dancer Yvette. He takes Olympia home, where she cannot prevent herself from kissing him passionately. Her mother has seen them, and the next morning instructs Olympia to "kill" the affair immediately in order to save her chances of marrying Ruprecht. Downstairs, Charlie has a meeting with Philip in which the prince, impressed with his modern dynamism, advises him that the emperor takes years to make business decisions, but Charlie, deeply in love, answers that he is happy to wait. Afterward, however, Olympia coldly asks him to leave, claiming that he "tires" her, and hides her tears as he storms away. Later, Sandor informs Eugenie that Olympia is under investigation, as Lina has accused her of having an affair with Charlie. When Sandor leaves to question Charlie, Olympia, who cannot be sure that her evening at the lodge with Charlie was innocent, sends for the American once again to plead for him to protect her honor. Furious, Charlie insists that Olympia spend a weekend with him at the lodge in return for his silence. Frightened at his forcefulness, Olympia remains cold and distant but promises him whatever he wants. When he tries to seduce her, however, he falters, and tells her she can leave. Now freed from her contract, Olympia confesses her love and they embrace, but when he realizes that she only wants him as her lover and still plans to marry Ruprecht, Charlie walks out in frustration. Back at the palace, Eugenie has claimed that Olympia has the measles, but Lina's machinations expose the lie, and Olympia is called before the emperor. There, while Charlie learns that his proposal has been rejected, the emperor excuses Olympia, who is once again free to marry Ruprecht. Philip pulls her aside, however, to counsel her to choose love, and when she points out that he has a mistress, the prince admits that he dates Yvette merely for appearance's sake. Convinced, Olympia runs out to Charlie, who nearly runs her down in his car. Although she is uninjured, Olympia asks Charlie to carry her¿if Pittsburgh is not too far.
Frederick Von Ledebur
Viennese Opera Ballet
A Breath of Scandal
Drawn from Sidney Howard's successful Broadway Americanization of the Molnar farce Olympia, and adapted by a then-blacklisted and uncredited Walter Bernstein, the film opens in the Austrian countryside of 1907. The widowed Princess Olympia (Loren) is living a lush, if dull, exile from the court of Frances Joseph I, banished as a result of vaguely-referenced indiscretions that have caused the royal family embarrassment. She's desperate for distraction, which she finds when she's thrown from her horse before a handsome young American engineer named Charlie Foster (John Gavin). She feigns injury--and the identity of a simple farm girl--to coax Charlie into bringing her to the abandoned family lodge. Her attempts to seduce Charlie fall flat when she accidentally overdoses on pain medication. Charlie's too much the gentleman to take advantage of the situation, though Olympia, the morning after, can't swear to what transpired.
Her confusion is quickly replaced by delight when she learns that the emperor has forgiven her transgressions and has summoned her back to Vienna. Upon reuniting with her parents Prince Philip (Maurice Chevalier) and Princess Eugenie (Isabel Jeans), she learns that her rehabilitation has been directed towards an arranged political marriage with the Prussian Prince Ruprecht (Carlo Hinterman), and that she must be on her best behavior to keep the nuptial arrangement from falling through.
Simple enough, except for the arrival at the palace of Charlie; as it turns out, he came to Austria to attempt to broker bauxite mining rights for his employer, and Philip is the contact that he's requited to court. The enterprising engineer crashes the party thrown to welcome Ruprecht, and is quite surprised to find his "farm girl" in royal finery. Olympia's encounter with the American interloper can't help but be noticed by the duplicitous Countess Lina (Angela Lansbury), who has profited from her own covert affair with Ruprecht and would like to see it continue.
Lina thereafter puts a bug in the ear of Count Sandor (Friedrich von Ledebur), the officious protocol minister charged with informing the crown of any and all faux pas. From there, Olympia's efforts to juggle her genuine feelings for Charlie with familial duty carry the story to its conclusion.
From cinematographer Marlo Montuori's saturated vistas of the magnificent Vienna locations to costumer Ella Bei's efforts at draping Sophia's superstructure, A Breath of Scandal does provide no small amount of eye candy. While Loren's husband/producer Carlo Ponti had recruited the venerable Warner house veteran Michael Curtiz to handle the directing chores in the belief that the 70-year-old Hungarian expatriate would have affinity for the material, the choice proved unfortunate for a number of reasons. According to Loren biographer Warren G. Harris, "He went a bit gaga from culture shock and fell more in love with Vienna than he did with the script. He seemed to be turning the film into a travelogue, making the city, rather than Sophia Loren, the real star."
There was also another problem. English was a second language for both director and leading lady, and Loren was often left dazed by Curtiz' legendary malapropisms. As Lansbury recounted in Rob Edelman and Audrey E. Kupferberg's biography, Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen, "Michael Curtiz was a very good director...but he spoke with a thick Hungarian accent. I don't think Sophia Loren understood a single word he said on the set." It got to the point that after Curtiz' day was through, Vittorio De Sica - brought in by Ponti with a $2500 daily retainer - surreptitiously reshot Sophia's scenes.
Producers: Marcello Girosi, Carlo Ponti
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Karl Schneider; Walter Bernstein (adaptation); Sidney Howard (English translation of "Olympia"); Ferenc Molnar (play "Olympia"); Ring Lardner, Jr. (uncredited)
Cinematography: Mario Montuori
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Gene Allen (uncredited)
Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Film Editing: Howard Smith
Cast: Sophia Loren (Princess Olympia), Maurice Chevalier (Prince Philip), John Gavin (Charlie Foster), Angela Lansbury (Countess Lina), Isabel Jeans (Princess Eugenie), Tullio Carminati (Albert).
by Jay S. Steinberg
A Breath of Scandal
The film's working title was Olympia, which was also the title of Ference Molnár's play. Sidney Howard (1891-1939) adapted Molnár's original for a 1928 Broadway production that starred Fay Compton and Ian Hunter. According to memos in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Samuel Taylor wrote two early scripts for the film, respectively entitled Love Me Tonight and Lady in Waiting, which "formed the basis of all further developments of the story and script." A September 23, 1959 memo, however, stated that Taylor asked for his name to be taken off the final film, which he felt retained little of his ideas.
Walter Bernstein wrote the final script, and several contemporary sources list him as the screenwriter; however, Bernstein was blacklisted at the time of the film's release, and so there was no screenplay credit on the released film, and he was not mentioned in reviews. Modern sources state that Ring Lardner also worked on the screenplay, although the extent of his contribution is not known.
According to contemporary news items, A Breath of Scandal was shot on location in Rome and Austria, including at the Austrian castles and palaces of Kreuzenstein, Belvedere, Pallavicini, Schoenbrunn and Hofburg, as well as in the Prater Amusement Park in Vienna. Interiors were shot in studios in Rome and Vienna. Paramount borrowed John Gavin from Universal for the film.
The reviews, which were generally poor, pointed out that the film bore little resemblance to its original source, the Ferenc Molnár play Olympia, in which the princess' love interest was a Hussar soldier. Although the 1929 M-G-M production His Glorious Night was also based on Molnár's play, the two films are not very similar in plot. The M-G-M picture was directed by Lionel Barrymore and starred John Gilbert (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40).
Released in United States Fall November 1960
Released in United States on Video February 24, 1993
Released in United States on Video February 24, 1993
Released in United States Fall November 1960