Cast & Crew
In seventeenth century Paris, Cyrano de Bergerac, a gentleman who is equally accomplished with the pen and the sword, interrupts the performance at the Hôtel de Bourgogne Theatre and, appalled by the star's bad acting, refunds the audience's money himself. A nobleman, Valvert, provokes a duel by commenting on Cyrano's enormous nose, and Cyrano improvises a poem as they fight, delivering the fatal thrust during the final refrain. This display delights the assembled crowd, which includes Cyrano's beautiful cousin Roxane, but Cyrano's friend Le Bret warns that his brash behavior will make him dangerous enemies. Cyrano admits to Le Bret that he is in love with Roxane but will not tell her, sure that his big nose renders him undesirable to women. A servant then appears with a request that Cyrano call on Roxane in the morning, and Cyrano is exultant. When he and Le Bret leave the theater, they are approached by the pastry chef Ragueneau, who tells them that a nobleman about whom he wrote comic verses has hired one hundred men to ambush him on the way home. Cyrano insists on doing battle with the ruffians and defeats them all. The next morning, Cyrano meets with Roxane at Ragueneau's pastry shop, and she tells him she is in love with a handsome guardsman named Christian, to whom she has never spoken. She asks Cyrano to befriend Christian, and although he is crushed by Roxane's news, he agrees. Later, at the guardhouse, Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane loves him and wishes to receive a letter. Christian confesses he is not a good writer, and when Cyrano offers to aid Christian in his suit by supplying the words with which to woo Roxane, the young man happily accepts. Several weeks later, Roxane tells Cyrano that Christian is brilliant, and as she ecstatically quotes from "Christian's" letters and speeches, Cyrano basks in the indirect praise. That night, Christian tells Cyrano he no longer needs his help, and Cyrano hides behind a bush and listens as Roxane asks Christian to rhapsodize on the theme of love. Christian's attempts to improvise fail miserably, and Roxane indignantly goes inside. Christian appeals to Cyrano, who stands in the shadows beneath Roxane's balcony and prompts Christian, then steps in and takes his place, speaking his own passionate feelings under cover of darkness. At the end of Cyrano's speech, Christian joins Roxane on the balcony and they kiss. A monk then comes by with a letter from Antoine De Guiche, the Cardinal's nephew, saying that his regiment has been ordered to the front to fight the Spanish and insisting that Roxane marry him at once. Roxane tells the monk that he has been instructed to marry her to Christian, and when De Guiche arrives, Cyrano detains him until the wedding is over. Furious at the deception, De Guiche orders Christian to leave for the front at once. One night, Roxane visits the camp and tells Christian that although she once loved him merely for being handsome, the many love letters she has received have made her fall in love with his soul. Christian realizes that Cyrano is in love with Roxane, and tells him that he must tell her the truth so that she can choose between them. Before Cyrano can reveal his love to Roxane, however, Christian volunteers for a dangerous mission and is mortally wounded, and Cyrano tells the dying Christian that Roxane chose him. Fourteen years pass, during which Cyrano visits Roxane each week at the convent where she has lived since Christian's death. His satirical essays continue to make him powerful enemies, and one night, he is ambushed and run down by a carriage. Despite his grave injuries, Cyrano visits Roxane the next afternoon and asks to read her last letter from Christian. He recites aloud with great feeling, and Roxane suddenly recognizes the voice she heard from her balcony long ago. Cyrano dies, and Roxane mourns the one true love she has lost twice.
Philip Van Zandt
Edward G. Boyle
Laure De Zarate
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) - Cyrano de Bergerac (1951)
Starring? He's the whole movie, filling it with bravura flair, making it dynamic, witty, ardent, playful. The others are dim satellites orbiting him at quite a remove. Not that it matters. Rostand's extravagantly glorified reinvention of the real-life 17th century guardsman, freethinker, writer and swordsman, abundantly endowed with everything a hero needs, and over-abundantly endowed with a super-sized nose that at once becomes his despair and his motivation to overcompensate spectacularly, is the kind of role that gets actors drooling. For a while there was back-and-forth involving Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh, as Cyrano and Roxanne, the beautiful cousin he loves, but dares not approach for fear she'll laugh at his "poor big devil of a nose." Olivier's love of stage noses was well-known, and likely was a lure. But an Olivier Cyrano was not to be.
Orson Welles, whose appetite for extravagant gesture was even greater than Olivier's was for plasticene, tried for a decade to get financing for a Cyrano film. He even hired his friend, the great Paris-based designer Alexandre Trauner, to design the production. Some of Trauner's designs made it into the eventual film. But Welles didn't. Instead, producer Stanley Kramer, who emerged with the rights, settled on Ferrer. Like his fellow Princeton alum, Jimmy Stewart, the Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised, and Swiss-schooled Ferrer, came to film by way of the Princeton Triangle Club (a private recording featuring Ferrer and Stewart is one of the holy grails of record-collecting!) and Broadway. Although he had only made his Hollywood debut two years before in 1948, snagging an Oscar® nomination in the epic Joan of Arc alongside Ingrid Bergman, Ferrer had starred in Cyrano on Broadway since 1946, and won a Tony for the performance that also was to win him a Best Actor Oscar®.
Thus he was no stranger to the swordplay, the buckles, the capes, the boots and the white plume of freedom with which the fiercely proud Cyrano topped his plain hat. That's part of Cyrano's appeal. With sword and wit far nimbler than those of the nobles he mocked, the functional plainness of his dress, devoid of ribbons and lace, is in itself a statement of his rugged individualism. But Rostand and Ferrer take the sting out of Cyrano's swagger by making sure to provide a more than compensating internal grace and nobility of soul. That's the core of Cyrano, and Ferrer uses the close-ups to make sure we're never unaware of the suffering concealed by his panache. In a brilliant stroke of dramatic irony, Rostand not only keeps him from the thing he wants most the love of his beautiful cousin, Roxanne but turns him into his own worst enemy on the romance front when he's pressed into service as the protector and worse mouthpiece for Christian, the handsome, noble, but hopelessly wooden and dim comrade Roxanne adores. You wonder how Rostand and Cyrano can possibly top their brilliant opening set piece, where before a scandalized, then titillated, audience in a theater, he banishes a hammy actor from the stage and pretends to nonchalantly fight a duel to the death after picking a fight with a condescending noble after another dared seem to notice Cyrano's nose.
It's the famous Twenty Ways to Insult a Nose speech Cyrano delivers, one-upping the cloddish aristocrat by telling him how he could have insulted Cyrano's nose with wit and style, instead of mere rudeness. Moments later, as he completes a ballad he improvises during the duel, he skewers an even more condescending high-born wretch. Swordplay spiced by class warfare? Not since Mercutio has a duel so sparkled. Where can he possibly go from there, but down, you wonder, until he takes over-the-topness to a new place by dueling 100 sword-wielding would-be assassins in a dark street, exhilarated by the emotions unleashed after Roxanne invites him to a meeting the next morning. "I am a storm," he shouts. "I'll fight 100 armies. I have 10 hearts. I have 100 arms. Bring me giants!" And he's just the man to take them on. Until Roxanne, oblivious to his love for her, deflates him by asking him to babysit the earnest but inexperienced and far less worthy Christian.
Stoically, Cyrano resigns himself to lovelessness. Not only that. Because Christian is so wooden, tongue-tied and fundamentally non-verbal, he becomes Christian's mouthpiece, using his words and eloquence to win for another the woman he loves in a deft parody of Shakespeare's balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Until then, Rostand had been parodying Dumas' Three Musketeers, upping the ante by rolling all three into one. Not that Ferrer is a mindless Romantic superhero with a nose that makes Pinocchio's seem a pencil stub. His performance is more subtle and complex than it first might appear. During the sword fighting, the alertness in his eyes tells us he's taking it seriously, never overconfident, as calculating as he is impulsive. Ferrer uses his baritone voice to advantage, too using it to bring a somber undertone to many of the pronouncements of this cavalier, with his passionate heart doomed to remain on the outskirts of love.
Rostand was too knowing a sophisticate not to layer Cyrano with more than heroics, including heroic renunciation. One reason the play clicked with audiences at the time was that it played to France's fin de siecle view of the mid-17th century as France's Golden Age. Its romanticism in a romantic era didn't hurt, either. Yet even here, Rostand seems to be satirizing the idea of romantic love in his ironic portrait of the idealized Roxanne as a callow baggage, played by Mala Powers as a beauty of extremely limited vision, taken by the external beauty of the pretty boy Christian, oblivious to the internal beauty, depth, grandeur and generosity of Cyrano. William Prince's Christian is essentially consigned to male bimbo status. Perhaps relenting, Rostand allows him the biggest laugh. When he tells Cyrano he feels he ought to speak for himself, and Cyrano lets him, he almost ruins it for himself with Roxanne. When he looks longingly at her and says, "I love you," she replies, expectantly, "Yes, and?" He gulps and says, "I love you...very much." She can hardly hide her disappointment. Of course, Cyrano steps back in, hidden in the shadows, to save the day with his verbal inventiveness.
Shadows count for a lot here. This black and white film, when it finally got made, was a low-budget affair. Producers Kramer and Carl Foreman made it work for them. It has a boxy look and a stagy feel. Certainly this must have aided Ferrer's performance, shaped, as it was, by the stage production. Deliberately, the film begins with the opening of a fleur de lys-festooned curtain, embracing the artifice. Better this approach, you feel as the film proceeds, than panoramic realism. Cyrano de Bergerac is, above all, a construct. Brian Hooker's deft translation reminds us that Cyrano is more about its couplets than its couples. Far from being hindered by its flavor of artifice, riding Ferrer's grand gestures and sonorous cadences, it's reinforced.
Producer: George Glass, Stanley Kramer
Director: Michael Gordon
Screenplay: Carl Foreman, Brian Hooker, Edmond Rostand (play)
Cinematography: Franz Planer
Film Editing: Harry W. Gerstad
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Jose Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac), Mala Powers (Roxane), William Prince (Christian de Neuvillette), Morris Carnovsky (Le Bret), Ralph Clanton (Antoine Comte de Guiche), Lloyd Corrigan (Ragueneau).
by Jay Carr
Cyrano de Bergerac, play by Edmond Rostand
The Man Who Was Cyrano: A Life of Edmond Rostand, by Susan C. Lloyd
Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles, by Frank Brady
Orson Welles: Volumes 1 and 2, by Simon Callow
Rosebud, by David Thomson
Girl Singer, by Rosemary Clooney and Joan Barthel
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) - Cyrano de Bergerac (1951)
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) - Jose Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac
Ferrer received universal acclaim for his 1946 Broadway run as Edmond Rostand's glib Gallic swordsman with the improbably distended nose, and Kramer, who had acquired the English-language film performance rights to the material from Alexander Korda, knew that he wanted the actor to commit his performance to celluloid. Ferrer deservedly captured the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts; his long and distinguished film career would never offer him another such opportunity to display the same brio.
Rostand's fiction depicts the real-life poet/soldier as one of the most intimidating figures in mid-17th century Paris, disposing of fools with his trenchant wit, or for those most persistent, the point of his sword. For all his unflappable bearing, he harbors insecurities regarding his features, as well as unrequited affection for his distant cousin, the beautiful Roxanne (Mala Powers). His heart breaks when she discloses her attraction to the handsome Christian de Neuvillette (William Prince), a handsome young soldier recently assigned to Cyrano's company.
The affable Christian reciprocates her feelings, but is something of a tongue-tied clod when called upon to couch his sentiments to her face. Desirous of his cousin's happiness, and the opportunity to declare his devotion, Cyrano offers his lyrical gifts in order for he and Christian to jointly woo the soon-enraptured Roxanne.
Powers and Prince make a pretty couple, but their performances are workmanlike at best; as before, the show is Ferrer's all the way. Wholly convincing in his swordplay, reveling in the withering insouciance of the repartee, and commanding of our sympathies for the impossibility of the character's situation, the performance remains a singular showcase for his abilities. Kramer's frequent collaborator Carl Forman capably adapted Rostand's drama for the screen; between his efforts and those of director Michael Gordon, the proceedings seldom seem stagebound.
The video is presented full screen, and the mono audio track is suprisingly clean. Image's release is pretty spare in terms of extra features, with only a particularly action-oriented theatrical re-release trailer included. As is the case with other Roach Studios offerings from Image, the insert boasts several lobby card reproductions.
For more information about Cyrano De Bergerac, visit Image Entertainment. To order Cyrano De Bergerac, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jay S. Steinberg
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) - Jose Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac
[Although Cyrano de Bergerac opened in New York and Los Angeles in November 1950, it was not released nationally until July 20, 1951. This entry has been reprinted from AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.] Edmond Rostand's play was inspired by the French author Cyrano de Bergerac, Savinen (1619-1655), who was known for his satirical writings, swordsmanship and prominent nose. Hollywood Reporter news items report that both Evelyn Keyes and Arlene Dahl were originally sought for the role of "Roxane." Mala Powers, who was given the role when Keyes and Dahl's conditions could not be met, was borrowed for the production from RKO.
According to information contained in the production files on the film in the AMPAS Library, Stanley Kramer obtained the rights to Brian Hooker's translation of the play from British producer Sir Alexander Korda, who had planned to make a film version of Cyrano de Bergerac with Orson Welles. Kramer's $40,000 purchase price included a screenplay that Korda had previously commissioned from Ben Hecht, but Kramer and his associate producer, George Glass, opted to have Carl Foreman write a new screenplay. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, prior to Kramer's involvement, Universal-International announced plans to acquire the rights from Korda in order to produce a film version starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen Office requested that dialogue invoking the name of God as an exclamation, including the French expression "mon dieu," be changed in over ten places. In a June 7, 1950 letter to Kramer, Joseph I. Breen expressed concern that in some of the sword-fighting scenes, most notably the duel with "Valvert" at the theater, "Cyrano comes dangerously close to being little less than a murderer." Breen's letter went on to say that he had discussed the matter with Glass, who assured him that the problem could be handled by making it clear that Valvert was only wounded. In the final film, however, Cyrano kills Valvert. Cyrano de Bergerac was actor Ralph Clanton's first American film. José Ferrer won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as "Cyrano."
Kramer's production marked the first time that Rostand's play was adapted for the American screen, although France and Italy had already produced several film versions. In January 1949, NBC's Philco Television Playhouse aired a sixty-minute version of Cyrano de Bergerac, featuring Claire Bloom, Christopher Plummer and Ferrer, who made his television debut in the title role. On October 17, 1955, these actors repeated their roles on NBC's Producers' Showcase. Subsequent television versions include a 1962 Hallmark Hall of Fame production with Christopher Plummer as Cyrano, and the American Conservatory Theater's stage production, which was broadcast on PBS in 1973. Plummer also starred in a musical theater adaptation, Cyrano, which opened on Broadway on May 13, 1973. Other films based on or inspired by Rostand's play include the 1990 French film Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gérard Depardieu; the 1987 Steve Martin contemporary romance Roxanne; and Abel Gance's 1963 film Cyrano de Bergerac and D'Artagnan, which departed from Rostand's plot but starred Ferrer as Cyrano. In 1969, Kramer announced plans to remake his film as a musical for Columbia, possibly with an entirely African-American cast, but that project was never realized.