For the First Time


1h 37m 1959
For the First Time

Brief Synopsis

While vacationing in disguise, an opera star falls in love with a deaf girl.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Release Date
Aug 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Aug 1959
Production Company
Corona-Film-Production; Orion Picture Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Austria; Germany; Capri, Italy; Germany; Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
8,707ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

Outside a Vienna opera hall, a crowd of wealthy patrons await the appearance of famed tenor Tonio Costa, as his manager, Ladislas Tabori, frets about the star's unpredictable behavior. While the crowd grows increasingly restless, Tony is outside the hall in the rain standing atop a car, serenading those unable to purchase tickets for his show. Although Tony offers an apology, the management cancels his appearance and declares they are suing him. Tony and Tabori are joined backstage by Tony's frequent companion, the Contessa Gloria de Vadnuz, who apologizes for leaving him unexpectedly in London. Frustrated by her behavior and the cancellation, Tony refuses to continue on to Spain for another performance. Tabori allows Tony to take a rest in Capri if he promises to travel incognito and stay out of trouble. Tony agrees and is surprised the next day to be greeted in Capri by Gloria, who invites him to stay at her villa. Tony reminds her of his promise to Tabori and politely declines. The next morning, despite his attempts at disguise, Tony is quickly recognized and surrounded by a crowd of young people who encourage him to sing. Tony obliges, but is miffed when he sings to a lone, pretty girl who continues reading and ignores him completely. Later when the crowd becomes overly effusive, Tony is forced to flee and escapes with the aid of a local musician. The guitarist reveals that the girl who piqued Tony's curiosity is Christa Bruckner, a well liked local who is deaf. Chagrined, Tony purchases a van full of flowers and drives to her home only to find her in a donkey-drawn cart on the road. Christa, who can read lips, introduces herself and acknowledges Tony, but the two are interrupted by the Bruckner maid, Matilde, and Christa's uncle, Albert. When Matilde despairs that Albert's goat has eaten the flowers for her friend's wedding ceremony later that day, Tony presents her with the van load. Albert invites Tony to the Bruckner hillside home where he explains that a bomb explosion during the war cost Christa her hearing at age five and left her the sole survivor of his brother's family. Albert describes Christa as very sensitive and unusual, which intrigues Tony. That afternoon, Tony attends a party at Gloria's villa, but is unexpectedly put off by the carefree mood and returns to the Bruckners' as the wedding party begins. The bride asks Tony to sing and he complies as Christa watches with a mixture of awe and sadness. Later, when Tony walks privately with Christa, she tells him they probably should not meet again, but Tony kisses her, then bids her goodnight. The next morning, Tony sets off for the Bruckners, only to be met by Albert who reveals that Christa has fallen in love with Tony, and confides he fears she will be hurt. When Tony protests, Albert admits they have read of Tony's reputation and question his genuineness. Tony concedes the news stories about him are mostly justified, then tells Albert he will leave Capri, but only so he can prove his love for Christa. Hoping to find a cure for Christa, Tony returns to London to ask Tabori to locate all of Europe's hearing specialists. Tabori reveals that Tony's habitual extravagance has bankrupt him and his recklessness has cost vital bookings. Tony insists that Tabori arrange a tour, agreeing to accept and pay a double penalty if he fails to appear. Realizing the singer is sincere, Tabori agrees. Several days later, Tony returns to Capri to tell the Bruckners he has located specialists in Geneva, Vienna, Salzburg, Stockholm and London and also arranged performances in each city. Christa is overwhelmed and she and Albert agree to accompany Tony on his tour. After arriving in Vienna, Tony and the Bruckners learn that the doctor there concurs with the expert in Geneva who advised that the only possible treatment, surgery, is far too dangerous to recommend. The group proceeds to Salzburg where Christa is examined by Dr. Bressart. Eager to know the results, Christa returns before her scheduled appointment. Bressart admits that although he is still awaiting one test result, he must agree that the surgery, which is in experimental stages, is too dangerous. Christa pleads with the doctor to reconsider, confiding that she will never marry Tony unless she can hear. Moved by her plea, Bressart agrees to perform the operation. Upon Bressart's advice, Tony goes on to Stockholm while the surgery is performed. Bressart telephones Tony later to tell him that Christa's surgery was successful and they will know the results in five days. Tony returns to Salzburg after his Stockholm performance and immediately visits a sleeping Christa in the hospital. Hearing a choir singing in the distance, Tony joins in softly and Christa awakens to his voice and realizes she can hear. A few days later, Bressart authorizes Christa's discharge but cautions Tony that to ensure the operation's success, she must rest and avoid even the slightest infirmity. Tony and Christa announce that upon completion of Tony's tour they will wed in Capri. Tabori takes Christa aside and warns her of Tony's excessiveness, and she assures him she will keep things under control. Over the next several days as they travel across Europe, Christa joins Tony in enthusiastic celebrations. In London, the pair are caught in a rainstorm and by the evening's end, Christa is tired and run-down. Upon flying back to the Continent, Christa abruptly realizes she has lost her hearing again, but does not tell Tony. While sailing back to Capri, however, Tony realizes that Christa cannot hear and berates himself for his irresponsible behavior. Upon reaching Capri, Christa and Tony are greeted by Albert, Matilde and Tabori, who are dismayed to learn of Christa's relapse. Albert contacts Bressart who agrees to come to Capri. When Tony goes into town, Albert asks villa workers Alessandro and Angelo to keep an eye on him. At a local pub, a belligerent Tony tries to buy a drink, but although Alessandro and Angelo try to intervene, Tony starts a brawl. When the men are brought before the local commissar, Alessandro and Angelo take full responsibility for the fight and state that Tony was an uninvolved, innocent bystander. To Tony's surprise, Gloria appears at the hearing to vouch for him. Despite the newspapers' report of the fight, Tony is let off without charges and gratefully pays for Alessandro and Angelo's fines. Hastening to the Bruckners with Tabori, Tony meets Bressart, who reveals that Christa has been affected only temporarily by a virus and that her hearing will return permanently. Ecstatic, Tony joins Christa to reveal that his happiness is complete not only because of her recovery, but because he realizes for the first time the value of true friends.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Release Date
Aug 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Aug 1959
Production Company
Corona-Film-Production; Orion Picture Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Austria; Germany; Capri, Italy; Germany; Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
8,707ft (12 reels)

Articles

For the First Time


As MGM fell apart in the early 1950s, most of their vaunted 'galaxy of stars' went off contract. Just three years after making a huge success in The Great Caruso (1951), operatic singing star Mario Lanza was fired for problems over the recording of the songs for The Student Prince (1954), to be lip-synched by actor Edmund Purdom. Most of Lanza's professional singing career had been associated with MGM. Unprepared for unemployment, he went into a personal tailspin. For the First Time (1959) is a German-Italian co-production tailored as a comeback vehicle for the man that Maria Callas called 'the new Caruso.' The show was directed by Hollywood veteran Rudolph Maté; and written by Andrew Solt, who had contributed to the major success The Jolson Story (1946). The confected story is about Tonio Costa (Lanza), a beloved opera tenor who longs to sing for the common people. Tonio keeps a paying audience in the Vienna Opera House waiting while he serenades a crowd from a balcony. Aldo Tonti's beautiful Technicolor and Technirama cinematography follows Costa across Europe to the island of Capri, where he meets Christa (Johanna von Koczian), a deaf girl who reforms his spirit. The unsubtle script contains zingers such as, "You owe your voice to mankind!" and "I'm going to sing my guts out!" Costa sends Christa to a clinic that restores her hearing; but romantic interference comes in the person of Costa's old girlfriend Gloria De Vadnuz, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor with a cynical 'so who cares?' attitude. Although Kurt Kasznar carries the main supporting role, German sentimental favorite Annie Rosar (Embezzled Heaven, 1958) and the soulful Italian Renzo Cesana (Try and Get Me!,1950) add to the film's religious tone. When Christa loses her hearing once more, the mournful Costa must reevaluate his moral standing. The trade papers were not impressed by For the First Time. Newsweek called the movie shallow and devotional, and said that Mario Lanza was in a rut. Just two weeks after the American premiere, Mario Lanza died of a heart attack in Rome. Ironically, the film's distributor was MGM, which had dismissed him just five years before.

By Glenn Erickson
For The First Time

For the First Time

As MGM fell apart in the early 1950s, most of their vaunted 'galaxy of stars' went off contract. Just three years after making a huge success in The Great Caruso (1951), operatic singing star Mario Lanza was fired for problems over the recording of the songs for The Student Prince (1954), to be lip-synched by actor Edmund Purdom. Most of Lanza's professional singing career had been associated with MGM. Unprepared for unemployment, he went into a personal tailspin. For the First Time (1959) is a German-Italian co-production tailored as a comeback vehicle for the man that Maria Callas called 'the new Caruso.' The show was directed by Hollywood veteran Rudolph Maté; and written by Andrew Solt, who had contributed to the major success The Jolson Story (1946). The confected story is about Tonio Costa (Lanza), a beloved opera tenor who longs to sing for the common people. Tonio keeps a paying audience in the Vienna Opera House waiting while he serenades a crowd from a balcony. Aldo Tonti's beautiful Technicolor and Technirama cinematography follows Costa across Europe to the island of Capri, where he meets Christa (Johanna von Koczian), a deaf girl who reforms his spirit. The unsubtle script contains zingers such as, "You owe your voice to mankind!" and "I'm going to sing my guts out!" Costa sends Christa to a clinic that restores her hearing; but romantic interference comes in the person of Costa's old girlfriend Gloria De Vadnuz, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor with a cynical 'so who cares?' attitude. Although Kurt Kasznar carries the main supporting role, German sentimental favorite Annie Rosar (Embezzled Heaven, 1958) and the soulful Italian Renzo Cesana (Try and Get Me!,1950) add to the film's religious tone. When Christa loses her hearing once more, the mournful Costa must reevaluate his moral standing. The trade papers were not impressed by For the First Time. Newsweek called the movie shallow and devotional, and said that Mario Lanza was in a rut. Just two weeks after the American premiere, Mario Lanza died of a heart attack in Rome. Ironically, the film's distributor was MGM, which had dismissed him just five years before. By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

For the First Time was shot on location in Italy, Germany and Austria. The film marked the final motion picture appearance of tenor Mario Lanza (1921-1959). Lanza made his film debut ten years earlier in the 1949 M-G-M production That Midnight Kiss (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). The singer, battling alcohol and weight problems, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Rome in October 1959, two months after the opening of For the First Time. The film also marked the American film debut of German actress Johanna von Koczian.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Technirama

Released in United States 1959