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In the spring of 1860, Italy's movement for unification reaches its peak as Garibaldi's Redshirts invade Sicily and crush the Bourbon monarchy. Plebiscites are set up in which Sicilians vote in favor of joining the rest of the peninsula in forming the United Kingdom of Italy. Most strongly affected by the political upheaval is Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, who realizes that the inevitable change will mean the end of the privileged class. Aware that he must endure certain changes to preserve vestiges of the dying aristocracy, he accepts the rising middle class. Consequently, when his favorite nephew, Tancredi, falls in love with Angelica Sedara, the daughter of a wealthy bourgeois, Don Fabrizio resolves to support the match, despite the fact that Concetta, one of his three daughters, loves Tancredi. To restore wealth to the Fabrizio family and provide dowries for his other daughters, Don Fabrizio arranges for Concetta to marry Angelica's wealthy tradesman father, Don Calogero Sedara. He refuses, however, to take a senate seat in the newly-formed government, explaining that he is a man caught between the old and the new, and ill at ease in both. Tancredi introduces Angelica to Sicilian society at a lavish ball. After watching the ambitious girl relax in this new life of luxury and beauty, Don Fabrizio leaves the ball and strolls quietly in the gathering dawn--a proud but lonely figure in a changing world.
Anna Maria Bottini
Howard Nelson Rubien
Anna Maria Surdo
Rina De Liguoro
Suso Cecchi D'amico
Alberto De Rossi
Pasquale Festa Campanile
Alessandro Gasparinetti Maj.
G. B. Poletto
Best Costume Design
The Leopard (1963) - The Leopard
The director set about preparing the film with his usual meticulousness, immersing himself once again in a historical period to which he had already devoted a great film, Senso (1954). Visconti and his screenwriters decided to follow Lampedusa's book faithfully, except for two major changes. They added a sequence of Garibaldi's victory at Palermo and omitted the ending of the novel, which moves forward in time to show the death of the main character, Prince Fabrizio Salina, and the decadence of his family. Visconti chose instead to use the long sequence of a ball to intimate the future fates of his aristocratic characters. "What I wanted to tell," the director said, "was the story of a man and of the decline of a society, through his consciousness of it, within a specific historic atmosphere." To ensure this atmosphere, Visconti insisted on filming the entirety of The Leopard -- interiors as well as exteriors -- in real locations, refurbishing them as needed to recreate the 1860s. Most of the film would be shot in Sicily, except for the interiors of the Prince's palace at Donnafugata, which were done at a palace in Ariccia (near Rome).
Obliged to seek American financing for what would be an enormously expensive production (the final cost was estimated at about four and a half million dollars), Lombardo struck a deal with 20th Century-Fox. As part of the agreement, The Leopard was obliged to take on an American star. Visconti originally wanted either Nikolai Cherkasov (from Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, 1944) or Laurence Olivier, neither of whom was available in any case. The director was outraged when he learned that Lombardo, behind his back, had gone to America to secure the services of Burt Lancaster. (Fox also suggested Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Spencer Tracy, according to Lancaster biographer Kate Buford.) Resentful that Lancaster, whom he belittled to others as a "cowboy" or "American gangster," had been imposed on him, Visconti received the star coldly on the latter's arrival in Sicily. Left to his own devices, and determined to do well in a role that was a radical departure for him, Lancaster spent a month becoming friendly with the remnants of the local aristocracy, soaking up their mannerisms, only to conclude, at the start of shooting in May 1962, that the imperious Visconti himself (fourth child of the Duke of Modrone) was the ideal model for Prince Salina.
Visconti's commitment to authenticity impressed Lancaster. Rehearsing a scene in which his character was supposed to open a dresser drawer, the actor did so to find it filled with tailored silk shirts. "Does the camera see these?" he asked cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who replied, "No." Lancaster asked Visconti why they were there. "You're the prince," the director told him. "Is for you to touch." For the actor, this incident (recounted by Gary Fishgall in Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster) came to symbolize the lengths to which Visconti would go to recreate the atmosphere of the period as the real Prince Salina would have experienced it, enabling Lancaster to immerse himself in his role.
A turning point in the relationship between director and star came at the beginning of work on the ball sequence. Visconti wanted to start with the climax: the Prince's waltz with the beautiful Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), a rich bourgeois' daughter who is about to marry into the noble family. Lancaster, who had injured his knee, went through a first take less than smoothly. Furious, Visconti whisked Cardinale off the set for a drink, saying within earshot of the cast and crew, "We'll come back when Mr. Lancaster is ready." An hour later, the actor sent word, and the scene went off perfectly, Lancaster managing to conceal his pain and humiliation. Later, he had a private conversation with Visconti during which raised voices could be heard from outside the room. What was said is not known, but the result was a new understanding and respect between the two men that grew into a lifelong friendship.
Production lasted seven months. Over a month was devoted to the ball sequence alone (it had to be filmed at night, because of the summer heat), with results that fully justified Visconti's perfectionism. The ball is one of the great set pieces in cinema, an astoundingly fluid and complex sequence in which all the themes of The Leopard converge, together with the three classes of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the military. According to screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico, "At heart, the novel is the story of the first time that different social classes mix." The ball sequence brilliantly dramatizes this historical moment, staging it as a spectacle that unfolds under the view of the pensive Prince, who, loathing the shallow, self-satisfied guests parading before him, retires privately to contemplate his own death.
Visconti prepared a 205-minute cut, which he whittled down to 185 minutes for the premiere at the 1963 Cannes festival, where The Leopard won the Palme d'Or. The film went on to worldwide commercial and critical success, though not in the United States, where 20th Century-Fox released it in a 165-minute version with inferior color. The English dubbing was supervised by Sydney Pollack, who pronounced the result "lousy," despite the advantage of Lancaster speaking his own lines; he is voiced by another actor in the Italian version.
Dubbed or not, for Lancaster, it was the role of a lifetime. Despite Visconti's initial misgivings, Lancaster inhabits the part so perfectly that it's impossible to imagine any other actor being better in it. He came away from The Leopard with a newly mature sense of artistic purpose. Of Visconti, he said, "He opened for me a new world and a new way of doing things."
Producer: Goffredo Lombardo
Director: Luchino Visconti
Screenplay: Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti, based on the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno
Film Editing: Mario Serandrei
Art Direction: Mario Garbuglia
Music: Nino Rota
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Prince Fabrizio Salina), Claudia Cardinale (Angelica), Alain Delon (Tancredi), Paolo Stoppa (Don Calogero), Rina Morelli (Maria Stella), Lucilla Morlacchi (Concetta), Romolo Valli (Father Pirrone), Pierre Clémenti (Francesco Paolo), Giuliano Gemma (Garibaldian general), Serge Reggiani (Don Ciccio).
by Chris Fujiwara
The Leopard (1963) - The Leopard
The Leopard is adapted from the 1958 novel of the same title by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957). Set during the Risorgimento (the movement for the reunification of Italy in the 1860s), the story concerns Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, a Sicilian nobleman who witnesses his way of life changing before his eyes. His favorite nephew Tancredi joins Garibaldi's fighters and later falls in love with Angelica, the beautiful daughter of Don Calogero, a ruthlessly ambitious middle-class politician. While Don Fabrizio recognizes in the young couple's union the political future of Italy, he is increasingly haunted by the decline of his social class and his own mortality.
The novel, which wasn't published until a year after Lampedusa's death, immediately became an international bestseller; its English translation is still in print today. However, at the time The Leopard was widely criticized in leftist circles for its nostalgic view of the nobility. A prince in real life - albeit one who had fallen on hard times - Lampedusa identified personally with the fictional protagonist, who was inspired by his great-grandfather. The film's director Luchino Visconti, who was also a nobleman, clearly identified with both the author and Don Fabrizio. At the same time, as an avowed Marxist, Visconti introduced a concrete historical dimension to the film beyond what was already present in the novel, most notably in the siege of Palermo. So while on the surface the film has all the trappings of a lavish costume drama (a star cast, a spectacular battle sequence, achingly romantic love scenes, lavish dinners and costume balls), it has an underlying scope of vision and an intelligence that most costume dramas lack.
One striking feature of the novel that cannot be reproduced in the film is its narrative voice. While the time of the novel spans from 1860 to 1910 and much of it closely follows Don Fabrizio's thoughts, occasionally the narrator reminds us of the present, using an airplane as a metaphor or alluding to "Eisenstein's baby carriage." During the ball sequence, for instance, Lampedusa writes: "From the ceiling the gods, reclining on gilded couches, gazed down smiling and inexorable as a summer sky. They thought themselves eternal; but a bomb manufactured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was to prove the contrary in 1943."
In one respect, however, Visconti's film is arguably an improvement over the novel: the novel's last two chapters detail the death of Don Fabrizio and, some twenty years later, Angelica's visit to Concetta in their old age. The film closes instead with the magnificent ball sequence, lending the story a tighter dramatic unity. Visconti's film has sometimes been compared to Proust, and not unreasonably so; it is a cornucopia of painterly compositions and faces, but its visual beauty is no mere window-dressing. The film's images - the soldier lying dead in the garden, the mistress that greets Don Fabrizio at the brothel, the Salina family covered in dust during their visit to the chapel at Donnafugata - no matter how fleeting, leave an indelible impact on the viewer. By the end of the film, it seems as if we too have accumulated a lifetime of impressions, paralleling in purely cinematic terms the process of memory treated more explicitly in the novel.
The film represents a peak of achievement for all involved. Visconti's direction displays a remarkable integration of setting, decor, camera movements and blocking of actors. Burt Lancaster not only fits the physical description of Don Fabrizio in the novel, he plays the character convincingly and movingly. Some critics have argued that Lancaster was too young and vital to play the Prince confronting death at the ball; while this is true to a certain extent, it should be kept in mind that in the novel the character does not die until 1888, twenty-six years after the ball sequence takes place. The point is less the immediate proximity of death than Don Fabrizio's acknowledgment of its necessity. Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale are likewise memorable as the opportunistic Tancredi and the carnal Angelica. The many smaller roles that populate the film suggest that not the least of Visconti's talents was his eye for striking physiognomies. Nino Rota's richly melodic score is appropriately nostalgic and operatic. Giuseppe Rotunno's cinematography cannot be praised highly enough; this is, at risk of hyperbole, one of the most beautiful color films ever made. As much as I admire other films by Visconti, particularly Ossessione (1943), La Terra Trema (1948), Senso (1954) and Rocco and His Brothers (1960), to me The Leopard is probably his masterpiece.
Criterion's new high-definition transfer, supervised by Rotunno, was made directly from the Technirama negative. Technirama was a process developed by Technicolor using a horizontally fed 35mm negative like Vistavision. The resulting image, which was 8 perforations wide, was also anamorphically squeezed to produce a wider aspect ratio. The superior clarity and definition of this process works greatly to the film's artistic advantage, giving the painterly compositions of director Visconti and cinematographer Rotunno a sumptuous tactile quality. The richness of color and detail on the DVD are a revelation, especially those accustomed to the murky DeLuxe color process used on the old English-language prints distributed in the U.S. The few imperfections in the surviving film elements are extremely minor and easily forgiven. The mono sound is occasionally distorted, but on the whole it works more than adequately. Peter Cowie's audio commentary track accompanying the film is absorbing and illuminating, as usual; among other things, Cowie helpfully reads a number of passages from the novel and talks at length about Visconti's career in general.
Disc Two contains the bulk of the special features: A Dying Breed, The Making of The Leopard, a set of cogent interviews with the surviving cast and crew; an interview with the film's producer Goffredo Lombardo, who among other things expresses interest in filming a sequel (!); an interview with scholar Millicent Marcus, who provides an excellent overview of Italian history as it relates to the film; and lastly, trailers, newsreel footage, production stills and promotional materials.
A new of transfer the 161-minute English-dubbed version has been included on Disc Three. Now that we have the full Italian-language version, the dubbed version is of interest mainly as a historical curio; hearing Sicilian nobility speaking in American English somehow robs the film of a little of its operatic grandeur, makes it seem like more of a prosaic costume drama. While one would think that hearing Burt Lancaster's own voice would enhance his performance, paradoxically the opposite is true; in the English version he comes off as a little stiff; with the carefully dubbed Italian voice, the vitality of the character shines through more fully, and Lancaster's transformation into Don Fabrizio is complete. The video transfer, while not bad, is no match for the Italian version. Still, I'm glad that Criterion decided to include it.
This is, in my view, the DVD release of the year.
For more information about The Leopard, visit Criterion Collection. To order The Leopard, go to TCM Shopping.
by James Steffen
Location scenes filmed in Sicily. Opened in Paris in June 1963 as Le guépard; running time: 185 min; in Rome in March 1963 as Il gattopardo; running time: 205 min.
Voted One of the Year's Five Best Foreign Films by the 1963 National Board of Review.
Winner of the Palme d'Or for Best Film at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.
Released in United States Summer May 29, 1963
Re-released in United States May 6, 2005
Released in United States 1983
Released in United States September 1991
Released in United States October 1999
Released in United States May 2010
Released in United States June 2010
Shown at Venice Film Festival September 3-14, 1991.
Shown at Cannes Film Festival (Restored Print/Cannes Classics) May 12-23, 2010.
Shown at Los Angeles Film Festival (Film Foundation Screening Program) June 17-27, 2010.
Original full-length 205-minute Italian version re-released on May 6, 2005 in Los Angeles by Criterion Films.
Began shooting March 4, 1962.
Completed shooting October 1962.
2010 restoration with the support of Cineteca di Bologna, L'Immagine Ritrovata, The Film Foundation, Pathe, Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathe, Twentieth Century Fox and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale. Restoration funding provided by Gucci and The Film Foundation. Digital Picture Restoration, Colorworks. Sound laboratory services, L'Immagine Ritrovata.
Released in United States Summer May 29, 1963
Re-released in United States May 6, 2005 (Los Angeles)
Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)
Released in United States September 1991 (Shown at Venice Film Festival September 3-14, 1991.)
Released in United States October 1999 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Classic Film Retrospective) October 21-29, 1999.)
Released in United States May 2010 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival (Restored Print/Cannes Classics) May 12-23, 2010.)
Released in United States June 2010 (Shown at Los Angeles Film Festival (Film Foundation Screening Program) June 17-27, 2010.)
The Leopard (Criterion) - for assembling a stunning edition for the home video debut of Visconti's masterpiece