The Light Touch


1h 33m 1951
The Light Touch

Brief Synopsis

An art thief tries to double cross his gangster boss.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Dec 6, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Taormina,Sicily; Tunis,Tunisia

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,362ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In an Italian museum, art thief Sam Conride executes a meticulously planned robbery of a Renaissance painting of Christ that is on loan from a Taormina, Sicily church. He hides the small wooden painting in the base of his portable typewriter, then hires a boat to sail to Tunisia. Just before landing, Sam sets fire to the boat, grabs the typewriter and wades ashore as the craft explodes. Later, Sam goes to a cocktail party in Tunis and makes contact with Felix Guignol, an art dealer specializing in stolen art. Although Felix is skeptical about Sam's claim that the painting was burned, when he verifies that the boat exploded, he grudgingly accepts the story. Because Felix does not want to lose his $100,000 sale to Mr. Aramescu, a wealthy client desperate to own the painting, which purportedly has mystical powers, Sam suggests that they hire a forger to recreate five or six copies of the painting and sell each for a similar amount. Felix suggests that Sam ask Anna Vasarri, a talented young painter who has mastered the Renaissance style. After being introduced to Anna, Sam takes her home and mentions the forgery, but she is insulted. Sam apologizes, but thinks that she is holding out for more money. The next morning, when Aramescu goes to Sam's hotel room begging to buy the painting, Sam denies having it, thus convincing the suspicious Felix, who has been listening in the hallway. Sam takes Anna to lunch that afternoon and tells her that a Sicilian nobleman wants to finance a copy of the painting so that it can be placed on the altar of the Taormina church, as a comfort to the people who loved it. Touched by what she thinks is an unselfish gesture, and falling in love with Sam, Anna agrees to paint a copy. After telling Felix that Anna will do the work, Sam is visited by European art dealer R. F. Hawkley, whom Sam secretly contacted to buy the real painting. Hawkley agrees to buy the painting after his companion, MacWade, who is a chemist, verifies its age. Hawkley gives Sam a $1,000 deposit, then returns to Europe to arrange to wire the money, but insists that MacWade stay to administer a final test when the transfer is made. When Felix learns from his underlings, Charles and Anton, that a man with a large case visited Sam's room, they go to his hotel and threaten him. Sam says that MacWade was a jeweler from whom he planned to buy something for Anna. Felix, Charles and Anton then go to Anna's to see how the copy is coming, and the dense Charles lets it slip that it is to be sold. Anna then angrily goes to Sam's hotel and says that she pities him. Sam admits his guilt, but says that he loves and wants to marry her. Although he does not want to get married, Sam realizes that he must go through with it and later talks Felix into financing a honeymoon. They agree that, after the wedding, Sam and Anna will sail to Taormina, where Sam will sell the forged painting, then meet Felix in Rome. After the wedding, Sam calls MacWade to complete the sale, but learns that Hartley has called it off because of the notoriety surrounding the case. After the call, Charles enters MacWade's room and threatens him. A short time later, as Sam and Anna's boat departs for Sicily, Charles rushes to the dock with MacWade and tells Felix everything. On the boat, while Sam is on deck, his typewriter falls open onto the floor. Anna picks it up and sees the real painting, then goes to Sam. He finally admits everything, and because he now really is in love with her, tries unsuccessfully to convince her to go away before she is hurt. In Taormina, Sam visits Aramescu's hotel but is told that he is out. After he leaves, the desk clerk telephones Felix, who is also in Taormina. Meanwhile, Anna visits the local church and sadly looks at the painting's empty place on the altar. As she is about to leave, she is approached by Lt. Massiro, who tells her that he will arrest her husband for the theft, but if the painting is returned, things will be easier for him. Without admitting anything, Anna asks him not to do anything until Sunday at 8:00 p.m. The next day, while Sam is out, Anna takes the painting from the typewriter case and hides it under a table. She then takes her copy to the Roman ruins and puts it through the various processes which Sam had told her would make a new painting appear old. When the process is complete, she puts it back in the typewriter case. When Sam returns, he asks her to leave for an hour and calls Aramescu to come over with the money. Anna is meanwhile followed by Charles, who, despite Felix's orders to the contrary, threatens, then beats her to find out where the real painting is. While Aramescu is in Sam's room, Felix and Anton arrive, but Sam hides with Aramescu while they search unsuccessfully for the painting. After they leave, Sam gives Aramescu the painting from the typewriter case, but Aramescu recognizes immediately that it is a forgery. That evening, when Anna comes home, Sam bitterly confronts her because Massiro had called and talked about the Sunday agreement. Because Anna has not turned on the light, Sam does not immediately know that she has been beaten. When he sees the marks, she says that she did not reveal where the painting was because it belongs in the church. She then reveals where it is and runs off. The next morning is Sunday and Massiro awakens Sam, telling him that he only has until 8:00 pm. That evening, Felix, Anton and Charles come to Sam's room. Felix is genuinely sorry about Anna and does not interfere when Sam slugs Charles. Sam then gives Felix Aramescu's telegram offering $100,000 for the painting, and they agree to split the money. Felix, Charles and Anton leave with Anna's copy, thinking it is genuine, and Sam calls the lobby to alert the waiting Massiro. After Massiro arrests them, Sam takes the real painting and goes to the church. In the confessional, Sam talks to the priest, then leaves the painting and disappears. After verifying that the painting is genuine, the priest places it on the altar. Outside the church, Massiro tells Sam not to come back and lets Felix, Charles and Anton go. Seeing Sam and Anna walk away together, Felix philosophically says "we've lost him" and stops Charles from shooting Sam.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Dec 6, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Taormina,Sicily; Tunis,Tunisia

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,362ft (9 reels)

Articles

The Light Touch


Richard Brooks' second directing job, following Crisis (1950), was The Light Touch (1952). His film career stretched back ten years, however, as he was already a successful screenwriter (Brute Force [1947], Key Largo [1948]), and he continued to both write and direct almost all his films including this one. The picture is a light-hearted tale of an art thief (Stewart Granger) who, in broad daylight, steals a Renaissance painting from an Italian museum for a villainous art dealer (George Sanders). Granger has his own plans, however, deciding he can get more money by faking the destruction of the painting and convincing Sanders to have several forgeries painted -- after which all the versions can be sold. He hires a naïve young painter (Pier Angeli) to do the work, but when she discovers what's really going on, she tries to reform Granger. The New Yorker described this concoction as "drenched in prankish amiability."

The Light Touch may be a minor film, but it has the beauty of Italian and North African locations and the lovely Pier Angeli going for it. Cinematographer Robert Surtees said of photographing Angeli's face: "It has a quality of transparency so delicate that for the first time in my career I ordered a leading lady to wear no make-up."

The 19-year-old actress was appearing in only her second American film. Unfortunately, neither her career nor her personal life would play out as she hoped. She fell in love with James Dean while he was shooting East of Eden (1955), but her hyper-protective mother would not allow her to marry him. Angeli did end up marrying twice, but she later said the only man she ever loved was Dean. Her film career never quite blossomed either, despite a few promising turns (Teresa [1951],Somebody Up There Likes Me [1956]) , and she ended up appearing in some Eurotrash flicks such as In the Folds of the Flesh [1970] before her untimely death in 1971.

Stewart Granger came to work on The Light Touch because he was facing suspension from MGM for having refused to do another film, Scaramouche (1952). Studio executive Dore Schary said suspension could be avoided if he took a role in The Light Touch. (As it turned out, Granger ended up doing Scaramouche as well.) Granger wrote in his memoir: "I wasn't particularly enamored of the thought of working with [Richard Brooks] as I had heard he had reduced a small-part actor to tears. That actor was Ramon Novarro. The thought of anyone reducing one of my childhood heroes to tears filled me with anger, but that's Hollywood. When a star is down he's fair game for anyone. I had to agree in order to avoid suspension and went along to meet Brooks. His opening words [were], 'I have to tell you that I wanted Cary Grant.'" As Granger took this in, Brooks pulled out some photos of the film's leading lady. "'That's Anna Maria Pierangeli who'll play opposite you. Doesn't speak very good English but we'll get round that.' I spoke very good English but wondered how the hell I would get round his dialogue."

As for the actual production, Granger wrote only: "Making The Light Touch was fairly uneventful and I knew as I made it that it would add nothing careerwise to anybody connected with it. Pier Angeli was adorable with an anxious mother in attendance at all times and Brooks was his apparently usual, unpleasant self."

Co-star George Sanders was good friends with supporting player Mike Mazurki, whom he had met on the set of Samson and Delilah (1949). Oddly enough, these two actors with wildly contrasting screen personas had some things in common. Mazurki, a perennial movie heavy, was a former pro wrestler, and Sanders loved following wrestling news and other sports. Also, Sanders had Russian ancestry while Mazurki was of Ukrainian descent. Mazurki later said of Sanders, "There were sides to him the public and many of his co-workers never knew; he was a man about whom volumes could be written."

Sanders and Angeli, who appeared together once more in the Italian production One Step to Hell (aka King of Africa, 1968), died barely seven months apart in late 1971 and early 1972, both by barbiturate overdose. Sanders' death was clearly a suicide, while Angeli's remains a presumed suicide. Sanders was 65, and Angeli was 39.

Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks; Jed Harris, Tom Reed (story)
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo
Film Editing: George Boemler
Cast: Stewart Granger (Sam Conride), Pier Angeli (Anna Vasarri), George Sanders (Felix Guignol), Kurt Kasznar (Mr. Aramescu), Joseph Calleia (Lt. Massiro), Larry Keating (Mr. R. F. Hawkley), Rhys Williams (Mr. MacWade), Norman Lloyd (Anton), Mike Mazurki (Charles).
BW-94m. Closed captioning.

by Jeremy Arnold

Sources:
Jane Allen, Pier Angeli: A Tragic Life
Stewart Granger, Sparks Fly Upward
Richard Vanderbeets, George Sanders: An Exhausted Life

The Light Touch

The Light Touch

Richard Brooks' second directing job, following Crisis (1950), was The Light Touch (1952). His film career stretched back ten years, however, as he was already a successful screenwriter (Brute Force [1947], Key Largo [1948]), and he continued to both write and direct almost all his films including this one. The picture is a light-hearted tale of an art thief (Stewart Granger) who, in broad daylight, steals a Renaissance painting from an Italian museum for a villainous art dealer (George Sanders). Granger has his own plans, however, deciding he can get more money by faking the destruction of the painting and convincing Sanders to have several forgeries painted -- after which all the versions can be sold. He hires a naïve young painter (Pier Angeli) to do the work, but when she discovers what's really going on, she tries to reform Granger. The New Yorker described this concoction as "drenched in prankish amiability." The Light Touch may be a minor film, but it has the beauty of Italian and North African locations and the lovely Pier Angeli going for it. Cinematographer Robert Surtees said of photographing Angeli's face: "It has a quality of transparency so delicate that for the first time in my career I ordered a leading lady to wear no make-up." The 19-year-old actress was appearing in only her second American film. Unfortunately, neither her career nor her personal life would play out as she hoped. She fell in love with James Dean while he was shooting East of Eden (1955), but her hyper-protective mother would not allow her to marry him. Angeli did end up marrying twice, but she later said the only man she ever loved was Dean. Her film career never quite blossomed either, despite a few promising turns (Teresa [1951],Somebody Up There Likes Me [1956]) , and she ended up appearing in some Eurotrash flicks such as In the Folds of the Flesh [1970] before her untimely death in 1971. Stewart Granger came to work on The Light Touch because he was facing suspension from MGM for having refused to do another film, Scaramouche (1952). Studio executive Dore Schary said suspension could be avoided if he took a role in The Light Touch. (As it turned out, Granger ended up doing Scaramouche as well.) Granger wrote in his memoir: "I wasn't particularly enamored of the thought of working with [Richard Brooks] as I had heard he had reduced a small-part actor to tears. That actor was Ramon Novarro. The thought of anyone reducing one of my childhood heroes to tears filled me with anger, but that's Hollywood. When a star is down he's fair game for anyone. I had to agree in order to avoid suspension and went along to meet Brooks. His opening words [were], 'I have to tell you that I wanted Cary Grant.'" As Granger took this in, Brooks pulled out some photos of the film's leading lady. "'That's Anna Maria Pierangeli who'll play opposite you. Doesn't speak very good English but we'll get round that.' I spoke very good English but wondered how the hell I would get round his dialogue." As for the actual production, Granger wrote only: "Making The Light Touch was fairly uneventful and I knew as I made it that it would add nothing careerwise to anybody connected with it. Pier Angeli was adorable with an anxious mother in attendance at all times and Brooks was his apparently usual, unpleasant self." Co-star George Sanders was good friends with supporting player Mike Mazurki, whom he had met on the set of Samson and Delilah (1949). Oddly enough, these two actors with wildly contrasting screen personas had some things in common. Mazurki, a perennial movie heavy, was a former pro wrestler, and Sanders loved following wrestling news and other sports. Also, Sanders had Russian ancestry while Mazurki was of Ukrainian descent. Mazurki later said of Sanders, "There were sides to him the public and many of his co-workers never knew; he was a man about whom volumes could be written." Sanders and Angeli, who appeared together once more in the Italian production One Step to Hell (aka King of Africa, 1968), died barely seven months apart in late 1971 and early 1972, both by barbiturate overdose. Sanders' death was clearly a suicide, while Angeli's remains a presumed suicide. Sanders was 65, and Angeli was 39. Producer: Pandro S. Berman Director: Richard Brooks Screenplay: Richard Brooks; Jed Harris, Tom Reed (story) Cinematography: Robert Surtees Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo Film Editing: George Boemler Cast: Stewart Granger (Sam Conride), Pier Angeli (Anna Vasarri), George Sanders (Felix Guignol), Kurt Kasznar (Mr. Aramescu), Joseph Calleia (Lt. Massiro), Larry Keating (Mr. R. F. Hawkley), Rhys Williams (Mr. MacWade), Norman Lloyd (Anton), Mike Mazurki (Charles). BW-94m. Closed captioning. by Jeremy Arnold Sources: Jane Allen, Pier Angeli: A Tragic Life Stewart Granger, Sparks Fly Upward Richard Vanderbeets, George Sanders: An Exhausted Life

Quotes

Here's to art. The only world where age comes before beauty.
- Felix Guignol
That cologne of yours is very loud.
- Sam Conride
But in Tunis, very necessary.
- Felix Guignol
If it has a crooked aspect, it has occurred to me.
- Felix Guignol
You seem very positive.
- Felix Guignol
I have faith.
- Mr. Aramescu
In that case, accept my condolences.
- Felix Guignol
How much progress have you made with Miss Vasarri?
- Felix Guignol
Well, either she's extremely naive, or, what is worse, she's just plain honest.
- Sam Conride

Trivia

Notes

The film was copyrighted at 92 minutes, 8,362 feet. Some reviews listed the running time as 90 minutes, while others listed it as 106-107 minutes. The print viewed ran approximately 100 minutes. Portions of the film were shot on location in Taormina, Sicily and Tunisia, North Africa, with interiors shot at the Cinecittà studios in Rome, Italy. According to an American Cinematographer article by director of photography Robert Surtees, he used many of the same crew who had worked with him at Cinecittà when he shot Quo Vadis (see below) there in 1950.
       According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, actor Vittorio Cramer was cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Another news item noted that The Light Touch was the first of a three-picture deal that George Sanders signed with M-G-M. The Light Touch marked the American motion picture debut of actor Kurt Kasznar (1913-1979). Kasznar had appeared as a child actor in a few European films prior to his coming to the United States. He also appeared in many stage productions before turning to films and television.