Lola Montes


2h 20m 1955
Lola Montes

Brief Synopsis

When she's reduced to appearing in a circus, a notorious beauty thinks back on her past loves.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Lola Montez, Sins of Lola Montes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Biography
Foreign
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
1955
Distribution Company
Janus Films/Rialto Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

The life of famous courtesan Lola Montes is presented in the form of a circus attraction.

Film Details

Also Known As
Lola Montez, Sins of Lola Montes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Biography
Foreign
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
1955
Distribution Company
Janus Films/Rialto Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Articles

Lola Montes


"Lola Montes is in my unhumble opinion the greatest film of all time."
Film critic Andrew Sarris

"There are films that demand undivided attention. Lola Montes is one of them."
Film critic-director Francois Truffaut

"The audience is expecting a cream cake, but instead it gets a punch in the stomach!"
Director Max Ophuls

"I'm not a scandal machine. I always do what I like. That's all!"
Martine Carol, Lola Montes

Director Max Ophuls' 1955 masterpiece Lola Montes is now as much the stuff of legend as its title character, the notorious 19th century dancer and seductress whose affair with King Ludwig I of Bavaria helped inspire a revolution. And on its first release it was almost as much the subject of scandal as Montes had been during her lifetime.

Though critics have debated the film's specific merits, particularly leading lady Martine Carol's performance, few contest the brilliance of its conception. Ophuls sets his story in a circus devoted to Lola's lives and loves. As tableaux vivants act out the high points of her past, flashbacks reveal them to the audience, at least as the character wishes to remember them (the script incorporates apocryphal incidents, including an impromptu strip on her first meeting with Ludwig I). Although plagued with a weak heart, she performs a climactic daredevil stunt, strengthened by the knowledge that the audience is filled with men who have paid just to look at her. At the end, the audience lines up to pay for the privilege of kissing her hand as she sits in a wooden cage. The camera dollies back and upward, and curtains close, ending an exercise in calculated artifice.

Ophuls had never worked in color before and, as was the practice in Europe at the time, had to use Eastmancolor rather than the more flexible Technicolor. Yet he and cameraman Christian Matras (who shot all of his late European films), created a lush look with a color palette that varies subtly from season to season. This was also Ophuls' only film in Cinemascope, a format many directors have derided as unwieldy. The director took the opportunity to fill the screen with décor, particularly during scenes depicting Lola's relationship with Ludwig I, so that she seems to be drowning in a sea of opulence. He also found ways to break up the frame, using pillars and curtains to cut off the ends of the screen and create vivid images of confinement.

Although Carol is a decidedly limited actress, some critics have suggested that her empty beauty provides the perfect vehicle for Ophuls' vision of Montes, suggesting an inner void that can only be filled by the attention of the men almost compulsively drawn to her. Moreover, Ophuls created a magnetic aura for the star through the way she was lighted and filmed. Rarely does he cut to reaction shots or close-ups of her co-stars. Instead, he brings them into the frame where Lola already has been established. In addition, the constantly moving camera, an Ophuls trademark, almost completely upstages the leading lady's acting deficiencies. And Carol's star status -- she was the number one French sex symbol of the '50s, as popular for her on-screen décolleté as for her off-screen scandals -- bought Ophuls the budget he needed to realize his vision of the story. When she signed for the production, Gamma Film raised the budget to $2 million, the highest of any post-war European film to that time.

The project had originated with Gamma Film out of the desire to create a lavish, period romance. They hired Cecil Saint-Laurent, whose novel Caroline Cherie had inspired Carol's 1951 breakthrough film, to write the screenplay. They only hired Ophuls to direct when their other choices -- including Michael Powell and Carol's husband, Christian-Jacque -- weren't available. Ophuls threw out Saint-Laurent's script, preferring to work with Annette Wademant, who had co-scripted his Madame de... (1953), and Jacques Natanson, his collaborator on La Ronde (1950) and Le Plaisir (1952). The studio credited Saint-Laurent as author of the novel La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes, which didn't actually exist.

Ophuls surrounded Carol with a solid cast, headed by Anton Walbrook as Ludwig I, Oskar Werner as a student revolutionary and Peter Ustinov as the Ring Master. He shot the film in Germany, Austria and France in three different versions - French, German and English (Ustinov wrote the English-language dialogue). Then he worked with three different editors, each in his own room, on the three different versions.

Lola Montes had been eagerly anticipated because of its budget and Carol's presence. Yet the Paris opening on a rainy December day was a disaster. Audiences expecting a lush, mildly titillating romance were not ready for what was ultimately a trenchant commentary on the nature of celebrity. Nor did they want to follow a story that jumped around in time. Many walked out, warning those in line to save their time and money. Others jeered the screen. Reviews in the popular press were scathing, with many critics complaining that the film's plot tastelessly paralleled Carol's own off-screen scandals. Only the new generation of critics headed by Andre Bazin, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard understood what Ophuls was doing. In a panic, the producers demanded a new cut. The director created a 110-minute version his son, documentarian Marcel Ophuls, considers the definitive Lola Montes, but that wasn't enough for the producers. Even when a group of filmmakers including Jean Cocteau, Roberto Rossellini and Jacques Tati sent a letter to the newspaper Le Figaro demanding that Gamma release Ophuls' version, the producers created their own. At 91 minutes, their cut ran in strict chronological order and died quickly (it was released in many markets, including the U.S., as The Sins of Lola Montes). Many blame his battles over Lola Montes for Ophuls' fatal heart attack two years later.

With the director's version unavailable for years a rumor quickly spread that the original was 140 minutes long (it was actually 113 minutes in France and 116 minutes in Germany), and 30 minutes had been lost forever. Fortunately, producer Pierre Braunberger bought the rights to the film in 1968 and issued a restored version that quickly became popular at film festivals. When it played the New York Film Festival that year (it had already been screened at the first New York Film Festival in 1963 with a group of films that had failed on their initial U.S. releases), many critics joined Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice in hailing it as the greatest movie ever made. Twenty years later Serge Toubiana of the Cinematheque Francaise approached Braunberger's daughter, Laurence, about creating a fully restored version to highlight the continuing need for film preservation. Working with prints from three different archives, they restored the film's color values and soundtrack and used animation to replace lost footage of the curtains that open at the film's beginning and close at the end. The new digitized version was also transferred to celluloid for theatres not equipped for digital technology. The restoration premiered at the 2008 New York Film Festival, making Lola Montes the only film ever screened by the Festival in three different years.

Producer: Albert Caraco
Director: Max Ophuls
Screenplay: Ophuls, Jacques Natanson, Annette Wademant
Based on the novel La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes by Cecil Saint-Laurent
Cinematography: Christian Matras
Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne, Willy Schatz
Music: Georges Auric
Cast: Martine Carol (Lola Montes), Peter Ustinov (Circus Master), Anton Walbrook (Ludwig I, King of Bavaria), Ivan Desny (Lt. James), Will Quadflieg (Franz Liszt), Oskar Werner (Student), Marcel Ophuls (Bit).
C-110m.

by Frank Miller
Lola Montes

Lola Montes

"Lola Montes is in my unhumble opinion the greatest film of all time." Film critic Andrew Sarris "There are films that demand undivided attention. Lola Montes is one of them." Film critic-director Francois Truffaut "The audience is expecting a cream cake, but instead it gets a punch in the stomach!" Director Max Ophuls "I'm not a scandal machine. I always do what I like. That's all!" Martine Carol, Lola Montes Director Max Ophuls' 1955 masterpiece Lola Montes is now as much the stuff of legend as its title character, the notorious 19th century dancer and seductress whose affair with King Ludwig I of Bavaria helped inspire a revolution. And on its first release it was almost as much the subject of scandal as Montes had been during her lifetime. Though critics have debated the film's specific merits, particularly leading lady Martine Carol's performance, few contest the brilliance of its conception. Ophuls sets his story in a circus devoted to Lola's lives and loves. As tableaux vivants act out the high points of her past, flashbacks reveal them to the audience, at least as the character wishes to remember them (the script incorporates apocryphal incidents, including an impromptu strip on her first meeting with Ludwig I). Although plagued with a weak heart, she performs a climactic daredevil stunt, strengthened by the knowledge that the audience is filled with men who have paid just to look at her. At the end, the audience lines up to pay for the privilege of kissing her hand as she sits in a wooden cage. The camera dollies back and upward, and curtains close, ending an exercise in calculated artifice. Ophuls had never worked in color before and, as was the practice in Europe at the time, had to use Eastmancolor rather than the more flexible Technicolor. Yet he and cameraman Christian Matras (who shot all of his late European films), created a lush look with a color palette that varies subtly from season to season. This was also Ophuls' only film in Cinemascope, a format many directors have derided as unwieldy. The director took the opportunity to fill the screen with décor, particularly during scenes depicting Lola's relationship with Ludwig I, so that she seems to be drowning in a sea of opulence. He also found ways to break up the frame, using pillars and curtains to cut off the ends of the screen and create vivid images of confinement. Although Carol is a decidedly limited actress, some critics have suggested that her empty beauty provides the perfect vehicle for Ophuls' vision of Montes, suggesting an inner void that can only be filled by the attention of the men almost compulsively drawn to her. Moreover, Ophuls created a magnetic aura for the star through the way she was lighted and filmed. Rarely does he cut to reaction shots or close-ups of her co-stars. Instead, he brings them into the frame where Lola already has been established. In addition, the constantly moving camera, an Ophuls trademark, almost completely upstages the leading lady's acting deficiencies. And Carol's star status -- she was the number one French sex symbol of the '50s, as popular for her on-screen décolleté as for her off-screen scandals -- bought Ophuls the budget he needed to realize his vision of the story. When she signed for the production, Gamma Film raised the budget to $2 million, the highest of any post-war European film to that time. The project had originated with Gamma Film out of the desire to create a lavish, period romance. They hired Cecil Saint-Laurent, whose novel Caroline Cherie had inspired Carol's 1951 breakthrough film, to write the screenplay. They only hired Ophuls to direct when their other choices -- including Michael Powell and Carol's husband, Christian-Jacque -- weren't available. Ophuls threw out Saint-Laurent's script, preferring to work with Annette Wademant, who had co-scripted his Madame de... (1953), and Jacques Natanson, his collaborator on La Ronde (1950) and Le Plaisir (1952). The studio credited Saint-Laurent as author of the novel La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes, which didn't actually exist. Ophuls surrounded Carol with a solid cast, headed by Anton Walbrook as Ludwig I, Oskar Werner as a student revolutionary and Peter Ustinov as the Ring Master. He shot the film in Germany, Austria and France in three different versions - French, German and English (Ustinov wrote the English-language dialogue). Then he worked with three different editors, each in his own room, on the three different versions. Lola Montes had been eagerly anticipated because of its budget and Carol's presence. Yet the Paris opening on a rainy December day was a disaster. Audiences expecting a lush, mildly titillating romance were not ready for what was ultimately a trenchant commentary on the nature of celebrity. Nor did they want to follow a story that jumped around in time. Many walked out, warning those in line to save their time and money. Others jeered the screen. Reviews in the popular press were scathing, with many critics complaining that the film's plot tastelessly paralleled Carol's own off-screen scandals. Only the new generation of critics headed by Andre Bazin, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard understood what Ophuls was doing. In a panic, the producers demanded a new cut. The director created a 110-minute version his son, documentarian Marcel Ophuls, considers the definitive Lola Montes, but that wasn't enough for the producers. Even when a group of filmmakers including Jean Cocteau, Roberto Rossellini and Jacques Tati sent a letter to the newspaper Le Figaro demanding that Gamma release Ophuls' version, the producers created their own. At 91 minutes, their cut ran in strict chronological order and died quickly (it was released in many markets, including the U.S., as The Sins of Lola Montes). Many blame his battles over Lola Montes for Ophuls' fatal heart attack two years later. With the director's version unavailable for years a rumor quickly spread that the original was 140 minutes long (it was actually 113 minutes in France and 116 minutes in Germany), and 30 minutes had been lost forever. Fortunately, producer Pierre Braunberger bought the rights to the film in 1968 and issued a restored version that quickly became popular at film festivals. When it played the New York Film Festival that year (it had already been screened at the first New York Film Festival in 1963 with a group of films that had failed on their initial U.S. releases), many critics joined Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice in hailing it as the greatest movie ever made. Twenty years later Serge Toubiana of the Cinematheque Francaise approached Braunberger's daughter, Laurence, about creating a fully restored version to highlight the continuing need for film preservation. Working with prints from three different archives, they restored the film's color values and soundtrack and used animation to replace lost footage of the curtains that open at the film's beginning and close at the end. The new digitized version was also transferred to celluloid for theatres not equipped for digital technology. The restoration premiered at the 2008 New York Film Festival, making Lola Montes the only film ever screened by the Festival in three different years. Producer: Albert Caraco Director: Max Ophuls Screenplay: Ophuls, Jacques Natanson, Annette Wademant Based on the novel La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes by Cecil Saint-Laurent Cinematography: Christian Matras Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne, Willy Schatz Music: Georges Auric Cast: Martine Carol (Lola Montes), Peter Ustinov (Circus Master), Anton Walbrook (Ludwig I, King of Bavaria), Ivan Desny (Lt. James), Will Quadflieg (Franz Liszt), Oskar Werner (Student), Marcel Ophuls (Bit). C-110m. by Frank Miller

Lola Montes Restoration - LOLA MONTES, The Definite Restoration at Film Forum, Oct. 10-30, Official Selection of 2008 Cannes, Telluride, & New York Film Festivals


Max Ophüls' legendary Lola Montès (1955), in a definitive new 35mm color and CinemaScope restoration that was a highlight this year at Cannes and Telluride - and is the spotlight retrospective at this year's New York Film Festival - will have its theatrical premiere at Film Forum from Friday, October 10 through Thursday, October 30. Showtimes daily are at 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, and 10:00.

In a garishly colored circus, the suckers line up at a buck a kiss with celebrated adventuress Lola (French sex symbol Martine Carol), as ringmaster Peter Ustinov starts his spiel and the flashbacks begin. Ophüls' final work - and his only movie in color and widescreen - was the biggest-budgeted French film to date, with his always-mobile camera gliding, tilting, and craning amid dazzling sets and costumes, as the oscillation between the tawdriness of the circus and the romanticism of the flashbacks underscores the difference between reality and memory, each flashback with its own color scheme.

Arguably Ophüls' masterpiece, Lola was a flop on first release and subjected to a brutal butchering by its producers, who hacked up the original negative and re-arranged its complex structure chronologically. After their eventual bankruptcy, legendary New Wave producer Pierre Braunberger (Shoot the Piano Player) acquired the rights and issued a limited restoration to great acclaim in 1969.

But restoration technology has progressed dramatically in the intervening 40 years and many more materials - including the innovative original sound mix - have since turned up. In 2006, Braunberger's daughter Laurence and the Cinémathèque Française, with the support of the Thomson Foundation, the Franco-American Cultural Fund, and Ophüls' son Marcel, embarked on a state of the art restoration. Scratches, tears and missing frames were fixed and the full stereophonic magnetic track was restored and remastered in Dolby Digital, with the vibrant hues as conceived by production designer Jean d'Eaubonne and cinematographer Christian Matras replacing the washed-out existing prints and videos. The original CinemaScope ratio of 2.55:1 has also been restored (later prints were made in the narrower ratio of 2.35:1, cropping off image on the left and right of the screen), along with five minutes of long-unseen footage.

A sensation at both Cannes and Telluride this year, the ravishing new restoration is also the spotlight retrospective at the 2008 New York Film Festival (tickets for that screening sold out instantly). It is the only film to have been selected for the New York Film Festival three times: for the very first NYFF in 1963, again in 1969 (in an earlier, not so successful, restoration), and this year. It was following the 1963 festival screening that critic Andrew Sarris famously wrote, "In my unhumble opinion, Lola Montès is the greatest film of all time, and I am willing to stake my critical reputation on this one proposition above all others." In 1969, Sarris wrote, "Lola Montès is clearly the film of the year, or any year."

"THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CINEMASCOPE MOVIE EVER MADE. Ophüls uses color with a dazzling, kaleidoscopic imagination."
- Phillip Lopate

"SUPERB...THERE IS NOT A FLAW IN THE MISE EN SCÈNE, NOT A DULL FRAME FOR THE EYE."
– Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

"A BAROQUE MASTERPIECE."
– Dave Kehr

"OPHÜLS' MASTERPIECE... majestic and complex... Nearly as reviving and moving as the response of Mozart to da Ponte's Cosi Fan Tutte."
– Penelope Gilliatt, The New Yorker

For more information, links and showtimes, visit www.filmforum.org

Lola Montes Restoration - LOLA MONTES, The Definite Restoration at Film Forum, Oct. 10-30, Official Selection of 2008 Cannes, Telluride, & New York Film Festivals

Max Ophüls' legendary Lola Montès (1955), in a definitive new 35mm color and CinemaScope restoration that was a highlight this year at Cannes and Telluride - and is the spotlight retrospective at this year's New York Film Festival - will have its theatrical premiere at Film Forum from Friday, October 10 through Thursday, October 30. Showtimes daily are at 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, and 10:00. In a garishly colored circus, the suckers line up at a buck a kiss with celebrated adventuress Lola (French sex symbol Martine Carol), as ringmaster Peter Ustinov starts his spiel and the flashbacks begin. Ophüls' final work - and his only movie in color and widescreen - was the biggest-budgeted French film to date, with his always-mobile camera gliding, tilting, and craning amid dazzling sets and costumes, as the oscillation between the tawdriness of the circus and the romanticism of the flashbacks underscores the difference between reality and memory, each flashback with its own color scheme. Arguably Ophüls' masterpiece, Lola was a flop on first release and subjected to a brutal butchering by its producers, who hacked up the original negative and re-arranged its complex structure chronologically. After their eventual bankruptcy, legendary New Wave producer Pierre Braunberger (Shoot the Piano Player) acquired the rights and issued a limited restoration to great acclaim in 1969. But restoration technology has progressed dramatically in the intervening 40 years and many more materials - including the innovative original sound mix - have since turned up. In 2006, Braunberger's daughter Laurence and the Cinémathèque Française, with the support of the Thomson Foundation, the Franco-American Cultural Fund, and Ophüls' son Marcel, embarked on a state of the art restoration. Scratches, tears and missing frames were fixed and the full stereophonic magnetic track was restored and remastered in Dolby Digital, with the vibrant hues as conceived by production designer Jean d'Eaubonne and cinematographer Christian Matras replacing the washed-out existing prints and videos. The original CinemaScope ratio of 2.55:1 has also been restored (later prints were made in the narrower ratio of 2.35:1, cropping off image on the left and right of the screen), along with five minutes of long-unseen footage. A sensation at both Cannes and Telluride this year, the ravishing new restoration is also the spotlight retrospective at the 2008 New York Film Festival (tickets for that screening sold out instantly). It is the only film to have been selected for the New York Film Festival three times: for the very first NYFF in 1963, again in 1969 (in an earlier, not so successful, restoration), and this year. It was following the 1963 festival screening that critic Andrew Sarris famously wrote, "In my unhumble opinion, Lola Montès is the greatest film of all time, and I am willing to stake my critical reputation on this one proposition above all others." In 1969, Sarris wrote, "Lola Montès is clearly the film of the year, or any year." "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CINEMASCOPE MOVIE EVER MADE. Ophüls uses color with a dazzling, kaleidoscopic imagination." - Phillip Lopate "SUPERB...THERE IS NOT A FLAW IN THE MISE EN SCÈNE, NOT A DULL FRAME FOR THE EYE." – Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic "A BAROQUE MASTERPIECE." – Dave Kehr "OPHÜLS' MASTERPIECE... majestic and complex... Nearly as reviving and moving as the response of Mozart to da Ponte's Cosi Fan Tutte." – Penelope Gilliatt, The New Yorker For more information, links and showtimes, visit www.filmforum.org

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)


Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82.

He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.

His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).

He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.

After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.

Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).

The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).

He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).

Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.

Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82. He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut. His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942). He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough. After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following. Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960). The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964). He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986). Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency. Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1955

Re-released in United States October 10, 2008

Released in United States on Video March 1987

Released in United States September 22, 1968

Released in United States 2008

Shown at New York Film Festival September 22, 1968.

Shown at New York Film Festival September 26-October 12, 2008.

Restored print released in New York City and Los Angeles October 10, 2008.

Max Ophuls' last film.

CinemaScope

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1955

Re-released in United States October 10, 2008 (New York City and Los Angeles)

Released in United States on Video March 1987

Released in United States September 22, 1968 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 22, 1968.)

Released in United States 2008 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 26-October 12, 2008.)