Romanoff and Juliet


1h 43m 1961
Romanoff and Juliet

Brief Synopsis

An ambassador from a postage-stamp republic plays matchmaker for the children of Soviet and U.S. diplomats.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dig That Juliet
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 8 Jun 1961
Production Company
Pavor, S. A.
Distribution Company
Universal--International
Country
United States
Location
Cineccitta Studios, Rome, Italy; Todi, Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Romanoff and Juliet by Peter Ustinov (New York, 10 Oct 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

Concordia, a tiny country not even on the map, becomes important when a United Nations debate ends in a deadlock and Concordia's president, known as "The General," holds the deciding vote. Because The General does not understand the issue in debate, he abstains from voting and hurries home, with the Soviet and U. S. ambassadors in pursuit and wooing him with economic aid. Determined to remain neutral, he fosters a romance between Juliet Moulsworth, the American ambassador's daughter, and Igor Romanoff, son of the Russian ambassador. As the two world powers plunge desperately into such diplomatic activities as spying, bribery, and wiretapping, The General arranges an Independence Day ceremony and has the young couple secretly married in historical disguises. Their horrified parents initially are outraged, but The General eventually makes them see the humor of the situation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dig That Juliet
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 8 Jun 1961
Production Company
Pavor, S. A.
Distribution Company
Universal--International
Country
United States
Location
Cineccitta Studios, Rome, Italy; Todi, Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Romanoff and Juliet by Peter Ustinov (New York, 10 Oct 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

Romanoff and Juliet


Writer, director, and star Peter Ustinov's 1961 Cold War parable Romanoff and Juliet is one of those pictures that's so much of its own time, it doesn't quite fit into any other: It has languished, mostly forgotten, in the years since its release, though its gentle pleasures shouldn't be underestimated. Ustinov stars as the leader of a tiny, fictional European country, Concordia, which holds the deciding vote in an important United Nations initiative, one that could result in peace or discord between the United States and Soviet Russia. Ustinov retreats to his home country. At the same time, young Juliet Moulsworth (Sandra Dee) shows up in Concordia to visit her parents - her father is the U.S. ambassador stationed there. Although she thinks she's in love with a young man back home, she meets and falls for Igor Romanoff (John Gavin), the son of the Russian ambassador to Concordia. Their romance - analogous to that of the young lovers in Romeo and Juliet -- changes the fate of nations.

Before Romanoff and Juliet was a movie, it was a successful stage play, first in London and then on Broadway. In 1956, a brief notice in the New York Times described the play's reception in London: "Drama critics here have welcomed 'Romanoff and Juliet' as a gem of satire and situation." The article also mentioned that the Times of London had called it a "delicious piece of diplomatic fooling." The next year, the play - produced by David Merrick and directed by George S. Kaufman -- opened on Broadway, running for 389 performances. Ustinov was nominated for a Tony Award in two categories: Best Play and Best Actor in a Play. The show's success, plus Ustinov's 1960 Best Supporting Actor Oscar win (for his portrayal of Batiatus in Spartacus), helped open the door to a film version. As Ustinov wrote in his 1977 autobiography Dear Me: "Universal Pictures, who had been the producers of Spartacus, were very hospitable after my Oscar.... They said they would be interested in a film version of my play Romanoff and Juliet, so long as it cost no more than $750,000." He added, wryly, "Those were the days."

Filming commenced in the summer of 1960 in the small medieval town of Todi, in the Umbrian Foothills north of Rome. According to a report in the New York Times, the actors cast in the film - many of whom, including Akim Tamiroff and Ustinov's wife at the time, Suzanne Cloutier, had appeared in the stage production at one time or another - were eager to work with Ustinov, who was well organized and had things running ahead of schedule. He had just about everything under control: He'd even designed the statue of his character, the General, that had been erected in "Concordia's" town square. According to the Times, the statue momentarily confused some German tourists who happened to be trekking through the streets of Todi during filming; they couldn't locate the monument in their guidebooks. Eventually, though, they joined a group of schoolchildren who'd gathered on the steps of the town's cathedral to watch the day's shoot.

At the time, Ustinov struggled to explain to the Times reporter exactly what this film version of his gently satirical stage play would be like. Would it be a comedy? "Well," Ustinov said, "I wouldn't want people to think they're not going to have fun - they are. The film is naturally also intended to be amusing, yet I often contend that comedy is merely another way to be serious." Ultimately, he said, "Without wanting to sound pretentious, I think you might call this film an entertainment."

The film, however, appears not to have been as well received as the earlier stage versions, even though Ustinov received a Directors Guild of America nomination for it. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called it "a tinkling reminder of 'The Mouse That Roared,'" a similarly themed picture that had opened two years before. He called Ustinov's performance "a lot of bombastic clowning," but called the Todi locale "very pretty to look at." He concluded, "If you like [Ustinov's] ponderous clowning, you should have fun."

Ustinov himself didn't seem too happy with the film. "I have always found it difficult to digest the same meal twice, and perhaps I was too eager to keep those moments which had really worked in the play intact, even if it was part free-wheeling fantasy and part photographed play," he wrote in his autobiography. He also seemed to feel his hand had been forced in casting Dee and Gavin, who were Universal contract stars at the time and who had recently starred in Tammy Tell Me True. Ustinov wrote that "although they tried manfully, neither of them was ideally suited to the style of the text, and the film suffered from an intrinsic incongruity, although it had many elements I was satisfied with." He may have been a little too hard on the film: Though it's a bit of a curio - definitely of its era - it has more than a few flashes of dry wit and charm. Early in the film, after speaking at a UN meeting and discerning that he's about to become a pawn in a game between nations, he hustles into a car and bids his assistant, "To the airport as quickly as possible! We've got to get out of here before the Americans have time to give us aid."

Producer: Walter Thompson, Peter Ustinov
Director: Peter Ustinov
Screenplay: Peter Ustinov
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Music: Marion Nascimbene
Film Editing: Renzo Lucidi
Cast: Peter Ustinov (the General), Sandra Dee (Juliet Moulsworth), Igor Romanoff (John Gavin), Akim Tamiroff (Vadim Romanoff), Alix Talton (Beulah), John Phillips (Hooper Moulsworth), Tamara Shayne (Evdokia Romanoff), Rik Van Nutter (Freddie).
C-103 m.

by Stephanie Zacharek

SOURCES:
IMDB
The New York Times
Peter Ustinov, Dear Me, Little Brown & Co., 1977
Romanoff And Juliet

Romanoff and Juliet

Writer, director, and star Peter Ustinov's 1961 Cold War parable Romanoff and Juliet is one of those pictures that's so much of its own time, it doesn't quite fit into any other: It has languished, mostly forgotten, in the years since its release, though its gentle pleasures shouldn't be underestimated. Ustinov stars as the leader of a tiny, fictional European country, Concordia, which holds the deciding vote in an important United Nations initiative, one that could result in peace or discord between the United States and Soviet Russia. Ustinov retreats to his home country. At the same time, young Juliet Moulsworth (Sandra Dee) shows up in Concordia to visit her parents - her father is the U.S. ambassador stationed there. Although she thinks she's in love with a young man back home, she meets and falls for Igor Romanoff (John Gavin), the son of the Russian ambassador to Concordia. Their romance - analogous to that of the young lovers in Romeo and Juliet -- changes the fate of nations. Before Romanoff and Juliet was a movie, it was a successful stage play, first in London and then on Broadway. In 1956, a brief notice in the New York Times described the play's reception in London: "Drama critics here have welcomed 'Romanoff and Juliet' as a gem of satire and situation." The article also mentioned that the Times of London had called it a "delicious piece of diplomatic fooling." The next year, the play - produced by David Merrick and directed by George S. Kaufman -- opened on Broadway, running for 389 performances. Ustinov was nominated for a Tony Award in two categories: Best Play and Best Actor in a Play. The show's success, plus Ustinov's 1960 Best Supporting Actor Oscar win (for his portrayal of Batiatus in Spartacus), helped open the door to a film version. As Ustinov wrote in his 1977 autobiography Dear Me: "Universal Pictures, who had been the producers of Spartacus, were very hospitable after my Oscar.... They said they would be interested in a film version of my play Romanoff and Juliet, so long as it cost no more than $750,000." He added, wryly, "Those were the days." Filming commenced in the summer of 1960 in the small medieval town of Todi, in the Umbrian Foothills north of Rome. According to a report in the New York Times, the actors cast in the film - many of whom, including Akim Tamiroff and Ustinov's wife at the time, Suzanne Cloutier, had appeared in the stage production at one time or another - were eager to work with Ustinov, who was well organized and had things running ahead of schedule. He had just about everything under control: He'd even designed the statue of his character, the General, that had been erected in "Concordia's" town square. According to the Times, the statue momentarily confused some German tourists who happened to be trekking through the streets of Todi during filming; they couldn't locate the monument in their guidebooks. Eventually, though, they joined a group of schoolchildren who'd gathered on the steps of the town's cathedral to watch the day's shoot. At the time, Ustinov struggled to explain to the Times reporter exactly what this film version of his gently satirical stage play would be like. Would it be a comedy? "Well," Ustinov said, "I wouldn't want people to think they're not going to have fun - they are. The film is naturally also intended to be amusing, yet I often contend that comedy is merely another way to be serious." Ultimately, he said, "Without wanting to sound pretentious, I think you might call this film an entertainment." The film, however, appears not to have been as well received as the earlier stage versions, even though Ustinov received a Directors Guild of America nomination for it. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called it "a tinkling reminder of 'The Mouse That Roared,'" a similarly themed picture that had opened two years before. He called Ustinov's performance "a lot of bombastic clowning," but called the Todi locale "very pretty to look at." He concluded, "If you like [Ustinov's] ponderous clowning, you should have fun." Ustinov himself didn't seem too happy with the film. "I have always found it difficult to digest the same meal twice, and perhaps I was too eager to keep those moments which had really worked in the play intact, even if it was part free-wheeling fantasy and part photographed play," he wrote in his autobiography. He also seemed to feel his hand had been forced in casting Dee and Gavin, who were Universal contract stars at the time and who had recently starred in Tammy Tell Me True. Ustinov wrote that "although they tried manfully, neither of them was ideally suited to the style of the text, and the film suffered from an intrinsic incongruity, although it had many elements I was satisfied with." He may have been a little too hard on the film: Though it's a bit of a curio - definitely of its era - it has more than a few flashes of dry wit and charm. Early in the film, after speaking at a UN meeting and discerning that he's about to become a pawn in a game between nations, he hustles into a car and bids his assistant, "To the airport as quickly as possible! We've got to get out of here before the Americans have time to give us aid." Producer: Walter Thompson, Peter Ustinov Director: Peter Ustinov Screenplay: Peter Ustinov Cinematography: Robert Krasker Music: Marion Nascimbene Film Editing: Renzo Lucidi Cast: Peter Ustinov (the General), Sandra Dee (Juliet Moulsworth), Igor Romanoff (John Gavin), Akim Tamiroff (Vadim Romanoff), Alix Talton (Beulah), John Phillips (Hooper Moulsworth), Tamara Shayne (Evdokia Romanoff), Rik Van Nutter (Freddie). C-103 m. by Stephanie Zacharek SOURCES: IMDB The New York Times Peter Ustinov, Dear Me, Little Brown & Co., 1977

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005


For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60.

She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin.

Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide.

Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart.

Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years.

The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977).

Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia.

by Michael T. Toole

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005

For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60. She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin. Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide. Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart. Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years. The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977). Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia. 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

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

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Italy. Also known as Dig That Juliet.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1961

c Technicolor

Released in United States June 1961

Released in United States Summer June 1961

Released in United States June 1961