Montecarlo - Renzo Rossellini
In 1956 the Principality of Monaco and its government district Monte Carlo had suddenly become world-famous due to the wedding of its reigning Prince Rainier to American film star Grace Kelly that took place there. Therefore it was no wonder that also the film industry got interested in exploiting the luxurious scenery at the French Riviera. The romantic comedy Montecarlo (English title: The Monte Carlo Story), an US-Italian co-production shot in Technicolor and the widescreen Technirama format, was one of the first films at that time to use the glamorous resort as a backdrop for the story of two middle-aged gamblers portrayed by the two seasoned stars Marlene Dietrich and Vittorio De Sica. The bulk of the movie was shot on location in Monte Carlo’s actual hotels, casinos and restaurants, with only brief shooting later at the Titanus studios in Rome. As was often the case with such Italian co-productions during that time, two versions were shot at the same time. One for the Italian market directed by Giulio Macchi and one for the international market directed by Samuel A. Taylor, who had previously won some recognition through his play “Sabrina” (which in 1954 was directed for the screen by Billy Wilder) and who had also written the screenplay for the movie.
However, Montecarlo should remain his one and only directing effort. Although Taylor was officially credited as director, Vittorio De Sica apparently also had a hand in the direction and at least got a credit as an “artistic supervisor” in the Italian edition of the film. Marlene Dietrich had great respect for De Sica and the Neorealist films he had directed in Italy so that she therefore accepted his invitation to co-star opposite him even though her heyday as seductive and glamorous vamp was already over in 1956.
It’s the chemistry between the two stars, the hide-and-seek games and the funny innuendos and wordplays as well as the sumptuous colour cinematograpy by Giuseppe Rotunno which make this film quite enjoyable and delightful even today. The romantic tale focuses on a love affair betwen the Italian Count Dino della Fiaba (De Sica) and the French Marquise Maria de Crevecoeur (Dietrich): Both have lost their fortunes at the gambling tables and both think that a marriage with the other one could make them rich again. To attract the cool blonde middle-aged beauty, the poor Italian Count even enlists the help of the same people to whom he owes money, whereas the Marquise is pursued by a pawnbroker (Renato Rascel), who wants his money back from her.
Only when Dino proposes marriage to Maria, the truth comes to light and both are disappointed to learn that each of them has fallen for an impostor. Just at this moment, the rich American industrialist Homer Hinckley (Arthur O’Connell) together with his daughter Jane (Natalie Trundy) and two friends arrives in the harbor of Monte Carlo on his large yacht. Maria tries to beguile the widowed millionaire from Indiana while Dino gets idolized by Jane, although the young lady knows that a liaison bewteen them is impossible due to their age difference. When the Hinckleys depart with Maria, she finally realizes that she actually belongs to Dino and not to Homer who releases her so that together with the Count she can return to Monte Carlo on his boat.
We are particularly proud to present on this CD the world premiere release of Renzo Rossellini’s complete original score for Montecarlo thanks to the master tapes in mono which have been preserved in the Sugar archives.
Renzo Rossellini (1908 - 1982), the younger brother of the famous Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, was one of the pioneers of Italian film music who had dedicated himself to the cinema from the mid-30s onwards and attained his best results when he contributed to the films of the Neorealist period which were mostly directed by his own brother such as Roma Città Aperta (1945), Paisà (1946), Stromboli (1949), Europa ‘51 (1952), etc. All in all, he composed the music for more than 90 films between 1936 and 1965 when he retired from the cinema and then later during the 70s became artistic director of the Monte Carlo Opera.
From La nave bianca in 1941 to Vanina Vanini in 1961 he had scored almost all feature-length films directed by his brother Roberto. But just like Nino Rota in Italy or Erich Wolfgang Korngold in America he always led a double life and was also very active in the field of classical music: His real love belonged to the musical theater so that he wrote no less than nine operas as well as ballets, symphonic poems, oratorios and chamber music.
Particularly during the 40s and 50s he was quite a prominent figure in the musical life of the city of Rome and was also active as a music critic, music teacher and musicologist. He always remained faithful to his own artistic credo which was deeply rooted in the lyric opera tradition of the 19th century and above all in the verismo style sprinkled with delicate touches of French impressionism. Both in his operas and in his film scores his musical voice is immediately recognizable and he always tries to communicate directly with his audience. Thematic and melodic inventiveness and a distinct dramatic sense are important traits of his musical language which of course were also responsible for his success as a film composer.
His lovely romantic score for Montecarlo, which even has a few stylistic similarities with some Max Steiner and Alfred Newman compositions within the same genre, is a fine example of his tasteful elegance, his masterful handling of the traditional symphony orchestra and his melodic lyricism. It might have been an irony of fate that Rossellini had to score a picture set in a place which would become his adopted home for the last two decades of his life and where he would even die in 1982. From the lush and beautifully pastoral music he composed for the setting itself and which we can hear for example directly after the Main Title one can almost assume how much he must have relished his task of musically complementing the sumptuous images of the Monte Carlo harbor at night with glittering strings and woodwinds accompanied by a harp.
The complete score is dominated by two main themes which are both introduced in the Main Title. It begins with a rollicking and playful scherzo with prominent use of the xylophone which characterizes the gambling antics of the Italian Count Dino. During the second half of this theme the music gets more serious to emphasize his aristocratic origins with a bucolic string melody which also has a strong Italian flavour. This music gets further developed in the long first scene when the Count disembarks from his boat and a narrator introduces his character to the audience.
The second musical idea heard during the Main Title is the exquisite love theme for Dino and Maria and it gets a splendid sweeping treatment for strings which is typical of Rosselli-ni. In the film itself the first very tender and yearning intimation of this theme is heard when Dino sees Maria entering the hotel and immediately falls in love with her. During the course of the film it will be reprised in various ways.
Particularly enchanting are the intimate love scenes which take place mostly at night and are delicately underscored: Dino and Maria’s walk along the harbor (Track 4) is accompanied by a nostalgic French musette where Rossellini also adapts Renato Rascel’s song “Vogliamoci tanto bene” which had been a hit song in Italy just one year before Montecarlo was made; the love theme for Dino and Maria gets a surprisingly subdued and mellow treatment for solo guitar backed by strings when they have a chat on the deck of the American tourists’ yacht (Tr. 11); and solo guitar backed by soft strings appears again (Tr. 12) when Homer and Maria are seen in the same scenery with a much lighter theme where snippets from the song “Back Home Again in Indiana” - later sung by Marle-ne Dietrich in a seedy bistro (Tr. 22) - are skilfully integrated into the score.
Besides these romantic tracks there are also a few comical interludes which are imaginatively scored: For example, the scene when the hotel servants present to Dino the rich old ladies, one of which he should marry (Tr. 2). A distorted tango with mocking strings and muted brass makes the vi-suals even more funny than they are. In a similar way the pawnbroker is characterized by a pert clarinet and downward sliding strings (Tr. 3).
Rossellini changes the sophisticated European tone of his music when the rich and uncultured Americans arrive and presents a new jaunty theme for them which is heard in all possible New World flavours: Some Gershwin-like phrases segue to a rumba with even a few saxophone solos (Tr. 8, Tr. 9), whereas their sightseeing tour (Tr. 10) begins with a sprightly American march tune for strings which is then transformed into a gentle waltz.
The long final sequence of the film (Tr. 17) is also one of the highlights of the score whe-re Rossellini really excels and imbues his music with glowing romanticism. On the American yacht, Maria is torn between the millionaire and the Count and it is almost as if also the two love themes musically struggle with each other until at the end a full-blown statement of the Dino/Maria love theme in all its operatic splendour provides a magnificent climax to the score.
In addition to Rossellini’s orchestral underscore, the film also contains a lot of source music which is played in the restaurant and the casino or as a serenade on piano or violin. These are mostly popular pieces from the classical repertoire by Boccherini, Schubert, Johann Strauss, Liszt or Offenbach and a few traditionals. Besides, there are also the two Marlene Dietrich songs “Back Home Again in Indiana” and “Les jeux sont faits” (Tr. 23) for which the film has become famous. The French chanson was especially composed for the movie by Michel Emer and also a piano solo version (Tr. 24) is heard immediately after the sung version in the movie. All of this material, as well as three alternate versions of the Rossellini tracks, have been put into the bonus section at the end of the CD.