4 December 2009 | bkoganbing
Hollywood's Renaisance Man
The filming of Prince Of Foxes started a two year run for Tyrone Power in which he worked abroad. This film was shot in Italy and following its completion, Power married his second wife Linda Christian. His next project was The Black Rose filmed in Great Britain and then he appeared in the London production of Mister Roberts on stage and then another British film, I'll Never Forget You. I guess we should call this Power's European period.
One thing that Prince Of Foxes was sorely lacking was color in a film that cried for it. I can't conceive of going to Italy and shooting a film about the Renaissance on the very sites of the same and not spending the extra dollars for color. The bean counters at 20th Century Fox got to Darryl Zanuck. As it was one of the two Academy Award nominations that Prince Of Foxes got was for black and white cinematography and the other for costume design.
Tyrone Power certainly looked and acted the part of a Renaissance man. His character is peasant born whose parents worked hard to get him an education because of his talent for painting. But in the Renaissance tradition, Power plays a man of many accomplishments. An excellent duelist, a diplomat, courtier, and military strategist, Power serves Orson Welles who plays Cesare Borgia and his sister Angela played by Marina Berti in all those capacities.
The assignment he takes on for Welles calls for a combination of all those talents, Power is sent to the duchy ruled by Felix Aylmer and his young wife Wanda Hendrix. The mission is to maybe seduce the wife and cause the old duke to die in some manner and then to turn the strategically located duchy over to Welles without loss of life.
Easier said than done after Power sincerely falls for Hendrix, but also becomes friends with the aged Duke.
Orson Welles was in a European period of his own so to speak. Right around this time Welles was busy filming Othello and financing it intermittently. He took roles in Prince Of Foxes and Tyrone Power's next film, The Black Rose for just such financing. He makes an impressive, but subtly sadistic Cesare Borgia, almost my perfect conception of what that gentleman has come down in history as.
Everett Sloane has the most interesting role in the film, but it's also the films chief weakness. His character motivations, his capriciousness are never quite explained. But as it turns out it's Sloane's very caprice on which the plot of the story turns. He plays a professional assassin, loyal to no one.
Director Henry King staged some impressive battle sequences and with the location got the proper feel for what Renaissance Italy might be like. In some sense this film ought to be seen back to back with The Agony And The Ecstacy which essentially is the next generation of Italian politics mixed with art played out on screen.
Even without color Prince Of Foxes holds up remarkably well today. This is one case where Ted Turner's coloring techniques might really come in handy.