The story behind The Pride and the Passion would actually be a pretty interesting movie itself. Aside from already being a rather tumultuous (and expensive) production, Frank Sinatra apparently only signed up to try and save his failing marriage to Ava Gardner (shooting The Sun Also Rises nearby). When that didn't work out, he suddenly wanted to quit the film, forcing director Stanley Kramer to get through Sinatra's scenes as fast as possible. Cary Grant, on the other hand, wanted to get away from his own wife and ended up in a brief affair with co-star Sofia Loren during shooting (rumor had it that he became quite obsessed with her...but who can really blame him?).
With all the diva behavior and soap-opera histrionics behind the scenes, it's a credit to Kramer that The Pride and the Passion turned out as good as it did. The film, about a British army captain (Grant) reluctantly aiding a group of Spanish resistance fighters led by Sinatra (!) in a last-ditch effort to combat the French during the Peninsular War, isn't a gold star on anyone's resumes, but it's a impressive piece of epic filmmaking. Most of the story centers around the efforts to retrieve and transport a massive Spanish cannon (the biggest of its kind) across rugged terrain and hostile territory in order to blow the bejeezus out of a French-occupied fortress. Similar to the suicidal journey in The Wages of Fear, the film’s at its best when the group is faced with nearly impossible obstacles, such as transporting the cannon across a river and, in the best scene, forcing their way through a gauntlet of enemy fire in a rocky ravine.
|"Hey, Cary...is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see her?"|
Less successful are the overall performances and some questionable casting decisions. Loren as Juana, torn between her loyalty to Sinatra’s Miguel and Grant’s Anthony, is such a sultry, perfect beauty that we don’t give a damn whether or not she’s convincing. Speaking of which, Grant really doesn’t stretch himself much. He’s not bad, though sort-of miscast. But the casting director who thought Frank Sinatra would make a convincing Spaniard should have been fired (why not have Edgar Winter play John Shaft while you’re at it?).
But if you can swallow that (along with a few bits of clunky dialogue), The Pride and the Passion is an entertaining, large scale epic with lavish cinematography and several exciting, suspenseful action sequences. That alone makes the film worth rediscovering.
EXTRA KIBBLES: None (Too bad, considering the story behind the production)
PURR...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS (from Sophia)