Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mario Bava and Orson Welles - Collaborators!

The big news of the day comes from Wellesnet: The Orson Welles Web Resource, who thank Massimiliano Studer for the information: Mario Bava and Orson Welles worked together! This frame enlargement is taken from an unedited reel of film shot for Welles' 1958 documentary PORTRAIT OF GINA, a now-difficult-to-see appreciation of actress Gina Lollobrigida, and clearly shows the clapper board identifying Mario Bava as the cameraman. This footage was recently discovered in Pordonone by historian Luca Giuliani.

While it is startling to learn that Bava had worked professionally with Welles (and somehow never mentioned it), it should come as no surprise to find him lighting La Lollo. Mario Bava had been the cameraman on all of her most important films - the one in which she was discovered (ELISIR D'AMORE, 1941), those in which she made her breakthrough performances (PAGLIACCI, MISS ITALIA), and also her most breathtaking color film of the 1950s (Robert Z. Leonard's BEAUTIFUL BUT DANGEROUS) - and could be said to be the principal cultivator of her screen image. The half-hour short, produced as part of a proposed "Orson Welles At Large" series, was likely shot around the same time as Bava's first horror film - Riccardo Freda's I VAMPIRI (1957). 

The film curiously contains no screen credits, but was evidently the work of more than one cinematographer and was likely assembled piecemeal as Welles' side-projects usually were. Lollobrigida - who is visited and interviewed at her home by Welles, and who looks beautiful, indicating that she specifically requested Bava as a cameraman whom she could trust to make her look her best - was reportedly unhappy with the film and filed an injunction to prevent it from being shown in the US. It is known to have been screened only a few times, first at the Venice Film Festival in 1958, and subsequently on French and German television.

The future of this footage is presently unknown, but an augmented revival of the film would certainly be welcome.

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