What a mixed bag of a movie! Or maybe I should say, what a lousy movie with some great stuff in it. Let’s start with the downsides. First, there’s the star, Michael Denison, who appears to have had a strong stage career, but is mostly known as Algernon in Anthony Asquith’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1952). Well, there’s no denying that Denison—who talks all posh from the back of his mouth like Noel Coward bereft of wit—makes a great Algernon; he seems like a parody of an Englishman to begin with. Accepting him in The Glass Mountain (1949) as a driven composer with great passion is another mouthful of marbles altogether. Then there’s the story. Denison plays a budding composer whose career is interrupted by WWII, during which time he hangs out with opera-singing Italians and a non-singing hot babe (Valentina Cortese). Both the Italians and the babe inspire him to creative heights and personal tomfoolery about deserting his perfect English wife (real-life wife Dulcie Gray). Personally, I didn’t believe any of it. It’s soap—soap with culture—but still soap.
However, just as you’re about to throw in the towel on the whole thing, the Nino Rota score—which keeps the film barely alive for over an hour—takes center stage with our hero’s opera. All of a sudden, not only does the film spring out of its general torpor, but so do the filmmakers. Co-directors Edoardo Anton and Henry Cass seem to show a sudden interest in making the material interesting—in a way that makes you believe that, yes, Henry Cass is the same director who would soon make the sublime Alec Guinness film Last Holiday (1950). The opera is good—as are singers Tito Gobbi and Elena Rizzieri—but the filmmakers’ handling of it is actually inspired. Yes, the suds will return for the wrap-up of the drama, but this one section of the film—and Rota’s score—make it all at least marginally worthwhile.