Carlo Ponti (1912-2007)
During his career, Ponti produced many movies and got the services of some of the greatest European directors of the period among them : Michelangelo Antonioni (“Blow Up” (1966) ; “Zabriskie-Point” (1970) and “Professione : Reporter” (1975)), Jean-Luc Goddard (“Une Femme est une Femme” (1961), “Les Carabiniers” (1963) and “Le Mépris / Il Disprezzo” (1963)), Henri Verneuil (“The 25th Hour” (1967)) and Roman Polanski (“What” (1972))…
With D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, King Vidor was a pioneer of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He began his wonderful career in the silent era and very soon he became a familiar of epic movies. In 1925, he directed “The Big Parade” which later was as an inspiration to Sir David Lean for “Doctor Zhivago” (1965). Among his most famous films are “Northwest Passage” (1940) and “Duel in the Sun” (1946). His last movie was the marvelous “Salomon and Sheba” (1959) which was unfortunately the last film portrayed by the legendary actor “Tyrone Power” (1913/1958) who died on the set. He was replaced by another iconic legend, Yul Brynner (1920/1985).
In 1979, King Vidor received an Academy Honorary Award for his incomparable achievements as a cinematographic creator and innovator. He received the prize from the hands of Audrey Hepburn.
Some European actors joined the cast, among them : “Vittorio Gassman (as Anatole Kuragine), Anita Ekberg (as Helene Kuragine), Herbert Lom (as Napoleon Bonaparte), Oscar Homolka (as General Kutuzov), John Mills (as Platon Karataev), Helmut Dantine (as Captain Dolokhov),Jeremy Brett (as Nicolas Rostov), May Britt (as Sonia Rostov), Tullio Carminati (as Prince Vasili Kuragine), Barry Jones (as Count Rostov), Milly Vitale (as Lise), Lea Seidl (as Countess Rostov), Anna-Maria Ferrero (as Mary Bolkonsky), Wilfrid Lawson (as Denisov), Sean Barrett (as Petya Rostov) and Alan Furlan (as a Russian Officier) …”.
Audrey Hepburn’s costumes alone cost $ 50 000 ; Fonda’s and Ferrer’s cost $ 15 000 ! Soldiers’ costumes and equipment cost $ 750 000 !
Henri “Hank” Fonda on the set
Despite many difficulties with the production leading team and in his personal life, this little funny story showed how Henri Fonda took his actor work very seriously. Some years later, he reminded : “The producer might just as well have had Rock Hudson instead of Mel Ferrer and me ; that’s just what he wanted, attractive leading men. The character I was trying to portray was quite different from De Laurentiis’ conception of it. So it didn’t come out as much of a character as I would have liked it. I would have liked to wear padding under my wardrobe and have some my hair combed forward. I couldn’t get away with that.”
In my opinion, even if physically he was all wrong for Pierre, once again, Fonda succeeded in portraying with honesty and a great sensibility the humanity of the mythical Tolstoy’s character. The audience and the critics praised the performance of Fonda. The Time reviewers wrote : “…Fonda acts to the very limit of his considerable powers, and sometimes gives the impression of being the only man in the huge cast who had read the book”…
He also had ongoing relationships with Luchino Visconti, for whom he scored “Rocco and his brothers” (1960) and “The Leopardo” (1963) and Franco Zeffirelli, for whom he scored “The Taming of the shrew” (1967) and “Romeo and Juliet” (1968). The love theme became a huge universally popular success.
Prelude from "War and Peace" (Original Score)
For his concerts in the 70’, the famous Italian artist arranged his score in a large symphonic suite in three movements and recorded it with some of his great scores for Fellini and Zeffirelli movies for the Italian music editor Cam Records.
Just to conclude my salute to Nino Rota, I would like to remind of a critic of the score by Didier c. Deutsch who praised the work of the composer in his book “Music Hound Soundtracks”.
Mel Ferrer, Vittorio Gassman, Anita Ekberg…
The rest of the cast was just perfect, except perhaps the performance of the distinguished actor Herbert Lom who portrayed a too parodical Napoleon Bonaparte. But, it was likely under De Laurentiis' pressure whom, as everybody knew, didn't like Napoleon. But, a movie is just a movie… if you want to know more about Napoleon in 1812, you can refer to the many books available for a true appreciation of this historical figure…
The Receipt of the Movie
Theatrical Trailer (2014 Version)
Theatrical Trailer (1956 Version)
The Prince Andrey and Natasha
This Soviet production (four parts totaling 403 minutes !) was the most expensive version ever made with a cost of $ 100 000 000 (actual today estimation $ 700 000 000) ! And the money can be seen on the screen ! The historical reconstruction of Borodino is the most awesome battle ever photographed, 120 000 soviet soldiers swarm over the screen portraying both Russian and French Armies. Some historians reported that there were more soldiers on the set than in the real battlefields !
The Soviet version won the Oscar for best foreign movie of the year. This can explain why Dino De Laurentis agreed to produce three years later “Waterloo” (1970 / with Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer). But unfortunately, the movie was a big flop at the US box office. It is unfair, because the movie can be regarded as a fascinating reconstruction of the emblematic battle.
Two TV adaptations should be retained.