Sharpness of the characters, the high-voltage dialog, the cynicism and wit and wisdom of the story, the spectacular combination of the immorally rich and the immorally sycophantic – these add up to a click feature from writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Ava Gardner is the contessa of the title, ‘discovered’ in a second-rate flamenco nitery in Madrid. The trio of discoverers: Humphrey Bogart as a writer-director and determined member of Alcoholics’ Anonymous; Edmond O’Brien, as a glib, nervous, perspiring combination of pressagent and (apparent) procurer; and Warren Stevens, the rich producer.
Gardner is ideal in her spot, looking every inch the femme magnetism around which all the action revolves. Bogart is splendid throughout, taking part quietly and with maximum effectiveness in the twists and turns of the intriguing story.
At times, Mankiewicz, the writer, seems over-generous in providing his characters with words.
Mankiewicz has been quoted as saying none of his characters is for real. This was in answer to suspicion that the moneybags producer might be an only slightly distorted mirroring of Howard Hughes.
1954: Best Supp. Actor (Edmond O’Brien).
Nomination: Best Story & Screenplay