London, December 1953
The Golden Coach resembles those expensive, gorgeously coloured cards depicting some exotic scene or object — a Venetian ball, an Audubon bird, perhaps as here an eighteenth-century coach, or Harlequin and Columbine.
Anna Magnani is not obvious casting as Columbine. Yet she becomes the only human reality of The Golden Coach. All else is a sumptuous riot of colour and costume music and movement, of the fierce white light supposedly of Latin America (actually of Cinecittà, Rome) or the fresh, clear blues and greens and reds of Harlequin’s and Columbine’s patchwork. For this dazzling frivol about the visit of a troupe of Italian players to Spanish America in the eighteenth century is as artificial as the Commedia dell’Arte, with English dialogue and Italian noises, including music by Vivaldi.
Freda Bruce Lockhart
In order to cut a deal of argument, the facts about this oddly international piece had better be made clear.
It was filmed in Rome by the Renoirs of France. Jean Renoir directed, while Claude Renoir was responsible for the photography. The star is Italy’s Anna Magnani, with Duncan Lamont, Paul Campbell and Ricardo Rioli in the supporting cast. The players, whatever their nationality, spoke their lines in English, as well as they were able. The version we see and hear in London is the original version. (French and Italian versions were later dubbed.)
The story, intelligently scripted in detail but rather loosely constructed, deals with the adventures of a Commedia dell’Arte troupe invited to perform at Viceregal Court in eighteenth-century Latin America. Magnani appears as the troupe’s leading lady, courted by three admirers; the Viceroy, a young officer whom she meets on the voyage, and a popular bull-fighter. The plot revolves round the proposed gift to her of a golden coach, the symbol of political power and favour.
The film has its elegancies. The Renoir‘s grouping lighting and arrangements of colours are the quintessence of good taste. The gracious music is by Vivaldi. But to me the of romance, of delicate enchantment that should have surrounded The Golden Coach was never securely woven. I found myself longing for a star like Edwige Feuillère, or Arletty, as we remember her in Les Enfants du Paradis. Anna Magnani, in the right – down – to- earth, bone – honest part, is one of the greatest of the greatest actresses; but I simply cannot see her as a femme fatale.
C. A. Lejeune