Anna Magnani Columbine

Anna Magnani, The Golden Coach, directed by Jean Renoir
Anna Magnani (The Golden Coach)

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 LamontPaul 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


The Golden Coach

It is a different type of role for Miss Magnani, being the story of the adventures of an Italian theatre troupe in the New World

Anna Magnani, The Golden Coach, directed by Jean Renoir
Anna Magnani (The Golden Coach)

New York, January 1954. An English-speaking cast, Jean Renoir‘s production and beautiful Technicolor photography, make this Anna Magnani starring vehicle one of the best released here to date by Italian Films Export. It is a prestige item, opening in New York on a two-a-day, reserved seat policy, at advanced admissions, and could be the means of enlarging the American audience for Italian films.

It is a different type of role for Miss Magnani, being the story of the adventures of an Italian theatre troupe in the New World in the early part of the 18th Century, which restricts her to a more subdued but nonetheless impressive performance in this, her first English-speaking role.

The story concerns itself mainly with the Columbine of the company, Miss Magnani, and her three suitors. A swordsman and soldier is the first to desire her ; then the territory’s most famous bullfighter ; and finally the Viceroy, the ruler of the Spanish colony. The ending finds her more contented with theatre-life than with real life, though perhaps she’s a trifle sadder.

The title refers to the magnificent vehicle which the Viceroy owns and which he prefers to give to the common lady rather than place in the hands of his snobbish and hypocritical court. It is also the means by which the story has its pseudo-happy finale.

The cast is an Anglo-Italo-American one and the performers give good support to the star, with Duncan Lamont as the Viceroy perhaps having an edge. A quartet of writers fashioned the story and screenplay, including the director, Renzo Avanzo, Jack Kirkland and Giulio Macchi. The music which adds to the spirit and tempo of the film, is from the works of Vivaldi and some traditional airs from the Italian theatre. It is a Delphinus Hoche Production, produced by Panaria Films.

Jean Renoir: La Magnani è la quintessenza dell’Italia

mi ero fissato un compito molto preciso: fare un film con Anna Magnani

Anna Magnani Le carrosse d'or de Jean Renoir

(…) Devo aggiungere che mi ero fissato un compito molto preciso: fare un film con Anna Magnani. Volevo che questo film potesse valorizzarla senza per questo basarsi sugli elementi che, prima della nostra collaborazione, avevano contribuito al suo successo. Non ho bisogno di dirvelo: ammiravo senza riserve i risultati della sua collaborazione con Rossellini e con Visconti. La mia diffidenza nei confronti di queste realizzazioni aveva la stessa origine della mia diffidenza rispetto a Mérimée. La Magnani è la quintessenza dell’Italia. Ella è anche una personificazione assoluta del teatro, quello vero, con gli scenari di cartapesta, le lampade fumanti, gli orpelli degli ori scoloriti. Dovevo logicamente rifugiarmi nella commedia dell’arte e trascinare Anna con me in questa impresa. Dal momento che non si fa un film da soli, le proposi di aggiungere a noi un collaboratore. Fummo d’accordo su Vivaldi.

(lettera di Jean Renoir a Jean Vilar, 21 dicembre 1968)