Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brando: A Countess from Hong Kong (1966)

Marlon, darling, dearest, I love you, but you have never been, will never be, a comedic actor. You are not Bob Hope or Bing Crosby, so falling flat on your face makes the audience rather wince instead of laugh.

With that made perfectly clear, A Countess from Hong Kong still manages to be pretty cute. Sophia Loren plays a woman whose parents were Russian nobility and fled to Hong Kong during the uprising when Czar Nicholas and his family were murdered. She was born in Hong Kong, but her parents died when she was only 13. Her life has been difficult and sordid. One night she is introduced to His Excellency Ogden Mears, the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia played by, you guessed it, Marlon Brando. After a wild night of partying, Ogden wakes up in his cruise cabin with a hangover and no memory of the voluptous Natascha who so impressed him the previous night. She minces out of the closet, and he nearly falls over the bed in shock. The ship has set sail, Natascha has no passport, and he has no way of easily keeping his reputation and still getting Natascha off the ship unseen.

And so begins a Charlie Chaplin directed film that sort of falls in the middle of both Chaplin and Brando fan's expectations.

The story is totally cute and fun, sort of like The Divorce of Lady X with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in 1938. It's just such a shame that Brando played Ogden Mears in such an uptight manner. I blame it mostly on the screenplay, though. There's a few scenes that are only described, like when Natascha nurses Ogden back to health after a severe bout of seasickness. However, the audience is not partisan to these scenes. Instead, we hear them talk about it. Before the seasickness Natascha and Ogden can barely stand each other, but afterwards they're well on their way to falling in love. What? Don't talk! Show me!

Despite all of this, I still own this movie and have no intentions of ever selling it. It's a cute, fluffy, somewhat faulty, piece of Chaplin directorial work and Brando acting that could have been so much better, but only ends up being average. Such a shame! *sniff*

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