The Barefoot Contessa

The Barefoot Contessa 
 
(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1954)
 
Rating: 3.5/5 
 
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
 
Summary: Joseph L. Mankiewicz guides Bogart and Gardner to glory in a surprisingly mysterious behind-the-scenes drama
 
Plenty of films have been made about the deplorable characters behind the scenes of Hollywood. Among the best is 1950’s flawless All About Eve which saw its writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz bag two Oscars for his script and guidance. 
 
A pseudo-sequel arrived four later in the form of The Barefoot Contessa in which fading writer/director Humphrey Bogart (perhaps a version of Manklewicz himself) travels to Madrid with a handful of rich and powerful men determined to bring back the next big thing. They find it in the woman of the film’s title, played with sultry detachment by Ava Gardner. Fame and glory soon follows but is inevitably followed by disparagement and tragedy. 
 
Intriguingly told in flashback through different narrators, there’s a touch of Citizen Kane and The List of Adrian Messenger as the mystery unravels. It’s a little hard to grasp on to the characters’ morals - this isn’t the most likeable troupe of Hollywood titans to spend your evening with. 
 
 
Power-crazed, emotionally vacant, greedy, jealous, obsessive and overbearing are just some of the traits you can expect to be welcomed with. But perhaps that’s the point. Hollywood is a cess pit - that’s what Mankiewicz is shouting between bites of the hand that fed him so well. 
 
The script has some searing lines (as you’d expect from Manklewicz) that are delivered excellently via a laconic Bogart, a simmering Gardner and to Oscar winning effect by Edmond O’Brien as the duplicitous PR guy.  
 
DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES:
 
1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
Optional 5.1 and uncompressed LPCM dual mono soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle
Original theatrical trailer
A collector's booklet featuring a new essay by Glenn Kenny; and rare archival material
 

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