Original movie poster
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Henry Blanke|
|Written by||Ivan Goff|
|Music by||Nicholas Brodszky|
|Cinematography||J. Peverell Marley|
|Edited by||William H. Ziegler|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$1,585,000 (US)|
Serenade is a 1956 film directed by Anthony Mann and starring tenor Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel (billed as Sarita Montiel), and Vincent Price. Based on the 1937 novel Serenade by James M. Cain, the film was a Warner Bros. release, Lanza's fifth film, and his first on-screen appearance in four years.
Serenade tells the story of poor vineyard worker Damon Vincenti (Mario Lanza), who becomes an operatic tenor, and is involved with two women — one a high society hostess, Kendall Hale (Joan Fontaine), the other a Mexican bullfighter's daughter, Juana Montes (Sara Montiel). The tenor has a breakdown because of his unrequited love for the society woman, but finds love (and a happy ending) with the Mexican girl. Highly melodramatic, the film features a great deal of operatic music, all of it sung by Lanza. Of note are the Act III Monologue from Verdi's Otello and an extract from the duet "Dio Ti Giocondi" from the same opera featuring Metropolitan Opera soprano Licia Albanese.
The movie differs greatly from the James M. Cain source novel. In the book, the male protagonist is John Howard Spring, a professional opera singer who has lost his voice and fled the United States to Mexico in a crisis of confidence after being sexually wooed (not unsuccessfully, though details are vague) by a male socialite and impresario. Juana Montes is a Mexican prostitute who sees Spring as gay and therefore a trouble-free partner to open a brothel with. But after having sex in a deserted church with Juana, Spring recovers his voice and his preferred sexual identity. The two lovers come into conflict with the local police and flee to Los Angeles, where Spring reestablishes his singing career, more successful than ever. But once they move to New York, the singer must struggle against the renewed blandishments of the gay impresario, whom Juana eventually murders with a torero's sword. As none of this material could be considered suitable for an American movie in 1956, the story's male impresario becomes female instead and the Mexican prostitute becomes a Mexican bullfighter's daughter.
The film made a purported loss of $695,000.