Peter Ustinov wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this adaptation of his play, and, for once, here was a person who could wear all the hats without becoming a fool. The play opened in London in 1956, then went to New York with Ustinov in the lead. He took some time off from writing
to act in SPARTACUS (winning an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor) and also helped shape the script. The studio agreed to film this one in return, but only if he took Gavin and Dee, two Universal Studios contract players, as part of the deal. He agreed but was not thrilled with either of them,
although Dee came off well. Gavin eventually quit acting to go into politics and wound up Ambassador to Mexico in the Reagan administration. Ustinov is the leader of the small country of Concordia (not unlike the Grand Duchy of Fenwick in THE MOUSE THAT ROARED), a country so small that everyone in
the government must double in their jobs. The ambassador to the US is also Ustinov's chauffeur, the Minister of Communications runs the switchboard at the castle, and so on. Ustinov's country doesn't even get a spot on the map, but it does belong to the UN, and when Ustinov abstains from a
deadlocked vote and goes home, the structure of the United Nations is threatened. Both the Russians and the Americans go after his deciding vote and try to bribe him with aid. Tamiroff is the Russian ambassador to Concordia, and his handsome son is Gavin. Phillips is the US ambassador, and his
daughter is Dee. Ustinov fears offending either superpower and wants to be Swiss-like in his neutrality. He makes sure that Gavin and Dee meet and lets nature take its course. Gavin's Russian sweetheart, Cloutier, tries to break up the affair but fails. She's a staunch Red but comes to see that
life in the decadent West is not as horrifying as she'd thought. Both powers are lampooned as they embark on a pattern of wiretapping, espionage, and distributing bribes, but Ustinov reigns supreme and sees to it that Dee and Gavin get married, much to the annoyance of Tamiroff and Phillips. In
the end, happiness through love prevails.
It's a total farce, the scene for slapstick being set early in the opening sequence when Ustinov does all the voices of the delegates at the UN, voting "Yes" and "No" in the many dialects he commands in his throat. By playing cupid for the young couple, Ustinov hopes to set an example for Russia
and the US to settle their differences in peace and harmony. The interiors were made at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, and the little town of Todi doubled as Concordia. Todi is about 800 years old, sits 100 miles north of Rome, and was once an Etruscan city. What happened to this tiny town when a
large movie company descended on it to knock the economy into the stratosphere might make a movie on its own. Cloutier is Ustinov's wife, although this is the only movie of his in which she has appeared. She was a Canadian debutante who became a model, then an actress in Hollywood. After spending
some time in Charles Laughton's acting troupe in California, she went to France, joined the Comedie Francaise, then met Orson Welles, who cast her as Desdemona in his OTHELLO. In 1951, she met Ustinov and they began courting. He cast her in his play "No Sign of the Dove" in 1953 and they were
married the following year. She should have acted more often.
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- Review: Peter Ustinov wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this adaptation of his play, and, for once, here was a person who could wear all the hats without becoming a fool. The play opened in London in 1956, then went to New York with Ustinov in the lead. He… (more)