Despite the egotistical rampages of star Mario Lanza, this fanciful version of the great tenor Enrico Caruso's life was completed and released and became a huge hit for MGM. Opening with the singer's birth in Naples, 1873, the film follows Caruso from his boyhood vocal virtuosity through
his lean days crooning in cabarets and on the street, on to his rapid rise as an opera star. Hailed as the world's greatest tenor, Caruso assaults America, and though he manages to insult prominent opera patron Park Benjamin (Carl Benton Reid) before his New York debut, the tenor still woos and
marries Benjamin's daughter, Dorothy (Ann Blyth). Together they bask in the glow of his spectacular career, until, at 47, Caruso comes down with a painful throat ailment and, refusing to give his voice a rest, collapses and dies during a performance of Flotow's "Martha".
THE GREAT CARUSO plays fast and loose with the facts (the screenplay was loosely based on Dorothy Caruso's biography of her husband, and she later regretted selling the rights to MGM), but the appeal of the film lies in Lanza's superb performance and the incredible 27 musical numbers that play
practically nonstop. Lanza's voice, according to some critics, was the equal of Caruso's, which Lanza knew and took great pains to point out. On the set, he was demanding, extravagant, and obnoxious. Tragically, Lanza's egotism and temperament would eventually undermine his film career, and he
would complete only one other film for MGM, BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE (1952), then walk out during the production of THE STUDENT PRINCE (1954), forcing the studio to replace him with Edmund Purdom, who lip-synched the songs the volatile tenor had already recorded. After three more films for other
studios, Lanza died in Rome at the age of 38.
The film won an Oscar for Best Sound Recording and was nominated for Best Color Costume Design and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. Musical selections include "The Loveliest Night of the Year" (adapted by Irving Aaronson, Paul Francis Webster, from "Over the Waves" by Juventino Rosas), "Vesti la
Giubba" (from "I Pagliacci" by Ruggero Leoncavallo), "M'Appari" (from "Martha" by Friedrich von Flotow), "The Last Rose of Summer" (Thomas Moore, Richard Alfred Milliken), "Celeste Aida," "Numi, Pieta," "La Fatal Pietra" (from "Aida" by Giuseppe Verdi), Sextet from "Lucia de Lammermoor" (Gaetano
Donizetti), "La Donne a Mobile" (from "Rigoletto" by Verdi), "Che Gelida Manina!" (from "La Boheme" by Giacomo Puccini), "E Lucevan Le Steele" (from "Tosca" by Puccini), "Sweethearts" (Victor Herbert, Robert B. Smith), "Because" (Teschemacher, Guy d'Hardelot), "Ave Maria" (Johann Sebastian Bach,
Charles Francis Gounod), and "Mattinata."
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- Review: Despite the egotistical rampages of star Mario Lanza, this fanciful version of the great tenor Enrico Caruso's life was completed and released and became a huge hit for MGM. Opening with the singer's birth in Naples, 1873, the film follows Caruso from his… (more)