GO NAKED IN THE WORLD—-“I’ll never get clean again!” says a disgusted Anthony Franciosa, literally wiping his hands of Gina Lollobrigida after discovering she is a call girl. He finds this out after bringing her to a party where a slew of the men attending ‘knew’ her, including his father (major bummer), played by Ernest Borgnine. They are Greeks, but since this is a movie they are GREEKS! (bring forth the passion). Gina’s lineage is not mentioned, but she clearly comes from the hills and valleys of VavaVoom.
Franciosa supposedly has just spent several years in the Army (“setting up missile bases in 14 countries”, so it wasn’t a total waste) and he’s clearly somewhat more worldly (about going naked) than Ricky Nelson or Tony Dow, yet we are asked to believe the 33-year old actor can’t put two and two together until it’s in front of 100 people (dancing like GREEKS!) and his mother (suffering like a GREEK!). Tony Franciosa could project a lot of emotions but naivete isn’t the first one that comes to mind. When casting, producer Aaron Rosenberg must have confused ‘boyish charm’ with ‘reptilian ooze’. *
The director, Ranald MacDougall, had adapted his screenplay from a novel by by Tom T. Chamales **, and he does have some good lines mixed into the 103 minutes of lust, gust and mistrust but he lacked the (insert colorful GREEK! word) to control Borgnine’s volume level, pitched somewhere between one of son Tony’s ICBMs and a surprised Triceratops. The character is supposed to be domineering but to suggest that trait Ernie simply bellows a good 75% of his dialog. He’s louder than Lee J. Cobb on speed.
The best performance comes from Gina, who digs in and gets some real hurt and pathos for her wounded hooker. Working girls were getting a lot of overdue dues at the time, with smash hits BUtterfield 8 ,The World Of Suzie Wong and Never On Sunday (GREEK!) On the heels (choice of words?) of her bedroom-eyed vamps in Never So Few and Solomon And Sheba, La Lolla takes the 1961 drama up a notch with a more sympathetic character here, and she gets credit for gamely plying wiles mixed with woe to work those eros corners like sister scamps Liz Taylor, Nancy Kwan and Melina Mercouri.
Intended as a scorcher, the movie was shredded by reviewers and lost $1,462,000 from an unconvinced (or call-girled-out) public, whimpering into spot #131 for the year. Apart from MacDougall’s unsteady direction (which had help rushed in from an uncredited Charles Walters), the film suffers from a lazily sappy music score by Adolph Deutsch, is flatly lit by cameraman Milton R. Krasner—the location work in San Francisco and Acapulco is not much better served than the obvious MGM studio sets—and is poorly edited. Tony falls in love with Gina after one night (then again, it is Gina Lollobrigida we’re sleeping with here, so who am I wagging an appendage at? He who is without sin…).
In support: Luana Patten (dealt two more duds that year in A Thunder Of Drums and The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come), Will Kuluva, Philip Ober, Nancy R. Pollock, John Kellogg, Nestor Paiva, William Smith (bit part).
* Well, maybe he was cornered: James Darren was busy sulking psychotically over The Guns Of Navarone, Warren Beatty was booked as Italian (ITALIAN!) for The Roman Spring Of Mrs.Stone and Barry Coe was confusing vowels with consonants preparing to mangle one of The 300 Spartans. Tommy Sands was playing the Annette
curves angles, who was the major babe of Babes In Toyland (Walt was sly) and Jeffrey Hunter was sermonizing on the mount as King Of Kings. The failure of this film damaged Franciosa’s burgeoning film career as a leading man. Ernie kept plugging away. Gina followed with a big comedy hit in Come September. Ranald MacDougall had a strong rap sheet as a screenwriter but it would be nine years before he would take the director’s chair again, on the cute western spoof The Cockeyed Cowboys Of Calico County.
** Fumes and flames from a cigarette fire ended Tom T. Chamales life at 36, a year before this film came out. The novel, his 2nd, had been called “No Rent in his Hand” before MGM changed the title to the more hopefully audience-snaring Go Naked In The World. His first book, Never So Few (movie adapted in ’58, with Gina and Frank Sinatra), was based on Chamales’ perilous WW2 service as one of “Merrill’s Marauders” and leader of a battalion of Kachin Rangers in Burma. A pal of James Jones and considered a major emerging talent as a writer of gritty, experience-based manstuff, he’d just left a visit with Ernest Hemingway before having that fateful smoke. Married to torch singer Helen O’Connell, Chamales was frequently in trouble for booze, brawling and domestic disputes, almost a parody of the tough-guy writer of the day (Mailer, Ruark, Shaw). From ‘No Rent/Go Naked: “Suddenly it seemed the whole panorama of his life was a race and he was running last…. There was something in him that had to come out. He had to find a way to get it out, to free himself of it. Something that would give him a chance to feel and know things. To blend all of the things which were in him: the matter, the spirit, the flesh.” The cigarette seems to have been the last spark on the proverbial candle burning at both ends. Rumor has it he left behind an unfinished 550-page saga entitled “Run and Call It Living.”