Hotel Paradiso

MPW-55650

HOTEL PARADISO was originally L’Hôtel du Libre Échange (Free Exchange Hotel), a scandalous comic play from 1894 France concocted by Georges Feydeau and his brother Maurice Desvallièrres. A hit, it was adapted into other languages, and had successful runs on Broadway in 1957 (with Bert Lahr and Angela Lansbury) and the year before in London, under the new title, starring Alec Guinness. When they got around to filming it Guinness was tapped again and this 98-minute feature version came out in 1966. *

Updated from the original shenanigans a few years to 1910, set in Paris, the script adaptation by the prolific, estimable Jean-Claude Carrier and director Peter Glenville has married but harried Guinness sneaking off with Gina Lollobrigida, who also needs a fling from her pompous husband Robert Morley. Of course Morley turns up at the rent-a-room hotel the increasingly frantic cuckolds choose (run by Akim Tamiroff), as well as other dallying couples, a bemused playwright and gendarmes.

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Director Glenville’s previous films were heavy dramas and his touch isn’t light enough for this kind of bon bon, despite game playing from the cast. He brought along composer Laurence Rosenthal and editor Anne V. Coates from his previous hit, Becket (not exactly light-hearted) and the well-appointed sets light up nicely through the camera of esteemed cinematographer Henri Decaë, but with all those credits it ends up sounding better on paper than it feels watching it. Coming out in the midst of movies knee-deep in hipness, the ads teased with pushing it as “The “inn” comedy of the year.” Frank Frazetta did the poster art.

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With David Battley, Anne Beach, Douglas Byng, Leonard Rossiter. Glenville cameos as as the playwright. Glenville had directed Guinness ten years earlier in the play: it’s the type of dated period material that would likely be more fun with a live audience. It’s certainly not bad, there are smiles and some laughs, plus it’s hard to fault the four leads: all-in though, a minor effort.

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* Georges Feydeau (1862-1921) wrote sixty plays, many still revived today, witty precursors of absurdist theater. His most famous, A Flea In Her Ear (movie version with Rex Harrison and Louis Jourdan in 1968) played in a theater in Belgrade from 1971 to 2013–1,600 performances. With success came high-living. Not enough to have a table permanently reserved at Maxim’s, Feydeau gambled madly, blew through his funds and marriage, contracted syphilis and went insane, dying at 57.

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