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A Countess from Hong Kong

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A Countess from Hong Kong
A Countess from Hong Kong.jpg
Movie Poster
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Jerome Epstein
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Marlon Brando
Sophia Loren
Music by Charlie Chaplin
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) January 5, 1967
Running time 120 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $3,500,000 (estimated)

A Countess from Hong Kong is a 1967 British comedy film and the last film directed by Charlie Chaplin. It was one of two films Chaplin directed in which he did not play a major role (the other was 1923's A Woman of Paris), and his only color film. Chaplin's cameo marked his final screen appearance. The movie starred Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Tippi Hedren, and Sydney Earle Chaplin, Chaplin's second son. The story is based loosely on the life of a woman Chaplin met in France, named Moussia Sodskaya, or "Skaya"[1] as he calls her in his 1922 book "My Trip Abroad". She was a Russian singer and dancer that "was a stateless person marooned in France without a passport." [2] The idea according to a press release written by Chaplin after the movie received a negative reception wrote that the film "resulted from a visit I made to Shanghai in 1931 where I came across a number of titled aristocrats who had escaped the Russian Revolution."[3]

It was originally started as a film called Stowaway[4] in the 1930s, planned for Paulette Goddard, but production was never completed. This resulting film, created nearly 30 years after its inception, was a critical failure and grossed US$2,000,000 (domestic) from a US$3,000,500 budget. However, critics such as Tim Hunter and Andrew Sarris, as well as the poet John Betjeman, viewed the film among Chaplin's best works, and Chaplin (although unhappy with the critical and audience reaction) considered it his greatest film at the end of his life.[citation needed]

The film's theme music, written by Chaplin, became the hit song This Is My Song for Petula Clark.

Plot summaryEdit

Ambassador-designate to Saudi Arabia Ogden Mears (Marlon Brando) sails back to America after touring the world. He meets Natasha, a Russian countess, (Sophia Loren) in Hong Kong after she sneaks aboard to escape being forced into prostitution. She has no passport and is forced to stay in his cabin during the voyage. However, Mr. Mears dislikes the situation, being a married man, however partially separated, and worries how it might affect his career if she is found. But he reluctantly agrees to let her stay. They then have to figure out a way to get her off the ship, and it is arranged that she marry his aged valet Hudson (Patrick Cargill). Although only a formality, Hudson wishes to consummate the relationship, which isn't wanted by her, and she avoids him, and before docking at port she jumps off the ship and swims ashore. Ogden's wife then joins the cruise, having just missed her. Ogden's lawyer friend Harvey (Sydney Earle Chaplin) who also helped arrange the marriage, meets Natasha and tells her that the immigration officers have accepted her as Hudson's wife. Ogden's wife then confronts him about Natasha, speaking rather roughly about her and the life she led. He then asks if his wife would have done as well under such circumstances. The film ends with Ogden and Natascha meeting in a hotel's cabaret and begin dancing with each other once again, since he has left the cruise and his wife behind. Charlie Chaplin makes two brief appearances as the ship's steward.

CastEdit

Actor Role
Marlon Brando Ogden Mears
Sophia Loren Natasha
Sydney Earle Chaplin Harvey
Tippi Hedren Martha
Patrick Cargill Hudson
Oliver Johnston Clark
Michael Medwin John Felix
John Paul Captain
Margaret Rutherford Miss Gaulswallow
Angela Scoular Society girl
Geraldine Chaplin Girl at dance
Charlie Chaplin An old steward

ProductionEdit

This was Chaplin's first film in ten years after 1957's A King in New York.

This is Tippi Hedren's first feature film after her break with director Alfred Hitchcock. She had high hopes for the film, until she received the script. When she realized that she had a small part as Brando's estranged wife, she asked Chaplin to expand her role. Although Chaplin tried to accommodate her, he could not, as the story mostly takes place on a ship, which Hedren's character boards near the end of the film. In the end, she remained in the film and later said that it was a pleasure working for Chaplin.

Chaplin's three eldest daughters appeared in the film: Geraldine (at minutes 46 and 1:05), Josephine and Victoria Chaplin (at minute 1:32).

It was filmed entirely at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, just outside London, in 1966. The film was the second of Universal's European unit, following Fahrenheit 451.

Video ReleaseEdit

The movie was not released on home video until 1996, with the VHS format as part of the Universal Cinema Classics series. Then in 2003 it was released onto DVD in widescreen format, and later re-released as part of the DVD set Marlon Brando: The Franchise Collection.[5]

ReceptionEdit

  • The New York Times review for March 17, 1967 stated that "if an old fan of Mr. Chaplin's movies could have his charitable way, he would draw the curtain fast on this embarrassment and pretend it never occurred."[6]
  • Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1995, gave it one and a half stars, stating that it was; "Badly shot, badly timed, badly scored."[7]
  • TV Guide gave the movie one star. With the comment, "a dismal, uninviting comedy."[8]
  • RadioTimes gave the movie two stars stating that; "it's all too staid and too stagey."[9]
  • The Harvard Crimson, for April 25, 1967 gave it a fairly good review saying: "Take the new Chaplin film on its own terms; contrary to all those patronizing critics, the old man hasn't really lost his touch, and Countess is a glorious romance."[10]
  • FilmCritic.com gave the movie three stars, however stated that; "the repetitive story (with Loren repeatedly running to hide in Brando's bathroom when there's a knock on the door) gets tiresome."[11]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Charlie, Chaplin (1922). My Trip Abroad. Harper & Brothers. pp. 127. 
  2. Milton, Joyce (1996). Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. Da Capo Press. pp. 192, 356. ISBN 0-306-80831-5. 
  3. http://movies.tvguide.com/countess-hong-kong/review/111578
  4. http://www.charliechaplin.com/biography/articles/21-Overview-of-His-Life
  5. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddvd&field-keywords=A+Countess+from+Hong+Kong Amazon.com's release dates for VHS and DVD formats
  6. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9401E0DA1539E53BBC4F52DFB566838C679EDE republishing of review for "A Countess from Hong Kong" by Bosley Crowther, at NYTimes.com
  7. Maltin, Leonard (September, 1994). Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1995. Signet. pp. 263. 
  8. http://movies.tvguide.com/countess-hong-kong/111578
  9. http://www.radiotimes.com/servlet_film/com.icl.beeb.rtfilms.client.simpleSearchServlet?frn=3575&searchTypeSelect=5 RadioTimes official republication of their review.
  10. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1967/4/25/a-countess-from-hong-kong-palong/ The Harvard Crimson official republication of their review.
  11. http://www.filmcritic.com/reviews/1967/a-countess-from-hong-kong/ Review of the film by Christopher Null, founder of FilmCritic.com

External linksEdit

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