Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Sense Tennessee

It's the centennial of Tennessee Williams in just under a week (March 26th) and I'll try and at the very least join in with Nathaniel's 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' series this Wednesday - with a timely honouring of A Streetcar Named Desire this week - if nothing else. But, for today, I couldn't resist sharing a fascinating little titbit stolen from my university course and the one comment I found strewn in a dark corner of the web.

Farley Granger and Alida Valli in Senso...
Please, feel free to make funny in the comments.
Senso was screened in Italian, which shouldn't be particularly odd given that it's an Italian film made in Italy by Italian director Luchino Visconti (moving decidedly away from neo-realism) with Italian star Alida Valli in the leading role. But as my eyes split between reading the subtitles and scanning the screen, it became apparent that this had been filmed in English. (Well, did you really expect Farley Granger to learn Italian?) It obviously wasn't Farley Granger letting loose that frankly demented laughter, but Alida Valli's brief foray into Hollywood is familiar enough that I could tell she'd dubbed herself back into Italian. All very oddball, and rather distracting. Even weirder, when Senso finally surfaced in America fourteen years after it was made and released in Italy, it was dubbed into English.

But anyway. The point is, Tennessee Williams gets a screenwriting credit here, along with Paul Bowles, because he was hired by Visconti to work on the English-language version - indeed, likely the words that I could see but not hear being said. The helpful David Ehrenstein explains how this came about:

Because they just happened to be in Rome at the time. Libby Holman had run off with Bowles's Arab boyfriend and he got word that they were in Rome. So Tennessee joined him on his quest to get the boyfriend back. While trying to figure out what to do about Libby, Visconti hired them for Senso.

All that, plus the drama of art director Franco Zefferelli jealous because he though his ex-boyfriend Visconti was eyeing up Farley Granger. Cinema used to be the most fascinatingly gay place, didn't it? I sigh.


Paolo said...

My only experience of Farley Granger is from Rope, so I always saw him as the nerdy submissive one. So it's a surprise to see him so dashing in that still.

Ah, Italy, where Hollywood actors get their freedom.

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