Lola Montès (1955)
Director: Max Ophüls.
Starring: Martine Carol (Lola Montes), Peter Ustinov (Circus Master), Anton Walbrook (Ludwig I, King of Bavaria), Henri Guisol (Horseman Maurice), Lise Delamare (Mrs. Craigie, Lola's mother), Paulette Dubost (Josephine, The maid), Oskar Werner (Student), Jean Galland (Private Secretary), Will Quadflieg (Franz Liszt), Héléna Manson (Lieutenant James' Sister), Germaine Delbat (Stewardess), Carl Esmond (Doctor), Jacques Fayet (Steward), Friedrich Domin (Circus Manager), Werner Finck (Wisböck, The artist).
love affairs with composer Liszt and King Ludwig of Bavaria
Spoiler Warning: Below is a summary of the entire movie.
The scene is at a circus. The Circus Master introduces Lola Montes who once danced naked. He asks the audience to ask questions of the infamous woman. No, she has no children. They collect donations for her charity: the Fallen Women's Legion.
Flashback. The famous composer Franz Liszt rides in a coach that is like a mobile home with his lover Lola Montes. Lola has her small coach follow the large coach. She explains that her coach is a possible means for any necessary escape. They stay the night at an inn. In the morning Liszt packs up his belongings and starts to leave. Lola asks him to at least give her a kiss before leaving.
Back to the present. The circus master explains to the crowd that Lola has had a rough past. Her father was a British soldier of the 44th Indian Foot. In 1830 her mother, now a widow, and Lola returned to Europe.
Flashback. With the mother came Lt. James, her father's one-time aide-de-camp. While the mother stays in a nice cabin, she forces her daughter to stay in the run-down dormitory section. Lola is very upset by her mistreatment, but her mother takes no pity on her.
The mother plans a marriage for Lola to an old rich man, a Baron. Lola starts to run away pursued by Lt. James. When he catches up to her, she uses her charms to convince the Lieutenant to marry her instead of her mother. But Lt. James does not prove to be a very good husband. He is often drunk and has affairs with various women. Lola leaves him to pursue a career as a ballerina. In 1841 she has a Madrid debut which proves an overwhelming success. She goes on to dance in Rome and Warsaw. In 1842 there is a big political scandal. General Paskevitch falls in love with her and his Cossacks grab her. The French ambassador comes to her aide and offers her his protection. Soon the two begin an affair.
Back to the future. A medical doctor comes to the circus to insure that Lola does not perform any risky acts in her performance. She has had a sore throat and has a weak heart. The doctor tells the owner of the circus that she is worn out. The circus master tells the crowd that Lola created still another sensation when she danced almost naked before the Sultan of Turkey. There was a new scandal in Ragusa when she was refused entry to the church because of her low-cut dress. In Tiovoli she created a scene when she found out that her lover, the conductor Claudio Pirotto, was married. She leaves the stage to slap Pirotto in the face several times and then tells his wife what a cad he is. She went on to become the first woman in Europe to smoke cigars. It was at that time that the circus master approached her to join the circus. He told her that, as the world's most scandalous woman, she could make a great deal of money for herself and for the circus. At that time, however, she was not interested.
Lola became a lover to the composers Richard Wagner and Chopin. She then became involved with the Grand Duke Of Hesse. After that she went on to reach her highest social level. She traveled to Munich in Bavaria. Along the way she picks up a young student and has sex with him in her coach. In Munich she auditions for the Royal Theatre, performing a Spanish dance, but she is not hired. She meets Ferdinand von Freiberg of the King's Regiment. Through him, she wants to meet the King of Bavaria. When Ferdinand is slow in introducing her to the King, she takes matters into her own hands and rides up to the King causing quite a stir among his guards. The King, however, grants her an audience. He tells her that she has no classical training. She becomes indignant and starts to tear her dress off. A needle and thread are called for along with the seamstresses.
Evidently, the affair of the dress impressed the King, because we next see him attending her performance of a Tarantella. After the show, the two come together again. A scandal begins. The king's aides speculate on how many lovers Lola has had. One man says that she has had 42+ lovers, although no one knows the exact number.
The King wants Lola to remain in Munich with him. So he tells her that she must stay until he can have a portrait painted of her. The King interviews many portrait artists and selects the one who says the painting sessions will take the longest. Various portraits are made of her and then the painter gets her to do a nude portrait. She poses nude for the painter and the King offers her a palace.
In Bavaria the students begin to lampoon the 61 year old King and his mistress. The claim is that Lola is an insult to Bavaria and to morality. They ask that she be expelled from Bavaria. A revolution begins. When the revolutionaries start to assault the King and Lola in her palace, the Prime Minister arrives to urge the King to return to the main palace. The King goes with the Prime Minister.
Some of the students, led by the young student Lola had sex with on the road to Munich, decide to save Lola from any harm. They help her escape from Bavaria. Her departure is met with a lot of approval for many people felt that by leaving she had prevented the outbreak of civil war in Bavaria. Her young student lover tries to convince her to go with him, but she turns him down. She tells him that she really did love the King, not just his power and wealth.
Lola now accepts the offer of the job at the circus.
Back to the present. The owner of the circus agrees with the demand of Lola's doctor that they use a safety net during Lola's performance. The circus master is told to remove the net. But he places the final decisions in the hands of Lola. The net is let down to the ground. It looks as if Lola is going to jump from a great height onto a soft platform and get very hurt in the process because she looks very weak and sick. The circus master promises the men that after her act they will be able to pay a dollar to see her up close.
Lola survives her performance and awaits the crowds of men who have lined up to pay their dollar to see her.
This is an o.k. movie. I did not know that a woman named Lola had created so many scandals in Europe. It was interesting to watch as her life unfolded. In a way, it reminded me of the movie Evita that told of the rise to political influence of a young Argentine woman through the use of her sexual attractiveness. But Lola was not really a political animal, whereas Evita was. I think one feels a little sorry for Lola who is partly a victim of political turns of fortune, whereas Evita was too strong of a person for one to feel sorry for her. The attractive Martine Carol did a good job as Lola Montes.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1821 -- Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert was born in Grange, County Sligo, Ireland.
1823 -- the Gilberts moved to India. Soon her father died of cholera.
1824 -- Mrs. Gilbert remarried. She sent Eliza back to Britain to live with relatives of her stepfather.
1837 -- at 16 years of age, Eliza eloped with Lieutenant Thomas James.
1842 -- Eliza and her husband separated. Eliza becomes an exotic dancer, using a stage name.
1843 (June) -- she debuted in London as Lola Montez, a Spanish dancer, but her performance was marred when someone recognized her. The notoriety helped her career. She became known for her "Tarantula Dance" and the expression "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets." She also began a career as a courtesan to wealthy men. Among her clients were Franz Liszt and Alexandre Dumas. She became known to the intellectual circle around the female writer George Sand.
1846 -- she traveled to Munich. She became the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
1847 -- the King makes her the Countess of Landsfeld. Lola became very unpopular among the people.
1848 -- a period of revolution in Europe. A movement in Bavaria forced Ludwig to abdicate. Lola fled to the United States, ending her years as a courtesan.
1851-1853 -- Lola was a dancer and actress.
1853 (May) -- Lola moved out to San Francisco, California.
1853 (July) -- Lola married Patrick Hull.
1853 (August) -- she moved to Grass Valley, California.
mid-1850s -- since her marriage was failing apart, Lola moved to Victoria, Australia. She earned her living by entertaining miners of the gold rush there.
1855 (September) -- she performed her Spider Dance at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne. She wore no underwear which shocked the "respectable" element so much that they stopped going to the theatre.
c. 1859 -- after nearly four years in Victoria, she moved to New York.
1860 (June 30) -- she had a stroke that left her partially paralyzed for a time.
1860 (mid-December) -- she walked with a slight limp. She turned to religion for solace.
1861 -- after contracting pneumonia, she died at 39 years of age. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, borough of Brooklyn, New York City, New York.
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