In this 1956 film directed by Anthony Mann, Mario Lanza romances two women -- one a socialite who jilts him and another a bullfighter's daughter who accepts him -- and rumbles the rafters with 15 songs. The love story is average; the singing is sensational. While all of the spine-tingling drama is taking place, the raison d'être of the film, the real reason Hollywood bothered to make it, presents itself. It is, of course, Lanza's voice, the voice exalted by tenors Placido Domingo and José Carreras and the voice credited with motivating tenor Richard Leech to pursue an opera career. During the film's two-hour running time, Lanza sings arias by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Giordano, Meyerbeer, Mozart, Cilea, and Richard Strauss, as well as popular songs by Sammy Kahn and Nicholas Brodzky. He also sings a beautiful, echoing "Ave Maria," by Franz Schubert, in a Mexican church. Unfortunately, Lanza lip-synchs his numbers, and sometimes his lips move behind or ahead of the words. Also, he gains weight during the film -- a not uncommon problem for him during the making of his movies, given his enormous appetite that would call for as many two dozen eggs and a pound of bacon for breakfast. Consequently, he appears svelte and slender singing one aria and porcine and puffy in the next. But the film works because it sings, and there was no other film star who could sing quite like Lanza.
by Mike Cummings review