The Black Orchid (1959)

94-96 mins | Drama | March 1959

Director:

Martin Ritt

Writer:

Joseph Stefano

Cinematographer:

Robert Burks

Editor:

Howard Smith

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

According to contemporary news items, Joseph Stefano's screenplay was based on his own unproduced television script. HR news items include Jane Rose, Dorothy Abbott, Rosa Rey and Virginia Vincent in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, director Martin Ritt hoped to enhance the film's realism by asking costume designer Edith Head to design only Sophia Loren's costumes, while the rest of the cast wore their own clothing. Because of limited shooting time in St. Paul's Catholic Church in Westwood, CA, modern sources add, Loren performed a wedding scene and a funeral scene on the same day.
       Most reviews praised the film, calling it similar to the 1955 picture Marty (see below). The Time reviewer, however, blasted the script: "The Hollywood sociologists have also investigated a specific minority group, the Italian-Americans, and have reached some unshakable conclusions: 1) many of them speak broken English, 2) most of them eat spaghetti, 3) some of them grow up to be gangsters."
       Broadway actor Jack Washburn made his only film appearance in The Black Orchid , playing the role of "Tony Bianco." The picture marked the screen debut of actress Ina Balin (1937—1990). The Black Orchid also marked producer Carlo Ponti's first Hollywood picture and the first of many American films he and Sophia Loren, his wife, made together. Loren won the Best Actress award for The Black Orchid at the Venice Film Festival. At the time of the festival, HR news items reported that because Ponti’s divorce from his first ... More Less

According to contemporary news items, Joseph Stefano's screenplay was based on his own unproduced television script. HR news items include Jane Rose, Dorothy Abbott, Rosa Rey and Virginia Vincent in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, director Martin Ritt hoped to enhance the film's realism by asking costume designer Edith Head to design only Sophia Loren's costumes, while the rest of the cast wore their own clothing. Because of limited shooting time in St. Paul's Catholic Church in Westwood, CA, modern sources add, Loren performed a wedding scene and a funeral scene on the same day.
       Most reviews praised the film, calling it similar to the 1955 picture Marty (see below). The Time reviewer, however, blasted the script: "The Hollywood sociologists have also investigated a specific minority group, the Italian-Americans, and have reached some unshakable conclusions: 1) many of them speak broken English, 2) most of them eat spaghetti, 3) some of them grow up to be gangsters."
       Broadway actor Jack Washburn made his only film appearance in The Black Orchid , playing the role of "Tony Bianco." The picture marked the screen debut of actress Ina Balin (1937—1990). The Black Orchid also marked producer Carlo Ponti's first Hollywood picture and the first of many American films he and Sophia Loren, his wife, made together. Loren won the Best Actress award for The Black Orchid at the Venice Film Festival. At the time of the festival, HR news items reported that because Ponti’s divorce from his first wife was not recognized by the Italian government, his Sep 1957 marriage to Loren was considered bigamous. When Loren came to Venice to attend the festival in Sep 1958, “all her available cash” was seized and she was ordered out of the country, according to HR . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Feb 1959.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Film Daily
22 Jan 1959
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1959
pp. 22-24.
Harrison's Reports
24 Jan 1959
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1958
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 1958
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1958
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1958
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1958
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1958
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 1958
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1958
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 1958
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1959
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Jan 1959
p. 124.
New York Times
13 Feb 1959
p. 33.
The Exhibitor
28 Jan 1959
p. 4553.
Time
2 Mar 1959.
---
Variety
28 Jan 1959
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and introducing
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hair style supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Casting dir
Scr supv
Dial coach
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1959
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Philadelphia, PA: 4 February 1959
Chicago opening: 11 February 1959
New York opening: 12 February 1959
Washington, D.C. opening: 19 February 1959
Production Date:
3 February--late March 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
30 December 1958
Copyright Number:
LP12870
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
94-96
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19016
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After her husband Tony is murdered by gangsters for his role in a bank robbery, Rose Bianco, having emigrated from Italy to marry Tony, recalls their wedding day, when she danced gaily with him and told him about the beautiful house she wanted. Now widowed, Rose takes a job making imitation flowers to support herself. One evening, while wrapping flower stems at home, Rose is interrupted by her nosy neighbor, Giulia Gallo. Giulia invites Rose over to meet Frank Valente, a widowed family friend who has become enamored of Rose and comments that because of her mourning attire, she reminds him of black orchids. Distraught over her son Ralphie, who was caught robbing parking meters and placed in a state work farm, a bitter and withdrawn Rose rejects Giulia's invitation. Frank, whose daughter Mary is preparing to marry and move to Atlantic City, is undeterred and begins speaking to her as she works on her back porch, but Rose ignores him. Later that night, Frank brings her some food from Giulia and asks to accompany her when she goes to visit her son on Sunday. During Rose's visit to the work farm, an official named Harmon warns Rose that if Ralphie attempts to run away again, he will be sent to a reform school. While Frank waits outside, Ralphie makes Rose cry by saying that he hates the work farm and implying that she is responsible for his unhappy situation and his father's death. The following weekend, Frank takes Mary to a surprise wedding shower given by her friend Alma Gallo, after which he meets Rose for ice cream. Frank tells Rose that after Mary's ... +


After her husband Tony is murdered by gangsters for his role in a bank robbery, Rose Bianco, having emigrated from Italy to marry Tony, recalls their wedding day, when she danced gaily with him and told him about the beautiful house she wanted. Now widowed, Rose takes a job making imitation flowers to support herself. One evening, while wrapping flower stems at home, Rose is interrupted by her nosy neighbor, Giulia Gallo. Giulia invites Rose over to meet Frank Valente, a widowed family friend who has become enamored of Rose and comments that because of her mourning attire, she reminds him of black orchids. Distraught over her son Ralphie, who was caught robbing parking meters and placed in a state work farm, a bitter and withdrawn Rose rejects Giulia's invitation. Frank, whose daughter Mary is preparing to marry and move to Atlantic City, is undeterred and begins speaking to her as she works on her back porch, but Rose ignores him. Later that night, Frank brings her some food from Giulia and asks to accompany her when she goes to visit her son on Sunday. During Rose's visit to the work farm, an official named Harmon warns Rose that if Ralphie attempts to run away again, he will be sent to a reform school. While Frank waits outside, Ralphie makes Rose cry by saying that he hates the work farm and implying that she is responsible for his unhappy situation and his father's death. The following weekend, Frank takes Mary to a surprise wedding shower given by her friend Alma Gallo, after which he meets Rose for ice cream. Frank tells Rose that after Mary's birth, his wife became mentally ill, then later died. Next, he mentions that he would like to buy a little house near his business in Somerville and asks her to marry him. To his great surprise and joy, Rose accepts, but Mary, who is worried about her father marrying a gangster's widow, rushes home and confronts him, whereupon Frank assures Mary that nothing can threaten his love for Rose. At the work farm, Frank takes a walk with Ralphie and asks for his mother's hand in marriage. Ralphie is pleased at the news, and overjoyed upon learning that he will be allowed to live with the couple. Although Mary and her fiancé Noble have plans to live in Atlantic City, Mary insists that they move in with Frank, as she believes that it was his loneliness that drove him to seek out Rose. Exasperated, Noble sends Mary home, where she finds Frank and Rose kissing. In a fit of pique, Mary locks herself in her room for several days, just as her mother had done. Insisting that Frank stay with his daughter, Rose breaks off their engagement. Later, Rose learns that Ralphie has again escaped from the work farm. On Sunday, Frank goes to church to pray for Mary and Ralphie, while Mary decides to stay home to wait for Noble's call. During mass, Ralphie enters the church and is surprised to learn that Frank's problems, not Rose's, have ended their engagement. Meanwhile, Rose visits Mary and, admitting that her greed led to her husband's demise, begs her to allow Frank some happiness. Eventually, Mary relents and invites her to stay for coffee. Soon, they begin cooking breakfast, and when Frank enters the kitchen, he is thrilled to see them getting along. He informs Rose that he returned Ralphie to the state farm and talked Harmon out of sending him to reform school. When Noble enters, the two couples sit down to breakfast. Sometime later, Frank and Rose fetch Ralphie from the work farm, and the three set out for their new home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.