Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac

****

Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Jose Ferrer won an Oscar in this faithful adaptation of Edmond Rostand's play about the 17th century swordsman with the super-sized snout. Cyrano de Bergerac is a man of many talents - duellist, wit, poet, philosopher. He can cut a man down at twenty paces with sword, or tongue. He also happens to own the largest nose in Paris. And what a schnoz it is.

"Think of me," he groans. "Me, whom the plainest woman would despise. Me, with this nose of mine that marches on before me by a quarter of an hour."

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How could anyone ever love a man with such a prominent protuberance? Certainly not the beautiful Roxane (Mala Powers), the great love of his life. How ironic that Cyrano, the silver-tongued romantic and eloquent wordsmith, can't bring himself to utter the very words that would melt Roxane's heart.

Enter dashing young guardsman Christian de Neuvillette (William Prince), one of Cyrano's new recruits. Christian has also fallen under Roxane's spell and Roxane, confiding in Cyrano, declares an interest in her young suitor. Christian, however, is no intellect. He looks good in his musketeer's uniform, but can't string two words together.

"I love you," he says, trying to woo Roxane. She wants more, wants him to seduce her with fancy words of love. Christian tries again, but the best he can come up with is, "I love you . . . very much."

Cyrano, hiding in the background, cringes, but he has a plan. Knowing that he will never win Roxane for himself, he settles for the next best thing. Christian will pursue Roxane, but Cyrano will pen his love letters and feed him lines. It's a win-win situation - Christian gets the girl and Cyrano gets to seduce his one true love, albeit vicariously.

Ferrer is outstanding in a role that he made his own (he also won a Tony for it on Broadway). His Cyrano is a mixture of contradictions, surly but selfless, conceited but painfully aware of his own shortcomings. It's a measure of his performance that we can see the real man behind the nose, even if Cyrano himself is blinded by it. When Roxane tells him she loves him - the one thing he has longed to hear all his life - he refuses to accept it. "When Beauty said I love you to the Beast, all his ugliness changed and dissolved, like magic. But you see, I am still the same."

This Cyrano might not be as lavish as the 1990 version, starring Gerard Depardieu, or as funny as Steve Martin's Roxanne, but Ferrer is a class act. Pity he didn't have the nose to sniff out too many decent roles later in his career - look at his CV and you'll see stinkers like The Swarm and Dracula's Dog.

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2004
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José Ferrer stars in this classic tale of the French swordsman with the prominent protuberance.
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Director: Michael Gordon

Writer: Carl Foreman, based on the play by Edmond Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker

Starring: José Ferrer, Mala Powers, William Prince, Morris Carnovsky, Ralph Clanton, Lloyd Corrigan, Virginia Farmer, Albert Cavens, Arthur Blake

Year: 1950

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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