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21 March 2015

Les amants de Vérone (1949)

Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers Of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) is a French film loosely based on the William Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet. The film, starring the young Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani as the two star-crossed lovers, was a joint project of screenwriter Jacques Prevert and director André Cayatte and became a great international success. It was released in France and Italy in 1949, then internationally in 1951. The series of sepia collectors cards in this post must date from the same period.

Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani.

Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949).

Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949).

Stand ins


The story of Les amants de Vérone is set in post war Italy.

The two lovers are Angelo (Serge Reggiani), a young glass-blower from the island of Murano, and Georgia Maglia (Anouk Aimée), the pretty daughter of a Fascist nobleman who no longer enjoys the power he had during the war.

Angelo and Georgia meet when they become stand-ins for the stars of a film version of Romeo and Juliet being shot on location in Venice.

They fall in love and their affair parallels the Shakespeare tragedy. Their romance is challenged not by modern-day counterparts to the Montagues and the Capulets, but by the lovers’ own heightened sensitivities to their social differences.

Another difficulty is the scheming of Rafaële (Pierre Brasseur), the Magia family's ruthless consigliere.

In the end, Angelo is killed and Georgia dies at his side.

Anouk Aimée in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Anouk Aimée.

Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Anouk Aimee and Serge Reggiani.

Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949).

Caressing the two star-crossed lovers’ faces


Anouk Aimee was only 17 when she starred in Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers Of Verona (1949), and she was already on her way to enticing audiences with the mystifying grace with which she filled the screen.

Martine Carol played Bettina Verdi, the star of the film version of Romeo and Juliet, Louis Salou interpreted Ettore Maglia, the fascist magistrate, and Marcel Dalio was his brother, Amedeo Maglia.

At AllMovie, Hal Erickson writes that “Following the worldwide success of Lovers of Verona (...), director Andre Cayatte was given what one historian has described as 'carte blanche' in the French film industry; put simply, the man could do no wrong.“

One of the strong points of the film is that it was shot in Italy. In 1951, Bosley Crowther wrote a critical review in the New York Times in 1951, but he concludes: “However, as we say, the scenery — the beauty of Verona and the Venetian canals — is beautiful and exciting. That is always something to see.”

Another highlight is the atmospheric cinematography: Henri Alekan's camera seems to caress the two star-crossed lovers’ faces. It surely helped to make Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani two of the most enduring stars of the European cinema.

Serge Reggiani and Anouk Aimée in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani.

Marianne Oswald, Marcel Dalio, Serge Reggiani and Pierre Brasseur in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Serge Reggiani and with Marianne Oswald and Marcel Dalio at left and at right Pierre Brasseur.

Serge Reggiani in Les amants de Vérone (1949)
French collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949) with Serge Reggiani.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Bosley Crowther (The New York Times), TV Guide, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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