La Morte Amoreuse


“Montez liked to take very hot baths and it was during one of these she suffered a heart attack at home in Suresnes, near Paris. She was aged 34. She was buried in a Catholic ceremony four days after her death.”

~ from Fade to Black, A Book of Movie Obituaries. For once, author Paul Donnelley fails to provide the morbid details we crave. Maria Montez, former Queen of Technicolor, had been suffering from depression and weight problems, and the cocktail of medication she was on may have helped hasten her demise. She was found in the tub by her husband, actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, who reported that she had sunk into the water until just the top of her head from her eyes up was visible — like Martin Sheen in APOCALYPSE NOW, or Venus rising from the waters of Venice in FELLINI CASANOVA.


This is a picture I took in Cannes after Fellini’s death — the giant head of Venus, normally on display at Cinecitta studios, had been shipped over to stand outside the Italian Pavilion, marking the solemn occasion.

Somebody once told me that Fellini’s fatal heart attack was triggered by his choking on a piece of cheese that he’d had smuggled into hospital against doctor’s orders, but I have no confirmation of this.

Talking of death:

Maria Montez nearly played Death. Cocteau was trying to raise a big budget for ORPHEE, to star Aumont and Montez, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming, so he slashed the budget and made the film with his friends Jean Marais and Maria Casares (no doubt his preferred choice anyway). Montez was very disappointed, and Aumont tried to cheer her up: “You’ll have other roles, more beautiful and charming ones to suit your personality.”

“But darling,” Montez protested, “Death should be beautiful and charming.”

It should.



5 Responses to “La Morte Amoreuse”

  1. And no mention of Maria Montez is complete without. . .

    That giant head is from Fellini Casanova — a late period masterpiece that has only recently begun to get the attention it deserves.

  2. We were just talking about it today, Fellini’s description of Donald Sutherland: “this sperm-filled waxwork with the eyes of a masturbator.”

    I think possibly the trickiest part of the film is the way Sutherland’s performance, and the film’s conception of Casanova, changes utterly from scene to scene. I love it, personally, although I could see how people might struggle to accept that. And yet I haven’t found any reviews that even mention it.

  3. Sutherland had rather a bad time with Fellini. Il maestro made the movie under duress as he was told that Casanova would be a slaeable subject for his sort of film. The more he read abotu him the less he liked him. He chose Sutherland because he looked like Casanova as rendered in drawings — and was a box office name. But he never felt simpatico with him the way he did with Marcello. So it was a tough time for all concerned. And in the end, IMO, this worked to Fellini’s benefit. He was for once dealing with a character that he couldn’t identify with. Fellini’s love of women is of course nonpareil. To him ALL woemen are beautiful — even when they’re nominally grotesque like Saraghina in 81/2. Here he had a number of lovelies, including Olympa Carlisi — with whom he was reprotedly involevd. Orginally he wanted Barbara Steele as well. But when the fascists broke into the lab to destroy Pasolini’s Salo, which was being made at the same time, they took parts of Casanova as well. Reshooting for Pasolini was easy. For Fellini less so. And so the Barbara Steele sequence he planned to shoot had to be cancelled. But the film works anyway creating an almost uncanny effect whose only precedent is the Powell-Pressburger Tales of Hoffman.

  4. Sutherland said the first half of filming was agony and the second half he loved. He did not get from Fellini the kind of directing he was used to, to say the least.

    Fellini claimed he had never seen a Sutherland film — despite being IN one.

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