The Story of Three Loves. 1953. USA. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, Gottfried Reinhardt. 122 min.
Screenplay by George Froeschel, Jan Lustig, John Collier. With Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Leslie Caron, Farley Granger, Moira Shearer, Pier Angeli. With its international A-list cast and European art house sensibility (an MGM sound stage passes for London, Rome and Paris), this seldom-screened omnibus film is a triptych of love stories told in flashback, each centering on a passenger aboard an American-bound ocean liner. The first concerns the tragic fate of a talented ballerina, The Red Shoes’ Moira Shearer (in her only American film), who dances beautifully to Frederic Ashton’s choreography for Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paginini under the possessive eye of James Mason—while the third, also directed by Gottfried Reinhardt, revolves around a trapeze duo (Kirk Douglas and Pier Angeli, both affecting) whose fortunes are likewise complicated by the risks of their art. At the center is Vincente Minnelli’s remarkable “Mademoiselle,” in which a boy is transformed into a young man by a witch’s spell, leading to an impossible romance with his governess (Ethel Barrymore, Leslie Caron, Farley Granger, and Ricky Nelson imbue the fairy tale with bittersweet tenderness, and Minnelli with ingeniously conceived color symbolism). “One of the great neglected pleasures of 1950s MGM….[The Story of Three Loves] testifies to the influence of patriarchal French existentialism on American pop culture” (Jonathan Rosenbaum). 35mm print from George Eastman House; courtesy Warner Bros.