Black Magic (1949 film)
Black Magic is a 1949 film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's novel Joseph Balsamo. It was directed by the Russian-born Gregory Ratoff. Set in the 18th century, the film stars Orson Welles in the lead role as Joseph Balsamo, a hypnotist, magician, and charlatan who also goes by the alias Count Cagliostro, and Nancy Guild as Lorenza/Marie Antoinette. Akim Tamiroff has a featured role.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gregory Ratoff|
Orson Welles (uncredited)
|Produced by||Gregory Ratoff|
|Screenplay by||Charles Bennett|
|Based on||Mémoires d'un médecin: Joseph Balsamo|
by Alexandre Dumas
|Music by||Paul Sawtell|
|Edited by||Fred R. Feitshans Jr.|
James C. McKay
Edward Small Productions
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Budget||250,000,000 lire ($1.5 million)|
Alexandre Dumas, Sr. (Berry Kroeger) tells his son Alexandre Dumas, Jr. (Raymond Burr) the story of Joseph Balsamo (Orson Welles) aka Cagliostro. Through flashbacks we learn that Balsamo was a French gypsy boy who endured much hardship. He was tortured under the command of Viscount de Montagne (Stephen Bekassy) and his parents were ordered to hang. He was rescued by some gypsies led by Gitano and swears revenge on de Montagne.
Some years later, he learns the secrets of hypnosis from Dr. Mesmer (Charles Goldner). Ignoring the doctor's advice that he use his powers for healing, he exploits his new talent to the full, gaining wealth, fame and prestige. After changing his name to Count Cagliostro, he becomes famous throughout Europe.
Things begin to go downhill when he enters a plot to substitute a young girl called Lorenza (Nancy Guild) for Queen Marie Antoinette along with gypsies Gitano (Akim Tamiroff) and Zoraida (Valentina Cortese). The plot is organised by de Montagne in association with Madame du Barry. They plan for Lorenza to impersonate the Queen and buy a frivolous necklace.
Zoraida becomes jealous of Lorenza, who has fallen under Cagliostro's power, forgetting her true love, Gilbert. Gilbert runs away with Lorenza. Cagliostro recaptures her and marries her, hypnotised.
King Louis XV dies and Marie Antoinette becomes queen. She orders Cagliosto to leave the country. Cagliostro gets Lorenza to impersonate the Queen and pretend to be in love with de Montagne. He buys the necklace and the queen's reputation is damaged.
Zoraida brings Lorenza to Marie Antoinette and reveals Cagliostro's plot. Lorenza agrees to testify against Cagliostro, but at the trial, Cagliostro hypnotizes her into stating that she knows nothing. Cagliostro hypnotizes Gilbert into testifying against the queen.
However, Memser then uses the necklace to hypnotize Cagliostro into confessing. Cagliostro awakens from his trance and escapes with the hypnotized Lorenza. Gilbert pursues them and kills Cagliostro in a sword fight.
- Orson Welles as Joseph Balsamo a.k.a. Count Cagliostro
- Nancy Guild as Marie Antoinette / Lorenza
- Akim Tamiroff as Gitano
- Frank Latimore as Captain Gilbert de Rezel
- Valentina Cortese as Zoraida
- Margot Grahame as Madame du Barry
- Stephen Bekassy as Viscount de Montagne
- Berry Kroeger as Alexandre Dumas, Sr.
- Gregory Gaye as Chambord / Monk
- Raymond Burr as Alexandre Dumas, Jr.
- Charles Goldner as Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer
- Lee Kresel as King Louis XVI / Innkeeper
- Robert Atkins as King Louis XV
- Nicholas Bruce as De Remy
- Franco Corsaro as Chico
- Annielo Mele as Joseph Balsamo, as a child
- Ronald Adam as Court President
- Bruce Belfrage as Crown Prosecutor
- Alexander Danaroff as Dr. Duval / Baron von Minden
- Leonardo Scavino as Gaston / Beniamino Balsamo
- Tamara Shayne as Maria Balsamo
- Joop van Hulzen as Minister of Justice
- Peter Trent as Dr. Mesmer's Friend
- Giuseppe Varni as Boehmer
- Tatyana Pavlova as The mother
The movie was originally known as Cagliostro. Producer Edward Small went through a number of directors and stars in trying to get this film off the ground, starting in 1943. Charles Boyer was to star with Akim Tamiroff, and Irving Pichel directing, then in early 1944 J. Carrol Naish was reported to play Alexandre Dumas, Sr. Later that year, George Sanders was announced as the star with Douglas Sirk directing. Louis Hayward was also at one stage announced to star.
In 1947, Small was to make the film in Mexico, but dropped those plans when it turned out to be more expensive to shoot there than he expected – so the location of shooting was changed to Italy, where Small could use blocked lira. Small borrowed Gregory Ratoff, Frank Latimore and Nancy Guild from Twentieth Century-Fox and took over the Scalera studios in Rome from early October 1947 to late January 1948.
Charles Bennett, who wrote the script, said Jose Ferrer was supposed to play the lead but he demanded a three picture contract from Small who refused. Bennett later said Ratoff and Welles rewrote the film, but he admired Welles' performance.
Orson Welles said Small ("no mean master of suggestion, by the way") approached him "very cleverly with the role of Cagliostro. He waited til I had reread the Dumas novels and become so 'hypnotised' by the scoundrel that I felt I had to play him. Then Small announced casually, 'Gregory Ratoff is going to direct'. That cinched it. Gregory is a great friend, and more fun to work with than anybody I know."
United Artists were so enthusiastic about the film they agreed to distribute the film for 25% of the profits as opposed to their usual fee of 27 1/2%. Welles allegedly directed several scenes in the film, which was released on 18 August 1949.
- Variety (7 April 2018). "Variety (December 1947)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company – via Internet Archive.
- Variety (7 April 2018). "Variety (November 1947)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company – via Internet Archive.
- DRAMA AND FILM: Ann Blyth Adolescent Song Joust Contender College Professor Battling Illiterates; 'Cagliostro' Once Again Coming to Life Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 June 1943: 14.
- Andy Russell Touted as Mexico's Sinatra: Bing Crosby Will Fill Guest-Star Spot in Filmization of 'Duffy's Tavern' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Sep 1944: 10.
- HOLLYWOOD HITS JAPS: East and West Old Londontown VARIED HOLLYWOOD ACTIVITIES One Down, More to Go Title Problem By FRED STANLEY. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 Feb 1945: X1
- Looking at Hollywood.... Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 02 July 1943: 17
- CAGLIOSTRO' LEAD TO ORSON WELLES: Small Signs Actor for Film to Be Made in Italy With an American Cast By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 Sep 1947: 28.
- BURLESQUE' AGAIN TO BE MADE A FILM: Fox Purchases Screen Rights to 1928 Play -- Jessel Named to Produce New Version By THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 6 Sep 1947: 11.
- Europe Becomes Merely 'Location' to Hollywood Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 Feb 1948: D1.
- HISTORIC 'SET': Poor Benefit by Use of Roman Church in Film Rome. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Jan 1949: X4
- OUT OF A TRANCE By ORSON WELLES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 17 Apr 1949: X4.
- Variety (7 April 2018). "Variety (March 1949)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company – via Internet Archive.
- Black Magic at the TCM Movie Database
- All Over Town T. M. P.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 09 Nov 1949: 37.
- Orson Welles Pulls Mass Hypnosis Act on Us All Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 Aug 1949: B5.