Viva Maria!

Viva Maria! is a 1965 adventure comedy film starring Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau as two women named Maria who meet and become revolutionaries in the early 20th century. It also starred George Hamilton as Florès, a revolutionary leader. It was co-written and directed by Louis Malle, and filmed in Eastman Color. It was released in both French and an English-dubbed version.

Viva Maria!
Viva maria.jpg
Theatrical Poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Produced byÓscar Dancigers
Screenplay byLouis Malle
Jean-Claude Carrière
StarringBrigitte Bardot
Jeanne Moreau
George Hamilton
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyHenri Decaë
Edited bySuzanne Baron
Kenout Peltier
Les Productions Artistes Associés
Nouvelles Éditions de Films
Vides Cinematografica
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
18 December 1965
Running time
119 minutes
Box office$1,150,000 (est. US/Canada Rentals)[2]
$4 million (Foreign Rentals)[1]

Plot synopsisEdit

In 1907, in a Central American country called San Miguel, Maria II (Brigitte Bardot), the daughter of an Irish Republican anarchist, meets Maria I (Jeanne Moreau), the singer of a circus. After her father dies, Maria II hides in the circus where she sees Maria I's partner commit suicide after a failed love affair. Both Marias agree to form a theatrical team.

In her debut as a singer, Maria II accidentally invents striptease, an action that lets the circus achieve great fame. Shortly afterwards the Marias meet Florès (George Hamilton), a socialist revolutionary. He invites them to join his cause, a revolution against "El Dictador" (José Ángel Espinoza). But Florès is soon shot. On his deathbed he makes Maria I promise to carry through with his cause and she agrees. Though at first reluctant to acquiesce to Florès' and Maria I's endeavor, Maria II joins the cause when she comes to the aid of her vulnerable friend.

The rest of the film concerns the revolution. After Maria I leads her men into an ambush, and Maria II saves them, the women create a peasant army, organizing the countryside into a quasi-Socialist state. There are numerous sight gags and comic actions.

Preparing to take the capital city, the Marias are captured by Catholic churchmen who fear the disorder of a revolution and want to stop the people from treating the women like saints. After a bungled attempt to tickle torture them (the Inquisition's equipment is too old to work well) the Marias are rescued by their victorious army. Finally they move to France, where the circus is recreated as a successful musical version of the revolution. The women now wear dark wigs to look more "Latin American".


[W]ith Viva Maria!, which aims at being little more than a fancifully photographed tale of two turn-of-the-century dance-hall girls who cheer up a Latin American revolution, Moreau saw a chance of expressing one of her firmest beliefs. 'Films have never shown the kind of relationship that can exist between two women,' she says. 'Men like to think that women must be constantly jealous of each other, never trusting, never in rapport. That is not true, of course, certainly not today. This film could show that.'

— Time magazine cover story on Moreau, March 5, 1965[3]



According to Jeff Stafford of Turner Classic Movies, "Malle's idea [was] to take a buddy movie and subvert it. For inspiration, he instructed Carrière to consider the Gary CooperBurt Lancaster relationship in Vera Cruz (1954), which was a favorite Western of the two collaborators. By replacing the traditional male protagonists with two strong females, Viva Maria! not only worked as an amusing gender twist on a popular formula, but was seen in some quarters as a political statement.

Malle said German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder later told him that Viva Maria! fascinated him and his fellow students at Berlin University. Malle recalled, 'It was a time of those radical student movements, and they saw in the heroines the two different approaches to revolution.'"[4]

Malle conceived of the film as "a sort of burlesque boxing match—sexpot v. seductress";[5] he got the film financed on the condition that Moreau commit to the project.[6]

The male lead was George Hamilton, whom Malle cast on the strength of his performance in Two Weeks in Another Town. Malle said "he was a personal choice and I am happy with him... He's more interested in being in the social columns – I don't understand – when he should be one of the greatest of his generation."[7]


Moreau and Bardot became "like two pals in the army" after 16 weeks of principal photography in Mexico,[8] including Texcoco.[5]

Filming started 18 January 1965.[9]

An extra was killed during filming when he fell off an ox cart.[10] Filming was also held up when Bardot fell ill.[11]

The dialogue is in English, French, Spanish, and German, depending on the actor. The French version includes extensive English subtitles.[citation needed]



Time called it a "jaunty but slipshod farce"; "Having saddled himself with an idea that often seems too silly for words, Director Malle rides to the rescue with more anti-state, anti-church, antedated spoofery than he can gracefully handle. His rhythm is erratic, as though he were trying to make a movie in five or six different styles at the same time, none wholly his own. But even the deadly slow stretches are redeemed by cameraman Henri Decaë, whose breathtakingly sophisticated photography is a show in itself, imperceptibly shaded as the action moves from lush Rousseau tropics to the cabaret scenes that exude a smoky golden haze in which Moreau and Bardot appear like creatures of Lautrec or Degas, ineffably alluring."[12] According to Variety, the film has "B.B. in her best form since And God Created Woman, and brilliantly matched by Jeanne Moreau. They are backed by a rollicking, comic adventure opus impeccably brought off by director Louis Malle."[13]

Box officeEdit

The film was a box office hit in France with 3,450,559 attendees.[14] It was the ninth most popular film of 1965 in France, after The Sucker, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Gendarme in New York, Mary Poppins, Fantomas Unleashed, God's Thunder and The Wise Guys. [15] It grossed $875,000 in rentals in the U.S. and $4,875,000 in rentals worldwide.[citation needed]

In Dallas, Texas, the film was banned for its sexual and anti-Catholic content; the ban was lifted by default in 1968, when the United States Supreme Court struck down the ban and limited the ability of municipalities to ban films for adults in Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. City of Dallas.[16]

In 2010, Viva Maria! was exhibited at the 21st Ankara International Film Festival as part of a "Power and Rebellion" programme.


Both Moreau and Bardot were nominated for Best Foreign Actress at the 20th British Academy Film Awards; Jeanne Moreau won the award.

Home videoEdit

MGM/UA released Viva Maria! on VHS in February 1994.[17]

The last minute of the movie, depicting the women singing a song in Spanish on stage, was cut after the film's New York premiere. MGM Technical Services archivist John Kirk was able to restore this final scene to the laserdisc release in 1998.[18] The version shown on MGM's This TV cable channel includes the scene.


The film was adapted into a newspaper comic in 1965, drawn by Julio Ribera.[19]

See alsoEdit

  • Bandidas, a 2006 comedy sometimes compared to Viva Maria![20]


  1. ^ a b Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, p. 281
  2. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  3. ^ "Making the Most of Love". Cover story. Time. March 5, 1965. p. 9 of 10. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  4. ^ Jeff Stafford. "Viva Maria!". Articles. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  5. ^ a b "Making the Most of Love". Time. March 5, 1965. p. 10 of 10. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  6. ^ "Making the Most of Love". Time. March 5, 1965. p. 8 of 10. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  7. ^ Thomas, Kevin (June 29, 1965). "He Blunted U.S. Blue Pencil". Los Angeles Times. p. C8.
  8. ^ "People". Time. June 4, 1965. Retrieved 2011-10-24. After 16 weeks together, filming Louis Malle's Viva Maria! in Mexico, les girls hadn't come close to a blowup—even for publicity—and now they seemed downright cozy. "We get along like two pals in the army", murmured Moreau fondly.
  9. ^ A.H WEILER (Nov 22, 1964). "New York: 'Shirley' Is Due In Town". New York Times. p. X9.
  10. ^ "Movie Extra Killed". Chicago Tribune. May 26, 1965. p. c11.
  11. ^ "Bulgarian general at reception". The Guardian. Apr 29, 1965. p. 11.
  12. ^ "Carnival in Brio". Time. December 31, 1965. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  13. ^ "Viva Maria! (France – Italy)". Variety. 1965. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  14. ^ Box office information for Viva Maria at Box Office Story
  15. ^ "1965 Box Office". Box Office Story.
  16. ^ Jonathon Green; Nicholas J. Karolides (2014-05-14). Encyclopedia of Censorship. p. 697. ISBN 9781438110011. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  17. ^ Peter M. Nichols (February 18, 1994). "Home Video". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-24. On Wednesday, MGM/UA will release a 35th-anniversary edition of William Wyler's Ben-Hur...and 10 other films by prominent directors, each available for the first time on tape. Here are some of them. Each is $19.98.
  18. ^ Glenn Erickson (1998). "Technical Services rescues an ending for a famous, fun French frolic". DVD Savant. Retrieved 2011-10-24. Louis Malle's charming fantasy adventure, Viva Maria! has been released letterboxed on laserdisc by Image Entertainment, and it's a dazzling treat to behold...By contacting the French source of the film, [MGM Technical Services archivist John] Kirk located and restored another minute's worth of footage, the missing Spanish song performed onstage back in Paris, where the two apparently famous guerilleras/chanteuses have returned to capitalize on their scandalous adventures.
  19. ^ "Julio Ribera".
  20. ^ Joe Leydon (January 10, 2007). "Bandidas (France-Mexico-U.S.)". Variety. Retrieved 2011-10-24.

External linksEdit