The theme song to this film, ‘Mona Lisa,’ has since become more iconic than anything else that appears onscreen; it’s still a tense and effective war movie. Based on a novel by Martha Albrand, this opens in a small Italian town during WWII as the battalion of Captain Carey is betrayed by an unknown source to the Nazis. Years later, Carey returns to root out the identity of the betrayer and discovers that his former lover Giulia, who he presumed to be dead, has become the wife of a rising politician, Baron Rocco de Graffi, with his own share of secrets. Produced on a relatively low budget at Paramount, this was directed by Mitchell Leisen towards the end of a string of hits launched by Death Takes a Holiday two decades before. He cuts back on the glitz and glamour associated with his previous melodramas, working with veteran cinematographer John Seitz to construct a gritty, violent tone which blends war movie conventions with those typically associated with noir. True, the theme song (which would later be translated into English and became a Nat King Cole standard) is the most memorable element of the film, though it’s also a taut and effective vehicle for star Alan Ladd. Fresh off a string of successful noirs like This Gun for Hire, Ladd can be a touch laconic as Carey but mostly succeeds at portraying a soldier who is still haunted by his wartime experiences. Wanda Hendrix is too bland as the girl whose memory has been the focus of his obsession, though Frances Lederer is effectively smarmy as her not-to-be-trusted husband; Celia Lovsky as an aging countess and Joseph Calleia as a local doctor lead the mostly unspectacular supporting cast. Not a classic, this is still worth watching for fans of war flicks and noir. AMC 513.
Alan Ladd…Captain Webster Carey
Wanda Hendrix…Baroness Giulia de Graffi
Francis Lederer…Baron Rocco de Graffi
Joseph Calleia…Dr. Lunati
Celia Lovsky…Countess Francesca de Cresci