Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Diane (1956) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Lana Turner stars in the title role as DIANE (1956), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

In this fact-based historical drama, Turner plays Diane de Poitiers, Countess de Breze. When Diane's husband (Torin Thatcher) is convicted of treason against the French king, Francis I (Pedro Armendariz), Diane pleads to the king for her husband's sentence to be reversed.

The king agrees, but no good deed goes unpunished, and Diane's husband assumes she has stained the family honor in accomplishing his release.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but Diane did promise the king she would do him a favor when asked, and the king calls on Diane to prepare his second-born son, Henri (Roger Moore), to wed Catherine de Medici (Marisa Pavan). Henri is a bit of an uncouth ruffian, and Diane schools him in the niceties of court behavior.

Diane and Henri fall in love, but the wedding to Catherine must go on. Catherine is jealous of Henri and Diane's relationship, which continues after both the king and Henri's older brother (Ronald Green) have died. Catherine is suspected of having engineered the brother's death by poisoning so that she and Henri would be king and queen. Henri's future isn't promising either...it all ends in tears.

This is a so-so melodrama, made watchable chiefly by Turner's beauty and heartfelt performance; she sails through Diane's tragedies with dignity. Moore was still learning to act and is a bit awkward at times, although fortunately that rather befits his character. Pavan (who is now 86) is fairly wooden; granted, her character has had her love rejected and is somewhat emotionally repressed, but there's just not much to her.

Besides Turner, the movie's other chief attributes are widescreen color photography by Robert H. Planck, costumes by Walter Plunkett, and a score by Miklos Rozsa.

The film is somewhat stagy, taking place on a handful of sets, with frequent comings and goings of carriages in a courtyard. It's watchable enough but there's no one to root for, other than Turner and possibly Moore, and in the end one can't help thinking it should have been a better movie. It's all a bit dreary and sad. (And did they have to show a torture scene?! Ugh.)

The supporting cast includes Henry Daniell, Cedric Hardwicke, Michael Ansara, Sean McClory, Basil Ruysdael, Melville Cooper, and Taina Elg. Bit players include James Drury, Jamie Farr, Peter Hansen, Robert Dix, and Percy Helton.

The movie was directed by David Miller. It runs 110 longish minutes. It could easily have been 10 minutes shorter, especially if they cut out some of the entrances and exits from carriages!

The Warner Archive DVD is a fine widescreen print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

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