02 November 2013

Casanova (1927)

In the next ten weeks, we will present you ten new film specials. Today we start with the silent classic Casanova (1927), directed by Russian director Alexandre Volkoff aka Aleksandr Volkoff. Starring as the well-known Venetian gentleman, lover, poet and inventor is the legendary Russian actor Ivan Mozzhukhin in his most famous role.

Iwan Mosjukin
Ivan Mozzhukhin in Casanova (1927). German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3948/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Ufa.

Ivan Mozzhukhin in Casanova
Ivan Mozzhukhin. French postcard by Europe, no. 175. Photo: Société des Cinéromans.

Always In The Service Of Women

Casanova shows Ivan Mozzhukhin at his best and his most light hearted. In the film he makes everything seem easy. As you can notice on the postcards, his name was spelled Ivan Mosjoukine in French, Iwan Mosjukin in German, and Ivan Mosjoukine in English.

The film is a far-from-accurate biopic of legendary Italian lover. Casanova  is episodic in structure, almost like a collection of short stories. Casanova bounces from one adventure to another, going on 'secret missions' from Venice to Austria to Russia and finally back to Venice again.

He is always in the service of women, as he puts it in a letter to a man he has good-naturedly robbed. In the end, all his romancing catches up with him, and he is forced to choose between two women.

Though partly shot on location in Venice, Casanova was a French-German production.

Director Alexandre Volkoff was one of a significant number of film industry exiles who fled Russia following the Bolshevik takeover. Volfkoff worked in France for many years, and also made films in Germany and Italy.

The film also presented a pan-European cast. Casanova's delectable females include for instance French actress Suzanne Bianchetti as Catherine II the Great, Italian diva Rina De Liguoro, and German star Jenny Jugo as the lovely Therese who finally captures the protagonist's heart.

Diana Karenne in Casanova
Diana Karenne. Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 133. Photo: Distr. S.A.G. Leoni.

Diana Karenne & Ivan Mozzhukhin in Casanova
Diana Karenne and Ivan Mozzhukhin. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 83/2. Photo: Ufa

Diana Karenne in Casanova
Diana Karenne. Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 928. Photo: Société des Cineromans / Micheluzzi-Verleih / Cine Alliance Film.

One Of The True Divas

Pictured on the Ross postcard above is a carnival scene in Casanova with the Italian lover and his catch Maria, the Duchess de Lardi.

Maria was played by Polish actress Diana Karenne, one of the true divas of the Italian silent cinema.
Between 1916 and 1920, Karenne fascinated European audiences with her eccentric dresses and make-up, and with her prima donna behaviour.

The scene on the postcard was shot near the Venice cemetery Isola di San Michele.

With its panoramic location photograph and its lavish re-creation of decadent 18th century Venice, the visual style of Casanova is wonderful. There is even one long scene filmed in colour. The public follows Ivan Mozzhukhin  through various chases, rescues, romantic liaisons, and hairbreadth escapes and this makes of this silent version of Casanova a spectacular, picaresque epic.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "The film ran into some curious censorship troubles in the U.S., and as result it was retitled Prince of Adventurers, with the main character rechristened as 'Roberto Ferrara'!"

Ivan Mozzhukhin in Casanova
Ivan Mozzhukhin. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 83/1. Photo: Ufa.

Rina De Liguoro & Ivan Mozzhukhin in Casanova
Rina De Liguoro and Ivan Mozzhukhin. Italian postcard by Ed. Vettori, Bologna, no. 3522.

Rina De Liguoro in Casanova
Rina De Liguoro. Italian postcard, no. 3519.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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