The Barefoot Contessa
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|The Barefoot Contessa|
|Directed by||Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|Produced by||Franco Magli|
|Written by||Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|Music by||Mario Nascimbene|
|Editing by||William Hornbeck|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||130 minutes|
|Box office||$3.25 million (US)|
The Barefoot Contessa is a 1954 film about the life and loves of fictional Spanish sex symbol Maria Vargas. It was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and stars Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner and Edmond O'Brien.
Down on his luck, veteran movie director and writer Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) is reduced to working for abusive, emotionally stunted business tycoon Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens), who has decided he wants to produce a film to stroke his monumental ego. Looking for a fresh leading lady, they discover, in a Madrid night club, stunning dancer Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner), a blithe but proud spirit who likes to go barefoot and has a troubled home life.
Maria takes an instant dislike to Kirk but trusts Harry, whose work she knows. Thanks to his expertise and the help of sweaty, insincere publicist Oscar Muldoon (Edmond O'Brien), her film debut is a sensation. Kirk tries to control Maria's life by publicly ordering her to stay away from wealthy Latin American playboy Alberto Bravano (Marius Goring), but Maria rebels.
She is a great star, but Maria is not satisfied. She envies the happiness her friend Harry has found with his wife Jerry (Elizabeth Sellars) and wants a prince charming of her own. Alberto is too frivolous and shallow for her. When he berates her in public for supposedly ruining his luck at a gambling table, he receives a slap in the face from a stranger. This turns out to be Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini (Rossano Brazzi), who offers Maria his arm. They walk out.
Maria has found the great love of her life. They wed in a lavish ceremony, but there is a problem. The count and his spinster sister (Valentina Cortese) are the last of the Torlato-Favrinis; without offspring, the noble line will die out. Unfortunately, he is incapable of fathering a child because a war injury has left him impotent. He tells Maria about this on their wedding night.
Sometime later, Harry is in Italy and an unhappy Maria tells him about her husband and confesses that she is pregnant. She believes her husband will want this child and plans to tell him about it that night. However, her husband had suspected she was unfaithful and shoots her before she could tell him about the child. Harry arrives just as the shots are fired and does not tell the count about the pregnancy. The story ends (as it began) with flashbacks at her funeral.
- Humphrey Bogart as Harry Dawes
- Ava Gardner as Maria Vargas
- Edmond O'Brien as Oscar Muldoon
- Marius Goring as Alberto Bravano
- Valentina Cortese as Eleanora Torlato-Favrini (as Valentina Cortesa)
- Rossano Brazzi as Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini
- Elizabeth Sellars as Jerry
- Warren Stevens as Kirk Edwards
- Franco Interlenghi as Pedro Vargas
- Mari Aldon as Myrna
- Bessie Love as Mrs. Eubanks
- Diana Decker as Drunken blonde
- Bill Fraser as J. Montague Brown
- Alberto Rabagliati as Nightclub proprietor
- Enzo Staiola as Busboy
According to Turner Classic Movies, Mankiewicz based the film's central character of Maria Vargas on American movie star and dancer Rita Hayworth, who had been married to Prince Aly Khan. According to the audio commentary on the 1931 film Tabu, she was based on Anne Chevalier, an actress in that film.
The studio was about to release the film's poster with no image of Bogart, a contractual violation. Bogart had the matter rectified with the addition of a large line drawing of his face.
References in pop culture 
The Food Network cooking show Barefoot Contessa is named after Ina Garten's best-selling cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which in turn was named after her specialty food store which she bought in 1978. The store, which is no longer in operation, opened in 1975 and was named after the film.
A tour boat in the TV series Riptide was named Barefoot Contessa.
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
- Frank Miller. "The Barefoot Contessa". Turner Classic Movies. "The film's title character—a woman who rises from poverty to become an international sex symbol and marry into royalty while always keeping her feet in the dirt—bore some superficial resemblance to Gardner, who started life as a sharecropper's daughter. But Mankiewicz had really modeled the role on Margarita Cansino, the Latin dancer who achieved stardom as Rita Hayworth and briefly deserted the screen to marry Prince Aga Khan. There were incidents drawn from Gardner's life, however. Her character's relationship with the eccentric billionaire who discovers her was similar to Gardner's affair with Howard Hughes."
- Bosley Crowther (September 30, 1954). "The Screen in Review: The Barefoot Contessa Arrives at Capitol". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
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- The Barefoot Contessa at the Internet Movie Database
- The Barefoot Contessa at AllRovi
- The Barefoot Contessa at the TCM Movie Database
- The Barefoot Contessa at Rotten Tomatoes