The Yellow Rolls-Royce
|The Yellow Rolls-Royce|
|Directed by||Anthony Asquith|
|Produced by||Anatole de Grunwald|
|Written by||Terence Rattigan|
|Music by||Riz Ortolani|
|Editing by||Frank Clarke|
|Running time||122 minutes|
|Box office||$5.4 million (USA)|
Apparently adapting an idea from In Those Days, a 1947 German drama by Helmut Käutner that had its US premiere in March 1951, The Yellow Rolls-Royce uses a yellow 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II to frame the story of three very different owners: an English aristocrat, a Miami gangster and a wealthy American widow. It is set in the years up to and including the start of World War II.
Prompted by the production team's success with The V.I.P.s, the film boasts a similar all-star cast, including Rex Harrison, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley MacLaine, Omar Sharif, George C. Scott, Art Carney, Alain Delon and Jeanne Moreau.
On a flat bed lorry driven in the streets of London, a motor car is under a grey cover with the initials RR. The Rolls Royce is first purchased by Charles, Marquess of Frinton (Rex Harrison) as a 10th wedding anniversary present for his French wife, Eloise (Jeanne Moreau). Frinton is Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office. The marquess is a longtime horse owner who has his heart set on winning the Ascot Gold Cup. This year his horse, named 10 June (his wedding anniversary date; also the writer Terence Rattigan's birthday) is the favourite and does indeed win. Lord Frinton is presented the Gold Cup by King George V. However, his elation is blighted when he finds his wife with her lover and his underling, John Fane (Edmund Purdom) in the back of the Rolls with the shades drawn. For appearance's sake, Lord Frinton will not divorce his wife, but he returns the car.
20,023 miles later, Genoa, Italy — The Rolls, according to G. Bomba, owner of the Genova Auto Salon was “owned by a Maharajah, who lost his money at the San Remo Casino.” The Rolls is purchased by American gangster Paolo Maltese (George C. Scott). He is touring the sights of Italy with his bored fiancée Mae Jenkins (Shirley MacLaine) and his right-hand man Joey Friedlander (Art Carney). When Maltese returns to Miami to take care of some unsavory business, he leaves Friedlander to chaperone Jenkins. Friedlander turns a blind eye when she falls in love with Stefano (Alain Delon), a handsome young street photographer. Upon finding Jenkins and Stefano in the back of the Rolls with the shades drawn, Friedlander walks away. But he later shows Jenkins an eight-day-old American newspaper headline, Bugs O’ Leary Slain—Police Claim Gang Warfare, that was Maltese's business in the United States. Jenkins lies to Stefano, telling him that it was just a fling, to protect him from her lethal boyfriend.
Trieste on the Yugoslav border – the year, 1941 — The Rolls is in a repair shop. The car exterior is filthy with OCCASIONE (Second-Hand) painted on the windscreen. It is bought by Gerda Millett (Ingrid Bergman), a bossy, wealthy American widow touring Europe. Just before the Invasion of Yugoslavia by the Nazi Germans, patriot Davich (Omar Sharif) commandeers her automobile to sneak into Yugoslavia, hiding in the boot before the border crossing. Along the way, these two very different people fall in love. At their Ljubljana hotel, they survive a German aerial attack, then she insists on driving him to a partisan camp in the mountains and makes several trips to pick up more villagers and deliver them to the camp. She wants to stay and help repel the invaders, but Davich will not permit it, saying it is not her fight. He tells her to go back to America and tell people what she has witnessed. The car is seen being unloaded from a cargo ship in New York. During the end credits, it is seen driving along an expressway, passing beneath a road sign reading I-95, George Washington Bridge, Bronx – Next Right.
In early April 1964, Robert H. O'Brien, President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer informed the press about the upcoming Rolls-Royce project, with production set to start on 6 April. Along with the announcement, Anatole de Grunwald was assigned to produce the original screenplay by Terence Rattigan. By that time, Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine, Alain Delon, Jeanne Moreau, George C. Scott and Omar Sharif were already cast in the key roles.
Shooting took place in MGM's British Studios in London and on location in Italy.
The film's reviews were "tepid," but it performed "respectably" at the box office. According to The Sunday Telegraph, "anyone willing to be taken for a smooth ride could hardly find a more sumptuous vehicle, star-studded, gold-plated, shock-proof and probably critic-proof, too." Time magazine called it an "elegant, old-fashioned movie about roadside sex" that "looks worn at times," but is "always appropriately overprivileged in high-powered personalities and spectacular sets." The New York Times called it a "pretty slick vehicle, that is pleasing to the eye and occasionally amusing, but it hardly seems worthy of all the effort and the noted personalities involved."
The film grossed $5.4 million at the US box office, among the top ten films in box office receipts for 1965, a year in which Mary Poppins topped the list with $28.5 million. The film's producers also benefited financially from television's willingness to pay studios more for more timely broadcasting rights to new films: The Yellow Rolls-Royce got its television premiere on CBS in fall 1967.
- The Yellow Rolls-Royce at Music Hall: Three Stories Linked by Car's Ownership, a 14 May 1965 review by A.H. Weiler from The New York Times
- Article: The Yellow Rolls-Royce from Turner Classic Movies
- The Box Office: The Gross Is Greener, a 14 January 1966 article from Time
- Cinema: Back-Seat Romance, a 21 May 1965 review from Time
- "MGM Set to Roll With 'Yellow Rolls-Royce'". Lewiston Evening Journal. 4 April 1964. p. 4-A.
- Television, an 6 October 1967 article from Time
- Television: Every Living Room a Nabe, a 23 June 1967 article from Time
- The Yellow Rolls-Royce at the Internet Movie Database
- The Car That Became a Star at the Internet Movie Database, a promotional short subject for the film
- The Yellow Rolls-Royce at the TCM Movie Database