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The Black Orchid

The Black Orchid(1959)

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According to contemporary news items, Joseph Stefano's screenplay was based on his own unproduced television script. Hollywood Reporter news items include Jane Rose, Dorothy Abbott, Rosa Rey and Virginia Vincent in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, director Martin Ritt hoped to enhance the film's realism by asking costume designer Edith Head to design only Sophia Loren's costumes, while the rest of the cast wore their own clothing. Because of limited shooting time in St. Paul's Catholic Church in Westwood, CA, modern sources add, Loren performed a wedding scene and a funeral scene on the same day.
       Most reviews praised the film, calling it similar to the 1955 picture Marty (see below). The Time reviewer, however, blasted the script: "The Hollywood sociologists have also investigated a specific minority group, the Italian-Americans, and have reached some unshakable conclusions: 1) many of them speak broken English, 2) most of them eat spaghetti, 3) some of them grow up to be gangsters."
       Broadway actor Jack Washburn made his only film appearance in The Black Orchid, playing the role of "Tony Bianco." The picture marked the screen debut of actress Ina Balin (1937-1990). The Black Orchid also marked producer Carlo Ponti's first Hollywood picture and the first of many American films he and Sophia Loren, his wife, made together. Loren won the Best Actress award for The Black Orchid at the Venice Film Festival. At the time of the festival, Hollywood Reporter news items reported that because Ponti's divorce from his first wife was not recognized by the Italian government, his September 1957 marriage to Loren was considered bigamous. When Loren came to Venice to attend the festival in September 1958, "all her available cash" was seized and she was ordered out of the country, according to Hollywood Reporter.