Story of Three Loves The (1953)
Co-directed by Vincente Minnelli (Gigi (1958)) the middle segment & Gottfried Reinhardt the first and third segments with some adaptation and writing credited to George Froeschel (Mrs. Miniver (1942)) this three part film tells different stories thinly connected by at least one person from each as a passenger on an ocean liner: three time Oscar nominee James Mason twice nominated Leslie Caron and three time Best Actor nominee Kirk Douglas. The first segment features Mason as a ballet producer who discovers a true artist in weak hearted Moira Shearer; the second (and weakest) segment has Caron playing a nanny who is temporarily romanced by Farley Granger; the third the longest & best segment finds Douglas perfectly cast as an athletic intense man that becomes involved with Pier Angeli’s character after she’d attempted suicide. Overall this anthology is only slightly above average but it does include performances from several other fairly well known character actors: four time Best Supporting Actress nominee Agnes Moorehead; Ethel Barrymore (None But the Lonely Heart (1944)) Zsa Zsa Gabor & Ricky Nelson; and Richard Anderson respectively.
The film begins with Charles Coutray (Mason) being approached by a fan whose words cause him to reflect on the greatest ballet artist he’d ever known. Each of the rest of the segments begin this way also with Caron and then Douglas reflecting on something from their recent pasts. At the end of each segment the film returns to this passenger and segues to the next with the return to Douglas’s character ending it. Coutray remembers Paula Woodward (Shearer) the niece of an ex-prima ballerina (Moorehead) whom he saw auditioning one day for one of his ballets. Woodward’s ability to capture the moment in effect becoming one with the music to represent the very art itself was spoiled when she fell to the floor whereupon he returned to his conversation and preparatory work. We then learn from her doctor through a scene with her aunt that Paula has a weak heart which makes it impossible for her to pursue her dream so she gives it up. Later she watches from a box failing (if she was even attempting) to conceal her melancholy as she watches the ballet’s opening night. Long after everyone has left she awakens from her daze to realize that it’s over but decides to venture onto the stage. She then performs a capella her interpretation of the ballet’s “Rhapsody On a Theme of Paganini”. Unknown to her Coutray has witnessed it and is captivated. Though she is hesitant he persuades her to return with him to his studio apartment where after changing into costume she performs again. It’s a life fulfilling experience for both of them and they briefly kiss. But as he starts to make plans for her future on stage while she is presumably changing back into her fancy clothes Paula sneaks out and runs home to tell her aunt what had transpired. Back on the cruise ship Coutray’s face expresses his loss.
Caron’s character overhears another woman lamenting the fact that she’s a governess which harkens the mademoiselle back to the last day & night when she was taking care of a wealthy couple’s son Tommy (Nelson). The boy is frustrated by all the school work and the mademoiselle and wishes he were ten years older. When another boy challenges his courage saying the pampered student would be too scared to go see an old woman thought to be a witch Tommy takes him up on it and ends up meeting Mrs. Hazel Pennicott (Barrymore). Pennicott is aware of the rumors about her witchcraft and after learning about Tommy’s desire to be older offers to help him like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother did. She tells him how to use a red ribbon she gives him to transform himself into a young man until midnight that evening. Impatient to try it out he rushes home and offends the mademoiselle who exits his bedroom in tears. He then becomes Thomas (Granger) who briefly flirts with a woman (Gabor) in the hotel’s bar before he finds the mademoiselle’s book of poetry in the garden. He reads a passage out loud as he hadn’t been able to as an eleven year old and the nearby mademoiselle hears him. They have a brief innocent romance before the bell begins to toll and Thomas must rush home but not before promising to meet her at the station the next day. Of course he does but he’s eleven again. Before he can tell her anything his father (Hayden Rorke uncredited from TV’s I Dream of Jeannie) pulls him onto their departing train. Pennicott who’s also there has a few words with the mademoiselle and then gives her the other half of the red ribbon. Back on the ocean liner Caron’s character is pensive then must retrieve the windblown ribbon she’d been fingering.
Pierre Narval (Douglas) hears a man say “people often don’t know what they want and they’re darn lucky if they ever find out and some never do”. This causes him to remember the day he rescued Nina Burkhardt (Angeli) from the Seine the river in Paris she’d jumped into to kill herself. Later when he visits her at the hospital he learns that her husband was killed in a concentration camp. He also learns that she’d once been a ski jumper at Innsbruck. When she says “it’s all about balance and timing” it gives him and idea. We learn that he used to be a great trapeze artist until he’d failed to catch his partner that had fallen in love with him and thus lost her concentration. Anderson plays his piano playing brother in a family (including his “girlfriend”) which otherwise doesn’t seem to support Pierre’s desire to return after two years to the sport of his passion. However given the opportunity to begin a whole new life for herself Nina arrives to submit herself to Pierre’s patient tutelage. She’s a quick learner and soon they are ready to schedule an exhibition before the circus’s money men. Unfortunately Nina’s past catches up with her – a man who knew her husband arrives and gives her a package which causes her to lay in her bed quietly responding to no one. Eventually Pierre learns the source of her guilt and the real reason for her attempted suicide he also declares his devotion to her. When he returns to the trapeze he is in his street clothes though he can’t resist doing a few stunts with his “catcher” Jacques (Ken Anderson uncredited). Nina arrives and it is decided that “the show must go on”. Now they must run through their routine for Legay (Steven Geray uncredited) et al to be signed as an act but of course Jacques informs Pierre that Nina’s timing isn’t what it once was. Some climactic acrobatics follow but I’m not telling you how this segment or the film itself ends either.
Though I’ve given much of the plot above I’ve also (intentionally) left out some key concluding elements from each segment such that your viewing of this film will not be completely “spoiled”. Plus though I’ve included this film in the “obscure” section of my website because of the lack of Internet reviews available for it it did receive an Academy Award nomination for Color Art Direction-Set Decoration.