A very strange title for a black and white movie as we have no possible way of telling what colour dress Ava Gardner wore in this rather muddled Spanish Civil War drama (other than from the poster!). The Angel Wore Red (1960) was filmed in and around Italy’s Cinecitta Studios, founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini. Based on a 1953 novel, The Fair Bride, by Bruce Marshall it was directed and adapted for the screen by Nunnally Johnson.
It tells the story of Father Arturo Carrera a parish priest who is concerned that the church cares more for modesty matters involving a women’s naked knee and elbow than it does for its poor parishioners. Who, as its 1936, are about ‘to experience the cruellest of wars: civil war’ an announcement made at the beginning of the movie. Arturo decides to take a different path and leave the confines of the church. It’s not long before this disillusioned cleric falls in love with Soledad a ‘working girl’ (Gardner), which puts his faith well and truly to the test. In the meantime the republican’s have ransacked their place of worship and killed or imprisoned the clergy and the nationalist groups are gathering on the outskirts of the town.
As well as Ms Gardner we have Dirk Bogarde playing the priest, Joseph Cotton as an American journalist with an eye patch and a box of false eyes whose character does not add much to the narrative. Italian actor Vittorio De Sica plays the Communist General Clave while Finlay Currie portrays the Bishop, but not for long! Not a particularly convincing Spanish civil war drama - mainly because of the casting. Its not as though they don’t do there best, its just that with Bogarde, Garner and Currie playing Spaniards its not particular convincing also the on screen love affair between a call girl and a priest is a little melodramatic. Originally released a year or so after it was made it never well at the box office and was allegedly ‘one of MGM’s biggest flops of the year’ .