|Man of La Mancha|
|Directed by||Arthur Hiller|
|Produced by||Arthur Hiller|
|Written by||Miguel de Cervantes (novel)
Dale Wasserman (musical/screenplay)
|Starring||Peter O'Toole (singing voice dubbed by
|Music by||Mitch Leigh (musical)
Laurence Rosenthal (incidental music)
|Editing by||Robert C. Jones|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||December 11, 1972|
|Running time||130 min.|
|Country||US / Italy|
Man of La Mancha is a 1972 film version of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. The musical was suggested by the classic novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, but more directly based on Dale Wasserman's 1959 non-musical television play, I, Don Quixote, which combines a semi-fictional episode from the life of Cervantes with scenes from his novel.
The film was financed by an Italian production company, Produzioni Europee Associates, and shot in Rome. However, it is entirely in English, and all of its principal actors except for Sophia Loren are either British or American. (Gino Conforti, who plays the Barber, is an American of Italian descent). The film was released by United Artists. It is known in Italy as L'Uomo della Mancha.
The film was produced and directed by Arthur Hiller, and stars Peter O'Toole as both Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote, James Coco as both Cervantes' Manservant and Don Quixote's "squire" Sancho Panza, and Sophia Loren as scullery maid and prostitute Aldonza, whom the delusional Don Quixote idolizes as Dulcinea. Gillian Lynne, who later choreographed Cats, staged the choreography for the film (including the fight scenes).
Gino Conforti, as the barber, is the only member of the original Broadway musical cast to repeat his role for the film, though James Coco also played that role, briefly, on Broadway.
Cervantes and his manservant have been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, and a manuscript by Cervantes is seized by his fellow inmates, who subject him to a mock trial in order to determine whether the manuscript should be returned.
Cervantes' defense is in the form of a play, in which Cervantes takes the role of Alonso Quijana, an old gentleman who has lost his mind and now believes that he should go forth as a knight-errant. Quijana renames himself Don Quixote de La Mancha, and sets out to find adventures with his "squire", Sancho Panza.
Two changes are made to the storyline of the stage musical: one of them is the reason for Cervantes' imprisonment. The play begins with Cervantes and his manservant entering the dungeon, after which we learn that Cervantes incurred the wrath of the Inquisition by issuing a lien on a monastery that would not pay their taxes. But in the film's opening scene, we see a colorful festival in the town square, during which Cervantes stages a play that openly lampoons the Inquisition, thereby leading to his arrest on the spot. He and his manservant are then taken to the prison. Another change in the film occurs when the priest and Dr. Carrasco are sent to bring Don Quixote back home. In the stage version, they arrive at the inn and simply try to reason with him, but he pays no attention. In the film, in a scene directly inspired by Cervantes's original novel, an elaborate ruse is set up by Don Quixote's family. A man is brought in on a bier, apparently "turned to stone" through some enchantment. Don Quixote is told by the man's "relatives" that only he can break the spell, by fighting the dreaded Enchanter, Quixote's mortal enemy. This prepares us for the Enchanter's later appearance as the Knight of the Mirrors. The "stone man"'s so-called relatives are revealed to be Don Quixote's niece Antonia, his housekeeper, the priest, and Dr. Carrasco. (This means that the roles of both Antonia and the housekeeper are slightly enlarged in the film.)
According to both associate producer Saul Chaplin (in his memoir The Golden Age of Movie Musicals and Me) and Dale Wasserman (in his memoir The Impossible Musical), the film had a troubled production history. Originally, Wasserman, composer Mitch Leigh - serving as associate producer - and Albert Marre, who had directed the original show but had never before directed a film, were hired to make the motion picture, and original cast stars Richard Kiley and Joan Diener were screen tested in anticipation of the two actors repeating their stage roles. Because of a dispute with UA, however, Marre was fired, and Wasserman, Leigh, Kiley and Diener also left the project. British director Peter Glenville was then brought in (it was he who cast Peter O'Toole as Cervantes and Quixote), but was in turn also fired when it was learned that he planned to eliminate most of the songs. It was then that Arthur Hiller and Saul Chaplin joined the project. Hiller re-hired Wasserman to adapt his own stage libretto, although, according to Wasserman, the film's new opening sequence, showing the actual arrest of Cervantes before he enters the prison, was not by him. Writer John Hopkins, who most likely wrote the scene Wasserman refers to, had been brought in by Glenville, and had left when Glenville was fired. However, it has never been made clear whether it was Glenville or Hiller who cast non-singing actors Sophia Loren, Brian Blessed, Harry Andrews, Ian Richardson, and Rosalie Crutchley in the film, although it may be assumed that Glenville did, since he had tried to eliminate the songs and envisioned the film as a non-musical. Glenville had also previously worked with arranger/conductor Laurence Rosenthal, so it seems quite likely that the director also enlisted him to work on the music in the film.
According to the Turner Classic Movies website, O'Toole had been eager to work with Glenville, a friend of his, on the film and make it as a "straight" non-musical drama, but was highly displeased when Glenville was fired and replaced by Arthur Hiller, referring to him constantly as "little Arthur". However, according to Saul Chaplin's autobiography, O Toole generously assisted in the search for a voice double for his songs when he realized that the film was going to be made as a musical after all.
Although most of the roles in the film were played by British Shakespearean actors who were not noted for singing ability, the picture did feature several actors, among them Julie Gregg, Gino Conforti, and the muleteer chorus, who did have singing voices. It has never been made clear who cast the singing actors, but it is possible to speculate that they were selected by Albert Marre and Mitch Leigh and chose to stay with the project even after Marre and Leigh had left, especially since Gino Conforti had been a member of the original cast of the stage production, and Julie Gregg had also appeared on Broadway in a musical.
Saul Chaplin also explains in his book that the sets and costumes, designed by Luciano Damiani, had already been made by the time that he and Hiller were brought in to work on the film, which meant that Hiller could not have them altered.
The fact that the film had gone through several directors and screenwriters, and that Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren, who were not singers, had replaced Richard Kiley and Joan Diener in the leading roles, may have influenced the critics' reactions to the film at the time, although it has been proven by the success of films like The Wizard of Oz and Laura that a change in actors and directors need not affect the response to a film. Upon release, and for several years afterward, Man of La Mancha received overwhelmingly negative reviews, notably from Time Magazine, which not only did not consider the film worthy of a full-length review, but even threw in some criticism of the original stage production into the bargain. They referred to the film as being "epically vulgar", and called the song The Impossible Dream "surely the most mercilessly lachrymose hymn to empty-headed optimism since "Carousel" 's ' You'll Never Walk Alone". " Newsweek, in its review, opined that "the whole production is basted in the cheapest sentiment. Everyone gets a chance to cry over poor Don Quixote".
Roger Ebert, who gave the film two stars, stated: "Now it's almost obligatory to cast a musical with people who can't sing or dance - and make no pretensions to. At least when we were getting Natalie Wood, we were getting Marnie [sic] Nixon's voice. If there's anything worse than dubbing in the voice of a non-singer, its not dubbing the voice of a non-singer." Mistakenly assuming that Peter O'Toole sang his own songs in the film, Ebert went on: "What favor were they doing us when they let us hear Peter O'Toole sing? Richard Harris is better, and he's no good. He can't sing, that is, but at least he can read lyrics. O'Toole masticates them." 
On the other hand, Vincent Canby of the New York Times stated that the film was "beautifully acted", and both Peter O'Toole and James Coco received Golden Globe nominations for their performances. The film, according to Dale Wasserman in his autobiography The Impossible Musical, fared well financially in its first week, but ultimately did poorly at the box office. Over the last few years, however, the film's reputation has somewhat improved, as evidenced by favorable online reviews from writers such as Phil Hall, and viewers as well as critics are more responsive to it.
Mitch Leigh's Tony Award winning score is augmented in the film adaptation with discreet string orchestration by conductor Laurence Rosenthal, whose work was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Song Score and Adaptation. The original stage orchestration had used no strings other than guitar and string bass.
Two songs from the musical, "What Does He Want of Me" and "To Each His Dulcinea", were completely omitted from the film, as were two verses of "Aldonza" and the second verse of the deathbed reprise of "Dulcinea". The lyric of "It's All The Same" was partially rewritten by Joe Darion. The last few lines of "I Really Like Him" were also rewritten. Peter O'Toole's singing voice was deemed to be inadequate, and was re-recorded by Simon Gilbert. All the other actors did their own singing.
The film made a far more literal use of scenery than did the original show, in which detailed sets had to be imagined by the audience watching the play. The dungeon, rather than merely being "suggested" by the use of a drawbridge, an overhead grille to allow light inside, and a trap door, as it was onstage, was vividly shown in the film, complete with a water wheel which, when set into motion, allowed the drawbridge to be lowered. The windmill was likewise also shown, as was Don Quixote's fight with it (in the play, he simply looks offstage and runs off, and shortly afterwards pieces of his armor come flying back across the stage).
The plains of La Mancha (with the Italian landscape standing in for them), as well as the kitchen, the stable, and the courtyard of the inn were similarly shown, as was a view of the dilapidated-looking exterior of the inn from a distance. Don Quixote's bedroom and the exterior of his house were also shown towards the end of the film.
The locations of several songs were changed.
The only scenery from the play which was rendered on film exactly as on stage was the confessional, at which Antonia, the Housekeeper, and the Padre sing I'm Only Thinking of Him. The confessional was merely suggested by the use of boards to separate the three singers. Part of the reason that this scene was so literally transcribed from the play was so that the "chessboard" effect, which would have been impossible if a real church had been used, could be retained in the film.
The film presents a more faithful depiction of Don Quixote's armor, as described by Cervantes in the original novel, than did the original production of the play. Cervantes describes Quixote's armor as having a brownish quality because of rust, which is the way it appears in the film (in the original production of the play, it was silver, like most armor). In the film, before he begins using a shaving basin for a helmet, Quixote obviously wears a morion with a cardboard visor attached, as Cervantes tells us he did. As designed for the original stage production, his first helmet is simply a regular medieval one.
The film was criticized by some for having shabby-looking scenery in the Don Quixote scenes, but the design of both the windmills and the inn is remarkably faithful to that of the actual windmills and inns of that time in La Mancha. (There is a roadside inn still in existence that is, according to legend, one of the two inns that Cervantes describes in the novel.)
(First billed only)