"Naked Lunch": Anthony Franciosa and Gina Lollobrigida meet cute (and fully clothed) in "Go Naked in the World."
Hi Keebah, movie lovers.
Have you ever heard of the novel La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Duma, fils?
Of course you have!
However, if by chance you haven't, here's a brief run down:
Marguerite Gautier is a wildly successful French courtesan (AKA high end hooker). One night at a party, she meets a slightly younger man named Armand and the two fall madly in love. Just for the record, courtesans don't fall in love. However, Marguerite and Armand are too far gone to realize that, so they quit Paris and shack up together in the country.
A typical book cover for The Lady of the Camellias or Camille for short.
Marguerite has a bad cough, but of far more importance is how Armand's family reacts to this hot new romance. Specifically, Armand's dad fears that his son's entanglement with Marguerite will sully the family name. With her cough growing worse by the day, Marguerite gives into societal pressure and breaks it off with Armand. Needless to say, he's crushed, especially when he's told his cuddlemate dumped him for another man.
Eventually Armand learns the truth--AND that Marguerite is dying (of what, we are never told. However, most people believe it's Consumption. Another theory is Camille is dying of Syphilis. Romantics, for obvious reasons, dismiss that theory. More about it later.) He rushes to her side and all is forgiven. The cuddlemates declare their undying love. Marguerite lets out one final, hacking cough and drops dead in Armand's arms. The end.
Yes, La Dame aux Camellias (or just Camille) is swoony and a bit preposterous. Never the less. this tale of ill-fated love has inspired plays, ballets, operas and even films--Greta Garbo played Camille herself in 1936...and so did Gina Lollobrigida...sort of...in a Camille inspired hack job called "Go Naked in the World", released in 1961 by MGM studios, which is, by sheer coincidence, our featured flick.
Julie Cameron (Italian bombshell Gina Lollobrigida) is "the highest priced woman in captivity" (AKA high end hooker). She lives in San Francisco before it was infested with hippies and (later) snooty, over-paid tech workers. As the film begins, Julie is on the arm of a rich, grey-haired "gentleman caller", dressed to the nines in a Helen Rose gown, fur stole and long gloves. The two have just entered a chic night club when Julie's "date" must take "an important phone call"--"Probably from his wife," she sighs.
Moments later, her "date" returns, telling Julie that he must leave.
Returning GI Nick is stunned when he catches a glimpse of Julie--or maybe he just got a peek at his bar bill.
"I hate to leave you alone," he says sadly.
Julie pats his hand reassuringly and says, "Darling, I haven't been alone ten minutes since I was 12."
She's not exaggerating, either! Within seconds, Nick swoops in to introduce himself.
"Do you mind?" he asks.
"Yes, I mind," Julie retorts.
"I am NOT pleased to make your acquaintance": Julie and Nick are formally introduced.
Then shifty maitre d' Argus (Will Kuluva) tells Julie that Nick is the son of super-wealthy blow-hard Pete Stratton (Ernest Borgnine). However, Nick has no money of his own.
"Still, fun's fun," Julie shrugs, and she waives Nick over.
"I've been waiting for you," she purrs. "Shall we leave?"
Nick agrees to leave. Once Julie stands up, her breasts are exactly level to Nick's bugging eyes.
"Well, leave something on me," Julie coos. "I might catch cold!"
"The Naked City": Nick and Julie out on the town.
The smitten kittens depart for a beatnik joint where they sip Espresso and exchange flirty banter.
He: "Do you like me?"
She: "Yeah, but I'm wondering why."
After more Espresso, Julie tells Nick she's a widow. He assumes her hubby died in "the great big war."
"No," she replies. "In bed." (EWW!)
"The Naked and the Bed": Julie in the milky after glow.
Eventually Nick and Julie head back to her place and spend a sheet-twisting night in the sack--viewers don't actually see this (it's 1961, after all), but it's implied. Anyway, the next morning, Nick pours them coffee and juice and proves to be an obnoxiously chipper "morning person." He also has no idea what Julie does for a living--even though her telephone rings constantly and her fridge is empty except for champagne and olives. Unfortunately, when Julie tries to explain herself, thick-as-a-brick Nick doesn't get the hint.
"I have a certain kind of life," Julie begins. "I don't get involved with men, usually...I don't want any man to become necessary to me..."
When Nick protests that they have "something special", Julie counters that "I don't believe in Santa Claus or in love! That's what love is to me--trouble!"
However, when Nick says he doesn't believe in Santa Claus either, Julie gets angry and kicks him out. Still not taking the hint, Nick agrees to leave, but says he'll call later so they can go out.
Of course, Nick calls and calls, but Julie refuses to answer the phone. She becomes one unhappy hooker, realizing she loves Nick. Then Nick barges into her apartment while Julie is doing her nails. He browbeats her into admitting their love and the cuddlemates fall into a passionate embrace. A swoony montage of Nick and Julie, um, "enjoying each other" follows. Soon enough, Nick suggests they get married. Julie is hesitant and Nick, naturally, has no idea why. What's more, Nick insists Julie attend his parents' 30th anniversary party with him. She reluctantly agrees.
"Haven't we met before?": Julie and ex-client Pete Stratton (Ernest Borgnine) exchange uncomfortable glances. Nick and his mom don't seem to notice.
The second Julie arrives at the Stratton's anniversary bash, decked out in yet another Helen Rose gown, all the men in the room collectively wet their pants. Having sampled Julie's charms over the years, these guys cannot have their wives in the same room with a hooker! After all, they're happily married men! They bombard Nick's hard-driving, blow-hard dad to send Julie packing before the jig is up.
Practically yanking his kid's arm out of it's socket, Pete yells at Nick, "Get that broad out of here!"
When Nick states that they are in love and plan to marry, his dad pops a blood vessel and screams, "Love?! We're talking rent! There's a dozen men in this room that know that call girl better than you--including me, you dumb kid!"
Horrified by the news, Nick drags Julie back to her place, her throws her on the floor and demands, "Tell me all about it!" Julie tearfully admits that she "sells herself". Thoroughly repulsed, Nick wipes his hands and wails, "I'll never get clean again!" Sobbing hysterically (but not mussing her make-up!) Julie tears Nick a new one: "What bothers you so much?! The idea that I've known other men before you?! Is that it? Or is the idea of your father being one of them!?!" She then points out that she warned Nick to "stay away" and that she never "took anything" from him. "All I did was give!" Julie cries.
This cuts no ice with Nick, who sneers, "I want to be like all the rest! I want to have a hard time remembering your name!" Then he throws a wad of cash in Julie's face and stomps off.
"Can you make change for a $50 ?": Julie finally tells Nick what kind of working girl she is.
Devastated to learn his honey bunch is San Fran's premiere hooker, Nick goes on a bender and winds up in a flea bag motel (with a lovely bay window). Drowning his sorrows in alcohol, Nick wails to his father, "I'm hooked by a hooker!" Dad Pete tries to slap some sense into his son by telling him, "The only thing you owe a woman like that is money." Finally getting a grip, Nick agrees to go home, shower and join pops in their construction business. No matter how hard he tries, though, Nick can't get Julie off his mind. So he arranges with Argus to set up a "date" with Julie "for a friend". The two meet at the appointed hour and BAM! they cannot deny their love. So the only thing left for the smitten kittens to do is run off to sunny Acapulco and plan their wedding.
At first, everything south of the border is great. Julie and Nick have a super hotel room, they eat out every night, Nick plays the guitar and Julie has never been happier. Then reality rears it's ugly head when Borgnine shows up. While Nick is out water skiing, Stratton pleads with Julie to end it with his son. What kind of a future could Nick have married to an ex-hooker? Pete asks. Julie reluctantly agrees. So she breaks it off with Nick, packs her bags and leaves.
Of course, ex-hookers, even regretful ones, can't just sally forth into the sunset. Although the Motion Picture Production Code was on its last wobbly legs when "Go Naked in the World" was released, Julie still had to pay for her shameful life choices. Thus, the producers whipped up a final act worthy of their wacky, would-be weeper. It goes like this:
Julie tells Nick they're through. Next, she goes to a sleazy bar to get bombed. Then Nick walks into the same sleazy bar. To drive Nick away and prove to him her hooker ways will never leave her, Julie engages in a drunken cha-cha with some sleazy bar patrons. Nick tries to break it up, but a riot ensues and Nick is arrested. Julie, however, is assaulted by the sleazy bar patrons. The next morning, we see poor Julie staggering around the back streets of Acapulco, dragging a black scarf. She suddenly comes upon a white dress hanging on a wash line. The white dress symbolizing the proper life Julie never led, she pulls it off the line and leaves the black scarf in its place. Back in her hotel room, Julie puts on the dress, walks to the balcony railing and does a swan dive into the ocean below.
Moments later, Nick arrives calling her name. He notices a crowd gathering on the beach below. Horrified, he runs down to the beach, pushes his way through the gathering throng...and finds Julie, deader than a door nail. "Julie! Julie!" Nick wails, as a policeman gently pulls him aside. Someone in the crowd throws a wreath of flowers on her corpse. As the police carry her body away, Nick clutches at a few blossoms that have fallen by the wayside. As if by magic, dad Pete arrives and embraces his son. As the music swells, father and son walk away, while the ocean waves gently lap over a few stray flowers left behind.
"Naked Kiss": Nick and Julie are so happy they could plotz.
Now, if you are still not convinced that "Go Naked in the World" is a low-rent hack-job on Camille,
here are a few more points to take into consideration:
*Camille earned her nickname "Lady of the Camellias" because she always tucked a white camellia in the front of her dresses. This let her patrons know she was OK to have sex with. On the other hand, if she tucked a red camellia into her dress, it meant she was menstruating and otherwise off limits. Meanwhile, in Julie's apartment, there is a big painting of her wearing a white dress holding a white camellia!
* Julie and Nick and Marguerite and Armand meet at parties.
* In Camille , Marguerite and Armand run off to the French countryside; in "Go Naked in the World", Julie and Nick head off to Acapulco.
"Father Knows Best?": Dad Pete convinces Julie hookers make bad wives.
* Both Nick and Armand have pushy dads who worry about the family name and firmly believe their sons marrying ex-hookers will never wash in polite society.
* Both Marguerite and Julie die as "punishment" for their shameful pasts. Earlier I said Marguerite is believed to have died of Consumption, although some scholars suggest she really had Syphilis--which would explain why Armand later died, too. Romantics, of course, don't like that theory. However, it is historically possible, I'm just saying...
* Both Marguerite and Julie were high end hookers with many rich "clients". Neither one was interested in love, but love proved their undoing.
* In the TV movie "Hollywood Madame" (reviewed in this very blog), the hooker played by Melody Anderson falls in love with one of her clients and they get engaged. At a family dinner, the groom-to-be's uncle recognizes Melody and informs his nephew. The couple break up and Melody goes on a booze bender just like Nick, proving hookers and their clients can fall in love with each other.
* In the film "The Poseidon Adventure", it's revealed that Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens met when he was a cop and she was a hooker. I wonder if Ernest used his experience making this film to "inform" his later characterization...but I doubt it.
Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Franciosa over act even in the movie's lobby card!
Thus, as a "modern" update of Camille, "Go Naked in the World" is a dud. As a movie in it's own right, "Go Naked in the World" is a dud. Ann Marsters of the Chicago-American newspaper described the flick as "an offensive story told in a vulgar, cheap, shallow manner." Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times carped that "Go Naked in the World" was "long, maudlin, heavy-handed and as loaded with cliches as January is loaded with icicles." However, it wasn't just critics from the Windy City that hated the movie; Bosley Crowther from the New York Times sneered, "Here is a film its producer--not censor, not anybody else--should have taken out and burned."
Another point to consider about "Go Naked in the World" is that it also recalls the turgid call girl saga "Butterfield 8", which inexplicably won Liz Taylor an Oscar for Best Actress. In the classic tome Bad Movies We Love by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello, the authors suggest "Go Naked in the World" might have been originally slated for Taylor, who was under contract with MGM at the time. "The movie has Taylor's fingerprints all over it," the authors explain, "down to the Helen Rose gowns topped with what look like Cadillac fins, to emphasize an ample bosom." They then go on to crack, "Perhaps Gina got this role because she could step right into the costumes--it certainly can't have been her acting."
So movie lovers, the message here seems to be that good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go to Hell, but bad movies go Everywhere.
Until next time, SAVE THE MOVIES!