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Cyrano De Bergerac

The Moviegoer

By Joseph P. Lorenz

Cryano comments early in Rostand's play that "there are certain things a man does well to carry to extremes." In the Universal Artists production of "Cyrano de Bergerac," Jose Ferrer seems to base his whole interpretation on this remark, for he plays the noble Gascon as a composite of exaggerated traits. The results often comes dangerously close to being a caricature rather than an elucidation of Cyrano's character.

Comedy becomes slapstick, courage becomes arrant braggadocio, and even the celebrated nose assumes absurd proportions under Ferrer's touch. He forgets that the one extreme about which Cyrano's character revolves is that of unswerving devotion to a personal code of honor. By removing this one characteristic of universal appeal from Cyrano, Ferrer has also taken away the element of audience self-identification, perhaps the most important aspect of the play. This is not to say that Ferrer's acting is not often superb. It is. In the balcony and convent scenes, he extracts the utmost from Rostand's brilliant lyric poetry. It is only with his interpretation of Cyrano's character that one can take exception.

In view of Ferrer's characterization of Cyrano, Mala Powers' Roxane might be excused. She is beautiful and completely soulless. If she had been any less shallow, nobody in the film would have fallen in love with her at all. As it is, it seems incredible that she should be in love with the soul of Cyrano rather than the body of Christian. There is no conflict of Flesh vs. the Soul. One gets the impression that the producers have set the stage with the conventional hero and heroine, but through some slip-up of a script writer, the wrong man gets the girl in the end.

Although the Byran Hooker translation has been carefully followed--with a few rather puzzling exceptions, Hollywood has been able to make over much of "Cyrano" in its own image. Over and above the interpretation, several action scenes suggested by the plot have been inserted for the benefit of the medium. Some of these are good, some not so good. The duels, which make excellent use of Ferrer's ability as a swordsman, are well-photographed and lavish with expendable extras.

Because Hollywood has thoroughly acquired the knack of making a superficially entertaining movie, and because of Ferrer's innate acting ability, "Cyrano" holds one's interest. As far as reflecting the greatness of Rostand or of Bryan Hooker, it falls far short.

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