Following the years it took for Mankiewicz to recover from the ordeal that was Cleopatra, he met with Rex Harrison to discuss his comeback project—a screen version of Thomas Sterling’s 1955 novel, The Evil of the Day, and its stage adaptation, Mr. Fox of Venice, both modern variations on Ben Jonson’s Volpone—and reluctantly agreed to let the actor see the epic-length first draft. In Mankiewicz’s original conception, the action was to be interrupted at regular intervals with memos from a Hays Office–type censor; to his great disappointment, he was forced to excise this satirical element by UA chairman Arthur Krim. Harrison did go on to star as Fox, the Volpone figure who engineers an elaborate practical joke by inviting three women (Susan Hayward, Edie Adams, and Capucine) to visit him on his supposed deathbed, in this elaborate black comedy that has aged beautifully over the years. But it’s a young Maggie Smith, as Hayward’s nurse, who steals the show—her scenes with Harrison are the best in the film.
Film ran Friday, September 26, 2014 - Sunday, October 12, 2014