Tag Archives: The Cassandra Crossing

Star Entrances in The Cassandra Crossing

I have spent all day experimenting with titles and dissolves and I thought it might be a good idea to focus them on star entrances, that delightful trope where stars are given a moment in film, like a little bow, a bit of sparkle to delight the audience who has paid money to see them. Star entrances usually fulfil a double function:  the delight of recognition as spectacle but also the moment of introducing the star as the character they will play in the film. This type of entrance was a staple of the classic period and became a trope of 1970s all-star films such as The Cassandra Crossing or Murder on The Orient Express or The Towering Inferno or the like.

I’ve put up the initial credit sequence above so you can see a kind of homology between the actors who are top-billed, in this case Richard Harris and Sophia Loren, but whose entrance gets delayed to the end of the sequence, and how the film in fact presents the star entrances. There are those who receive special billing at the end that nonetheless underlines their significance — in this instance Burt Lancaster — but who makes the first star entrance and is given a similar amount of time to Sophia, who is top billed,  is given more time than anybody but is presented last.

The ordering of these I’m sure have been as carefully weighed as a vaudeville program of yesteryear. Ava Gardner is magnificently displayed  on her own; Ingrid Thulin is rendered significant by the close-ups and the authority of the character she plays but appears into a group. Of the others,  John Phillip Law, Martin Sheen merely appear and are barely noticed; others still are given more space than their names and careers would normally have warranted (Ray Lovelock, Anne Turkel), whilst the significance of others still (Lee Strasberg, O.J. Simpson) will be well known to those who grew up in the seventies but might bewilder younger viewers. I hope that seeing the credit sequence above in relation to the star entrances below — presented in order of appearance — will be delightful and instructive, ie maybe have fun and get some idea.

José Arroyo

Ava Gardner’s Jewels in The Cassandra Crossing

The Cassandra Crossing (George Pan Cosmatos) is an all-star disaster film. Burt Lancaster, Sofia Loren, Ingrid Thulin, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen, O.J. Simpson and Lee Strasberg headline along with Ava Gardner, who steals the show. She comes in swathed in furs and jewels with Martin Sheen as her young gigolo, walking two steps behind her carrying her dog and her luggage. She looks her age AND divinely beautiful, and she gives a wittily ironic performance that renders all of Martin Sheen’s method intensity practically invisible when together in the frame: MGM charm school plus experience wins out over Stanislavski.

Ava plays the wife of a rich arms manufacturer travelling through Europe with her gigolo who she thinks she has under her thumb but who is using her to pass class a drugs from country to country in her vanity case. To underline the wealth of her character, as part of her self-guided mise-en-scène of her own beauty, and as an added attraction to the film, the jewels she wears are real, mainly Van Cleef and Arpels and all from her famous collection:

 

You can have fun admiring her extraordinary beauty and matching the jewels in the images below from the film to those from the book above, with images from the auction of her jewels at Sotheby’s New York in 1989:

 

José Arroyo