MCM: Casanova

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Giacomo Casanova — the real historical figure who lived in Italy from 1725-98 — is probably the most famous lover in history, and filmmakers have long been adapting his life to screen. I thought it would be a nice round of Man Candy to look at all the screen Casanovas I could track down, although I was surprised to find just how many featured old (and, I would say, unattractive) Casanovas! I guess filmmakers find that a more interesting story, the lost youth and waning prowess? I don’t know, I want to see romps in bed and early morning escapes across rooftops, which is why the 2005 Casanova starring David Tennant is probably my favorite of those that I’ve seen.

Let’s run down Casanova in film and TV, and then weigh in — which of these would you actually exchange body fluids with??!!

Loves of Casanova (1927)

Played by Ivan Mozzhukhin in this French production, which apparently starred lots of Russian emigrés.

Loves of Casanova (1927)

Double your pleasure?

Loves of Casanova (1927)

Check out those hemlines on the right!

Casanova (1934)

Again played by Ivan Mozzhukhin, again a French production. All I can find out is it’s a comedy/drama.

Casanova (1934)

So much lamé, so little time!

Loves of Casanova (1947)

Played by Georges Guétary in this French production. According to IMDB, “On his way to Paris, Casanova keeps on collecting female conquests, does not shy away from duels and gets into many a colorful adventure. Once in the capital, the fearless knight saves the honor of a great lady, conquers the niece of his implacable enemy but courts disaster for love of Coraline, a faithless opera dancer.”

Loves of Casanova (1947)

Oh soft focus!

Adventures of Casanova (1948)

Played by Arturo de Córdova in this American/Mexican production: “After Palermo falls in 1793, a notorious ladies man joins the underground resistance movement–but still finds time for the ladies.” OF COURSE HE DOES. It’s a fictionalized tale that makes Casanova into a freedom fighter.

Adventures of Casanova (1948)

I’m not sure I’m buying that Córdova looks 68, and chippie on the right looks like she had waaaay too much to drink.

The Mysterious Rider (1948)

An Italian production, with Casanova played by Vittorio Gassman. IMDB says, “Giacomo Casanova returns to Venice, to help his brother, falsely accused of robbery.”

The Mysterious Rider (1948)

So pretty!! So retouched!

Casanova’s Big Night (1954)

Vincent Price has only a small role as the real Casanova, while Bob Hope takes the lead as the guy who is mistaken for the famous lover. I thought Price was weirdly cast, as he’s all supercilious raised eyebrows and seems more like one of his horror characters.

Casanova's Big Night (1954)

I’m more concerned that he wants to scalp me than that he wants to shag me!

Sins of Casanova (1955)

An Italian production starring Gabriele Ferzetti. IMDB says, “1760 Spain provides the setting for Giacomo Casanova’s romantic escapades, every woman he encounters unable to resist his disarming charm, be they single, engaged, or even married.” EVERY. SINGLE. ONE!!

Sins of Casanova (1955)

She is totally Team Sleeping Beauty in that bodice!

Sins of Casanova (1955)

Oh the clutching!

Sins of Casanova (1955)

CLEARLY NOT AN AMERICAN PRODUCTION.

Last Rose from Casanova (1966)

This time a Czech production — is that why the beard? — featuring old Casanova (Felix Le Breux) writings his memoirs and charming a married woman who initially isn’t attracted to him.

Last Rose from Casanova (1966)

I’m not sure if they went heavy enough on her eye-makeup.

Last Rose from Casanova (1966)

Ah, poly double-knit!

Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano (1969)

If you guessed it’s Italian, you’re right! Leonard Whiting plays young Casanova in a sea of bad ladies’ hair. I can only assume this one goes for “saucy romp.”

Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano (1969)

That corset makes my head hurt! It’s kind of good, and then, what’s going on around the nips?

Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano (1969)

Both girls look like they’ve escaped from the set of Green Acres. Or Petticoat Junction?

Casanova (1971)

Played by Frank Finlay (The Three MusketeersThe Four Musketeers) in this six-part BBC miniseries; IMDB says, “Casanova was imprisoned in Venice in 1755, and Potter used that event as a central device, constantly inter-cutting to contrast Casanova’s amorous escapades, radiant, joyful and brightly lit, with his oppressive solitary confinement in the gloom of a half-darkened cell.”

Casanova (1971)

So my problem with Finlay is that he always looks like Terry Jones from Monty Python

Casanova (1971)

I think it’s the brows?

Cagliostro (1975)

An Italian biography of the famous 18th-century occultist Count Cagliostro; Casanova is played by Massimo Girotti.

Cagliostro (1975)

Fellini’s Casanova (1976)

Fellini. Donald Sutherland. Weird, receding-hairline wigs and a whole lot of WTF. I definitely plan to watch this, although I am afraid. Danilo Donati won the Oscar for Best Costume Design!

Fellini's Casanova (1976)

I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY.

Fellini's Casanova (1976)

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THAT HAIRLINE??!!

Le siècle des lumières (1976)

A French production with all sorts of 18th-century luminaries; Casanova is played by Jean-François Poron (which is hilariously close to “porn”).

In case you are thinking “not bad”…

Note this is another screencap from the film. I have NO idea. They go to Fantasy Island?

Some Like It Cool aka Casanova & Co. (1977)

I actually tried to watch this, and it was baaaaaaad, but I promise to give it another whirl. TONY CURTIS plays Casanova. WHY I HAVE NO IDEA. Wikipedia tells me it’s soft-core porn, which re-raises my interest.

Some Like It Cool (1977)

Yep, because that Edwardian chemise isn’t going to hold up the girls on their own! (Also, cheap Sophia Loren knock-off?)

Some Like It Cool (1977)

After you are done being traumatized by Curtis’s manly chest, note that that is Marisa Berenson of Barry Lyndon. She plays a Sultaness.

Casanova auf Schloss Dux (1981)

A German production, Wolf Kaiser plays Casanova. That’s all I got.

Casanova auf Schloss Dux (1981)

Well, that, and zero desire to watch this based on this image.

La nuit de Varennes (1982)

Another on my shortlist: an Italian/French production telling the fictionalized story of four people who travel along with King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as they try to flee France during the revolution. Marcello Mastroianni plays an elderly Casanova.

La nuit de Varennes (1982)

Yeesh. I’m not saying it isn’t period, I’m just saying “no thanks I’ll get my shag elsewhere.”

Die schone Wilhelmine (1984)

A German TV miniseries about King Friedrich Wilhelm II and his mistress Wilhelmine Encke. Casanova is in one episode and is played by Jean-Claude Brialy.

Die schone Wilhelmine (1984)

Fine, whatevs.

Casanova (1987)

I DEFINITELY have to see this. For posterity. And hilarity. RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN as Casanova.

Casanova (1987)

STARE INTO THE CHESTAL PLUFT!

Embrace the (actually quite fabulous) goth!

Divoka srdce (1989)

A Czech production with Boris Rösner as Casanova; Mozart is also a character.

Divoka srdce (1989)

HIS JACKET FABRIC. HER DRESS.

A Word in Your Era (1992)

Okay, I’d actually quite like to watch this British comedy: “Three historical figures (played by three contemporary comedians) compete against each other in a quiz.” Comedian Steve Coogan (Tristram Shandy) plays Casanova in one episode.

A Word in your Era (1992)

Is that da Vinci on the left?

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1992)

YOU GUYS. I HAD NO IDEA THEY MADE A CRAPPY TV SERIES BASED ON BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES. I AM INCLUDING THIS BAD PHOTO ONLY TO DOCUMENT THAT SUCH A TRAVESTY EXISTED.

Casanova played by Joe Marinelli, FYI.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1992)

NOT KEANU REEVES (right). Also, Casanova’s beard? Why?

Le retour de Casanova (1992)

French production, comedy, aging Casanova, Alain Delon (Swann in Love, The Leopard).

Le retour de Casanova (1992)

I can actually support this!

Goodbye, Casanova (2000)

An experimental Italian film (I’m out!) with Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi and Yasmine Bleeth (Baywatch). Uh…

Goodbye, Casanova (2000)

Nope.

Il giovane Casanova (2002)

FINALLY SOMEONE IS DOING YOUNG AND HANDSOME CASANOVA. Christ on a crouton, that was hard! Looks like lots of rooftop escapes, shagging, and he ends up in France making the moves on Madame de Pompadour. I definitely need to see this one!

That’s Stefano Accorsi as Casanova.

Il giovane Casanova (2002)

WELL HELLO THERE MR. PRETTY WIG AND LIP ROUGE!

Giacomo Casanova (2004)

German production, Robert Hunger-Bühler as Casanova.

Giacomo Casanova (2004)

Embracing the receding hairline I see?

Casanova (2005)

Finally, one I’ve seen! Heath Ledger plays a young Casanova in this feature film. While he’s young and pretty, he spends the whole film trying to convince a boring Sienna Miller that he’s changed his naughty ways, which is not why I want to see a Casanova film.

Casanova (2005)

I do like the coat!

Casanova (2005)

And I’m impressed how good he looks in a grey wig!

Casanova (2005)

My personal favorite, despite some crazy costume choices. David Tennant is all rakish charm and teasing wit in this TV miniseries, and while yes, there is some “my one true love!” there’s also lots of scandalous intrigue. Yay!

David Tennant, 2005, Casanova

Alright, so the hair has problems… LOOK AT THAT SWAGGER!

David Tennant, 2005, Casanova

He ponces up beautifully.

Oh, and Peter O’Toole (The Tudors, Bright Young Things, The Lion in Winter) plays the elderly Casanova!

Casanova (2005)

Casanova (2005)

German, Thomas Heinze, no idea why there are modern people around.

Verführung für Anfänger (2005)

I’m guessing it’s set in the theater?

Love Signs (2006)

Russian production: “In Moscow, the famed lover Casanova is reborn in the body of a Russian gangster in an attempt to resolve a love triangle.” Maksim Sukhanov plays Casanova.

Love Signs (2006)

Okay so I love that wig in a totally non-period way.

Casanova – Die Kunst der Verführung (2013)

German production, Adrian Becker, I am unimpressed by these images.

Clearly he must have mad skillz…

Because he ain’t skating by on looks!

Casanova Variations (2014)

John Malkovich in what I think is an adaptation of a stage play.

Casanova Variations (2014)

I’m seeing less Dangerous Liaisons

Casanova Variations (2014)

…and more Being John Malkovich.

Casanova (2015)

The most recent attempt! An Amazon pilot that Trystan loved — she said the costumes were shiny and lush and the plot was smart! — which sadly wasn’t picked up into a series. Diego Luna plays Casanova.

Casanova (2015)

Okay so the hair is unfortunate, but I like the trim!

Casanova (2015)

And I LURVES that wig on the left!

Alright kids, let’s do this:

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

19 Responses

  1. opusanglicanum

    I have abslolutely no recollection whatsoever of tenant in that series, but peter O’toole I rememeber. how odd, specially since tenant looks so pretty

    Reply
  2. Katy Werlin

    La Nuit de Varennes is such a brilliant movie!! This group of people just happens to also be journeying to Varennes on the same day/night as the royal flight and so the story is more about these fictional characters and the actual historical event is sort of on the periphery, although obviously it effects each of the characters in different and emotional ways. Also there is a fabulous flamboyant hairdresser.

    Why are there not more votes for Arturo de Cordova?? Hellooooo Latin Clark Gable!

    Reply
    • Jennie Gist

      Oh good, someone else with fond memories of La Nuit de Varennes! We saw this when it was brand-new and loved it, but it’s little known. Frock Flicks, do track it down and give it a look!

      Reply
    • Elisa

      I love it too! I watched it repeatedly until my VCR ate it, 20 years ago. I’d love to Watch it again!

      Reply
  3. picasso Manu

    I’ll have a Tennant to go, Pleaseandthankyou!

    I remember the Fellini… I saw it far too young, and yeah, it was weird, in a very Fellinian way.
    On the other hand, if you want to watch Casanova going at it, you’re not going to be disappointed !

    Oh, and the Delon one is not worth it: Costumes and sets are decent, yeah, but Delon is insufferable (as usual)… The movie crashed quite badly, if I recall. And there’s dramatic bobby pin shortage for both men and women.

    La nuit de Varennes is a very good film, on the other hand. Not many costumes, since most of the film is inside a coach, but the ones you can see are good… And so is hair and wigs, you should enjoy, I think. (no nookie, but you’re not missing anything, truly)

    Reply
  4. Trystan L. Bass

    I am OBVIOUSLY Team Tennant when it comes to Casanova & all things.

    But I need to point out that I also watched that Bill & Ted TV show. And the Saturday morning cartoon series (even tho’ I was in college at the time; or maybe bec. I was in college at the time). I was also a card-carrying member of the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Fan Club & wrote a one-issue cross-genre fanzine called Strange Things Are Afoot (at the Circle K).

    In case anyone ever questioned my deep dork cred. *bows*

    Reply
  5. jane gardiner

    would like to vote for charlie cox . . . although David and Heath perfectly acceptable (a young Peter O’Toole, though – that would have given them quite a run for their money)

    Reply
  6. Susan Pola

    Tennant. Two of the good things in the Heath one was Natalie Dormer & Charlie from Merchant of Venice. Also the pig.

    Reply
  7. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    But, you forgot Nine and the over the top performance of Casanova in the middle

    Reply
  8. Sara L.

    Man, I was so in love with Leonard Whiting when I saw Romeo and Juliet as a young thing. He was very, very pretty. But of course, in this vote, it is Tennant all the way. I didn’t even know that miniseries existed, and now imma hafta track it down. Oh, and considering my deep and abiding love for all things Terry Pratchett, a (small) shout out to Casanunda, “The World’s Second Greatest Lover” from the Discworld. He’s the first thing I think of when I hear the name Casanova.

    Reply
  9. Kathleen Norvell

    I still love Frank Finlay as Casanova. The miniseries was a rougish delight. I don’t remember the costumes. And of course, Heath Ledger — might be my favorite, or tied with A Knight’s Tale. I’ve never seen the David Tennant one, although I would love to. He looks terrific, and the thought of Peter O’Toole playing Casanova as an old man is perfect. I saw the Richard Chamberlain one eons ago, so I don’t remember it very well.

    AS far as costumes go, I liked the Heath Ledger one the most.

    Reply
  10. Saraquill

    While I do enjoy looking at David Tennant, all I could think of while reading the article is “syphilis isn’t sexy.” Hence I wouldn’t want to shag any Casanova character. Having tea with one or more of the actors is another story…

    Reply
  11. Julia

    I have so much love for the Tennant version even with its crazy costumes. His man servant is the best too!

    Reply
  12. Andrew.

    Another Casanova, (albeit elderly), is Gustav Waldau in the 1943 Münchhausen. In it he reminisces how 20 years ago he and the Baron once ended up sharing a wardrobe when the duchess’s husband came home unexpectedly and wonders why Hieronymus still looks the same.

    Reply

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