Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lola Montes (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lola Montes (1955, Fr.) (aka The Sins of Lola Montes)

In Max Ophuls' inspired first (and last) color and widescreen film -- in CinemaScope -- a technically brilliant epic historical-biopic drama about the life story of a notorious, sexy and ribald seductress - structured as a series of flashbacked, non-chronological, disjointed tableaux while surrounded by acrobats, dwarves, and other circus performers:

  • the title character - the infamous, 19th-century adventuress and courtesan-prostitute Lola Montes (Martine Carol) - the main attraction in a bizarre and gaudy circus in New Orleans where the exploits of her scandalous life were dramatically re-enacted before an audience
  • the stunning opening sequence in which chandeliers descended before the top-hatted, circus owner-ringmaster (Peter Ustinov) emerged from behind a curtain and introduced the exploited Lola as a sideshow attraction to the expectant, vulgar audience (unseen); when she appeared motionless and enthroned on a platform, he manipulatively circled around her: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for. The most sensational act of the century. Entertainment, emotion, action, history! A creature a hundred times more murderous than any beast in our menagerie. A bloodthirsty monster with the eyes of an angel. Ravaged hearts, squandered fortunes, the saraband of lovers, scepters, crowns, an authentic revolution. Triumph and downfall. Lola Montes, Countess Maria Dolores of Lansfeld. In the very flesh! Here, ladies and gentlemen, the truth, nothing but the truth on the extraordinary life of Lola Montes, reenacted by the entire company in pantomime, acrobatics, tableaux vivants, with music and dance and with the entire orchestra....The first part of the show. Questions. Ask your questions, ladies and gentlemen. Lola Montes will answer the most shocking questions, the most intimate questions, the most indiscreet questions, about her scandalous career as femme fatale" - the Ringmaster continued to narrate the story of her past, seen in flashbacked vignettes
  • the sight of red-uniformed bellboys carrying hollowed-out, molded heads of Lola on sticks to collect quarters and dollars from the audience
  • the many reenactments of Lola's life, loves and career: her unhappy youth and marriage to her mother's lover Lt. Thomas James (Ivan Desny), her time as the mistress of composer Franz Liszt (Will Quadflieg), her abduction by a Russian general, her romance with a Latin-loving leftist German student (Oskar Werner), her scandalous public breakup with conductor Claudio Pirotto (Claude Pinoteau), and her affair with the deaf and elderly Bavarian King Ludwig I (Anton Walbrook) - when she became the Countess of Landsfeld
Lola's Daredevil Acrobatic Stunt
Lola in Wooden Cage - Kisses For a Dollar to Patrons
Pull-Back Beyond Closing Curtain
  • the sequence of Lola's climactic daredevil stunt (dangerously jumping without a net from a high platform, as a "fallen woman"), followed by a long line-up of eager paying male patrons (for a dollar) ready to kiss Lola's hand (enclosed, trapped or enshrined - like a beast - in a wooden cage) - ending with the camera pulling back along the lengthy line of gawking worshippers and finally tracking beyond a closing curtain

Exploitative Circus Owner-Ringmaster
(Peter Ustinov)

Lola Montes
(Martine Carol)

Red-Uniformed Bellboys with 'Lola' Heads on Sticks


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