Yellow Rolls-Royce, The (1965): Asquith’s Anthology of Romantic Tales Linked by a Glamorous Car–and Glamorous Cast

Produced by Anatole de Grunwald, directed by Anthony Asquith, and written by Terence Rattigan (the trio responsible for The V.I.P.s in 1963), The Yellow Rolls-Royce is a rather tepid anthology of romantic tales, linked together by a glamorous car and dominated by high-caliber international cast.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

The Yellow Rolls-Royce

Film poster by Howard Terpning

Apparently adapting an idea from In Those Days, a 1947 German drama by Helmut Käutner that had its US premiere in March 1951, the movie uses a yellow 1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II to frame the story of three very different owners: an English aristocrat, a Miami gangster, and a wealthy American widow.

Prompted by the production team’s success with The V.I.P.s, the film, set in the years up to and including the start of WWII, boasting an all-star international cast, headed by including Rex Harrison, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley MacLaine, Omar Sharif, George C. Scott, Alain Delon and Jeanne Moreau.

The soundtrack song “Forget Domani” (“Forget Tomorrow”) by Riz Ortolani, was nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, but did not win; it did receive the Golden Globe Award.

Another tune, “Mae,” for the Scott-MacLaine-Delon section , was also released in several versions.

On a flatbed lorry driven in the streets of London, a motorcar is under a grey cover with the initials RR. The Rolls Royce is first purchased by Charles, Marquess of Frinton as a 10th wedding anniversary present for his French wife, Eloise. Frinton is Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office. The marquess is a longtime horse owner who has his heart set on winning the Ascot Gold Cup. This year his horse, named 10 June (his wedding anniversary date; also the writer Terence Rattigan’s birthday) is the favourite and does indeed win. Lord Frinton is presented the Gold Cup by King George V. However, his elation is blighted when he finds his wife with her lover, his underling John Fane, in the back of the Rolls with the shades drawn. For appearance’s sake, Lord Frinton will not divorce his wife, but he returns the car.

In Genoa, Italy — The Rolls, according to G. Bomba, owner of the Genova Auto Salon was “owned by a Maharajah, who lost his money at the San Remo Casino.” The Rolls is purchased by American gangster Paolo Maltese. He is touring the sights of Italy with his bored fiancée Mae Jenkins and his right-hand man Joey Friedlander. When Maltese returns to Miami to take care of some unsavory business, he leaves Friedlander to chaperone Jenkins. Friedlander turns a blind eye when she falls in love with Stefano, a handsome young street photographer she had met while still with Maltese. Upon finding Jenkins and Stefano in the back of the Rolls with the shades drawn, Friedlander walks away. But he later shows Jenkins an eight-day-old American newspaper headline, Bugs O’ Leary Slain—Police Claim Gang Warfare, that was Maltese’s business in the United States. Although in love with Stefano, Jenkins reluctantly leaves him, telling him that it was just a fling, to protect both of them from possible reprisal from her lethal boyfriend Maltese.

Trieste on the Yugoslav border – the year, 1941 — The Rolls is in a repair shop. The car exterior is filthy with OCCASIONE (Bargain, Special Offer) painted on the windscreen. It is bought by Gerda Millett, a powerful and wealthy American widow touring Europe. Just before the Invasion of Yugoslavia by the Nazi Germans, she encounters anti-fascist Davich who commandeers her automobile to sneak into Yugoslavia, hiding in the boot before the border crossing. Along the way, these two seemingly different people fall in love. At their Ljubljana hotel, they survive a German aerial attack, then she insists on driving him to a partisan camp in the mountains and makes several trips to pick up more villagers and deliver them to the camp. She wants to stay and help repel the invaders, but Davich will not permit it, saying it is not her fight. He tells her to go back to America and tell people what she has witnessed. The car is seen being unloaded from a cargo ship in New York.

Some years later, shown during the closing credits, the Rolls is seen driving along an expressway, passing beneath a road sign reading I-95, George Washington Bridge, Bronx – Next Right.

The vehicle is sumptuous, all right, and the star-studded cast helps putting this over, even if the two-hour ride is not particularlry smooth or exciting.

Despite mixed critical response, the movie was moderately popular at the box office, probably due to its illustrious cast.

The film, which grossed $5.4 million in the US, was among the top ten films in box office receipts for 1965, a year in which Mary Poppins topped the list with $28.5 million.

Rex Harrison as Lord Charles, Marquess of Frinton
Jeanne Moreau as Eloise, Marchioness of Frinton
Edmund Purdom as John Fane
Shirley MacLaine as Mae Jenkins
George C. Scott as Paolo Maltese
Moira Lister as Angela, Lady St. Simeon
Isa Miranda as the Duchesse d’Angoulème
Ingrid Bergman as Gerda Millett
Omar Sharif as Davich
Roland Culver as Norwood
Michael Hordern as Harmsworth, Manager of Hoopers
Lance Percival as Assistant Car Salesman at Hoopers
Harold Scott as Taylor
Alain Delon as Stefano
Art Carney as Joey Friedlander
Riccardo Garrone as G. Bomba, Owner of Genova Auto Salon
Joyce Grenfell as Hortense Astor
Wally Cox as Ferguson
Richard Pearson as Osborn
Carlo Croccolo as Michele, Mrs. Millett’s Chauffeur
Grégoire Aslan as the Albanian Ambassador
Guy Deghy as the Mayor
Martin Miller as Head Waiter


Directed by Anthony Asquith
Produced by Anatole de Grunwald
Written by Terence Rattigan
Music by Riz Ortolani
Cinematography Jack Hildyard
Edited by Frank Clarke
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: May 13, 1965 (US)

Running time: 122 minutes
Country: UK
Box office $5.4 million (US)