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This film's working title was Cagliostro. Valentina Cortesa's named was misspelled in the onscreen credits as "Cortese." Although the onscreen credits only acknowledge Alexandre Dumas, pre's 1846-48 novel Mmoires d'un mdecin as the film's source, it was also based, in part, on his novel Le Collier de la Reine (1849-50).
Cagliostro was born Giuseppe Balsamo on June 2, 1743 in Palermo, Sicily and died in prison on August 26, 1795. The son of poor parents, Cagliostro grew up as an urchin in the streets of Palermo. Escaping from Sicily after a series of minor crimes, he assumed the title of count and married the Roman beauty, Lorenza Feliciani. He then traveled to all the major European cities, selling elixirs and potions and posing as an alchemist, soothsayer, medium and miraculous healer. By 1785, Cagliostro's sances had become the rage of fashioniable society in Paris. In 1785-1786, Cagliostro was implicated in the scandal known as L'Affaire du collier (The Affair of the Queen's Necklace), which was loosely dramatized in the latter part of the film. After spending nine months in the Bastille prison, Cagliostro was banished from France. In 1789, he was arrested in Rome after his wife denounced him to the Inquisition as a heretic. He was tried and sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment in the fortress of San Leo in the Apennines, where he died in 1795.
Franz Anton Mesmer, who was born in Germany in 1734, developed a theory known as "animal magnetism" in Vienna in the mid-1760s. He went to Paris in 1778 and became fashionable among aristocrats, who attended his sances and followed his theories of disease and their cures. After being investigated for being a charlatan, Mesmer left Paris and eventually settled in London; he died in 1815. The term "mesmerize," often used as a synonym for hypnotize, was taken from Mesmer's name, although he himself did not practice hypnosis.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, in December 1943, Edward Small announced that he would produce the film with Charles Boyer in the title role and Akim Tamiroff as Gitano. Irving Pichel was to direct. Additional news items from early 1944 state that J. Carrol Naish would play Alexandre Dumas, pre and that Nicolai Remisoff would be the film's designer. In August 1944, however, Small announced that George Sanders would star in the film and Douglas Sirk would direct and work on the screenplay. In June 1947, Hollywood Reporter announced that the picture was to be shot in Mexico with Gabriel Figueroa as cinematographer. The following month, however, Small canceled these plans when he discovered that costs were not as low in Mexico as he had thought. By September 1947, Small had decided to produce the film in Italy, and according to a September 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, to finance the production, Small acquired more than 1,000,000 lire in frozen assets earned by several United Artists producers from their Italian distribution receipts. A September 1947 Daily Variety news item adds that Small took over the entire facility of the Scalera studios in Rome for this production. Gregory Ratoff was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to direct. Actress Nancy Guild was also borrowed from Fox. Modern sources state that Orson Welles directed several of the scenes in this film. Several other films titled Cagliostro were also based on the Dumas book. Among them is a 1928 French production, a 1928 Italian production, a 1930 German production and a 1975 Italian production. The Queen's Necklace (2001), directed by Charles Shyer and starring Hillary Swank, Simon Baker and Jonathan Price featured Christopher Walken as Cagliostro and centered on the story of diamond necklace.