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The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

Not Rated | | Fantasy, Music, Musical | 13 June 1952 (USA)
2:03 | Trailer

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A melancholy poet reflects on three women he loved and lost in the past: a mechanical performing doll, a Venetian courtesan, and the consumptive daughter of a celebrated composer.


Dennis Arundell (English libretto), Jules Barbier (from the French text by) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Moira Shearer ... Stella / Olympia
Ludmilla Tchérina ... Giulietta
Ann Ayars ... Antonia
Pamela Brown Pamela Brown ... Nicklaus
Léonide Massine ... Spalanzani / Schlemil / Franz
Robert Helpmann ... Lindorf / Coppelius / Dapertutto / Dr Miracle
Frederick Ashton Frederick Ashton ... Kleinsach / Cochenille
Mogens Wieth Mogens Wieth ... Crespel
Robert Rounseville Robert Rounseville ... Hoffmann
Lionel Harris Lionel Harris ... Pitichinaccio
Philip Leaver Philip Leaver ... Andrés
Meinhart Maur Meinhart Maur ... Luther
Edmond Audran Edmond Audran ... Partner to Stella in Dragonfly Ballet


This a film version of the opera "The Tales of Hoffmann", however it is NOT just a film of a staged performance. 'Michael Powell' & Emeric Pressburger (and the rest of "The Archers") work their usual magic here. The opera dramatises the three great romances in the life of the poet-hero presented in a series of flashbacks. Hoffmann's tales depict the struggle between human love and the artist's dedication to his work. Hoffmann loses each of the women he loves but gains instead poetic inspiration -- the ability to transform painful experiences into art. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

poet | dance | ballet | singing | dancing | See All (37) »


You Will Never See Anything Finer On The Screen!


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

13 June 1952 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los cuentos de Hoffman See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$23,340, 15 March 2015, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$90,365, 7 June 2015
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (reduced to 128 mins before release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


George A. Romero, writer/director of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) has cited this as his all-time favorite movie, saying that it was the one that originally inspired him to get into filmmaking. See more »


Giulietta's necklace is turned from jewels to wax by Dapertutto, however, in a longer shot, it is briefly shown as jewels again, before a close-up, where it is wax again until Dapertutto changes it back to jewels. See more »


Chorus of Students: Some drink, drink, drink, drink, drink: do you hear us about? You lazy lout! We want some beer; we want some wine! Pour out the wine, and drink and drink till morning. Pour out the wine for drinking is divine. It is divine. We want some beer; we want some wine. We want some beer; we want some wine.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The complete 138-minute version was available in 16mm black and white early television prints. The complete 138-minute version was also available in 16mm Kodachrome (color) rental prints. The complete 138-minute soundtrack was available for many years on LP (London Records). See more »


Referenced in Blade Runner (1982) See more »


The Tales of Hoffmann, A Fantastic Opera
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Arranged by Thomas Beecham (uncredited)
English libretto by Dennis Arundell
From the French text by Jules Barbier
Conductor: Thomas Beecham (as Sir Thomas Beecham Bart.) with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sung by Robert Rounseville, Dorothy Bond, Margherita Grandi, Ann Ayars (as Ann Ayars), Monica Sinclair, Joan Alexander, Grahame Clifford, Bruce Dargavel, Murray Dickie, Owen Brannigan, Fisher Morgan, Rene Soames, and The Sadler's Wells Chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

THE TALES OF Hoffman (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1951) ***
18 May 2006 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

I'm not a fan of ballet but I've always loved Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES (1948); so, naturally, I've been looking forward to this one ever since it was first announced - years ago - as a Criterion release! However, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN features the added element of opera; indeed, the entire film is sung!

On first viewing, my reaction to it was mixed: it's impossible not to be impressed by the visuals (particularly the stylization of Hein Heckroth's colorful and imaginative designs) but, since I'm no expert in classical music, I wasn't bowled over by Jacques Offenbach's score (apart from the celebrated "Barcarolle" piece) - especially since the lyrics, despite being an English translation, aren't easily followed! However, listening to it with the Audio Commentary, I could better appreciate the way it was made and the special effects that were adopted; especially interesting was the fact that it was filmed silent, thus allowing freer camera movement. The main cast, apart from Pamela Brown, is made up of ballet performers and opera singers - with the former, mostly recruits from THE RED SHOES, carrying the more compelling screen presence.

The framing story - featuring an additional ballet composed by the film's conductor Sir Thomas Beecham - is a bit short, so that we mostly learn about the characters played by Robert Rounseville (as Hoffmann) and Robert Helpmann through their various guises in the former's three tales (which are themselves variable in quality):

i) the "Olympia" sequence, highlighting Moira Shearer and Leonide Massine, is overlong but quite charming; Helpmann's distinctive features are rather buried under some quaint make-up - though his violent destruction of Shearer (who plays a doll) makes for a quite unsettling moment!

ii) "Giulietta" is the best and most interesting sequence, but also the shortest: Ludmilla Tcherina is a very sensuous heroine, while Helpmann and Massine are wonderful (and wonderfully made up) as respectively an evil magician and a (literally) soulless officer under both their spell; this sequence features some incredible imagery - like Tcherina's reflection in water picking up the aria she is singing, her walking over sculptures of dead bodies, Rounseville and Massine's saber duel set to music (i.e. presented without any sound effects) and the scene in which Rounseville loses his reflection when tempted in front of a mirror by Tcherina

iii) the "Antonia" sequence is again too long (it was severely cut in the original U.S. theatrical release) and, because it's mostly straight opera, emerges as the most labored segment: Massine is pretty much wasted here, while Ann Ayars is nowhere near as captivating as Shearer or Tcherina; however, Helpmann's belated entrance as the satanic Dr. Miracle takes the sequence to another level, and especially memorable here is the scene where Ayars exits a room only to re-enter it from another door (which must have inspired a similar incident in Mario Bava's KILL, BABY, KILL! [1966]) and the one where Ayars and Helpmann's dancing figures are divided into four to fill up the entire screen - with the latter taking each of his guises in the different segments and, likewise, the former being replaced with the heroines of each tale (Moira Shearer appears twice here as she also plays Stella, Hoffmann's love interest in the framing story!)

The Archers' films are among my favorites - though I was somewhat underwhelmed by I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945; I still haven't purchased the Criterion SE), THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE (1956; amazingly, both of my two attempts to view it in the past have only managed to put me to sleep!) and, now, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN. I've yet to watch 4 of their collaborations - CONTRABAND (1940; I've been tempted, time and again, to buy Kino's bare-bones DVD but the over-inflated price always got in the way!), THE ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL (1950), GONE TO EARTH (1950; this troubled production isn't likely to see the light of day on R1 DVD anytime soon, but is at least available via a budget-priced R2 edition), and their last 'musical' together OH, ROSALINDA! (1955). I would also like to watch Powell's solo films HONEYMOON (1959) and BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE (1964), which are yet two more musically-oriented ventures.

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