Marriage Italian Style (1964)

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Aka Matrimonio all’italiana. Eduardo de Filipo’s play Filumena Marturano was about his sister but Sophia Loren felt an intense connection to the subject matter, mainly because of her own illegitimate origins as the older daughter in the second family of a nobleman who wouldn’t divorce his first wife. She’s a very young prostitute who meets businessman Marcello Mastroianni during WW2 in a Naples brothel and after the war they meet again and have a twenty-year affair during which she has three children, one of whom is his. She finds out that he intends to marry another woman altogether – and will stop at nothing to prevent it and protect her children:  they all live together with his senile mother and she is there under the pretence of being her carer. She feigns her own imminent death but drops the act and won’t tell him which son is his. Working once again with Vittorio De Sica, her veritable father, the screenplay had a lot of contributors: Renato Castellani, Tonino Guerra, Leo Benvenuti and Piero De Bernardini and their work manages to convey the up and down swing of this spicy relationship with humour, pathos and drama. (It had already been adapted in Argentina in 1950).  This was the year Loren reached the apogee of her career and her fame, with The Fall of the Roman Empire getting her a million dollar payday. Loren and Mastroianni are brilliant sparring partners and Loren got her second Oscar nomination for her bawdy, funny, engaging performance. They had already appeared opposite each other in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and made a total of seventeen films together.

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The Millionairess (1960)

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‘Socialists make the best employees!’ purrs La Loren. She is trying to woo Indian doctor Peter Sellers but both of them need to meet the terms of their fathers’ respective wishes in this talky Bernard Shaw comedy drama directed by Anthony Asquith. A big hit in its day it seems irretrievably glib if not hectoring despite the actors’ comic chops – and how lovely to see Alfie Bass and Alastair Sim with Miriam Karlin in the wings. Goodness Gracious Me!