La Fortuna Di Essere Donna – 1956
Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and Charles Boyer
Sophia Loren is photographed without her consent while adjusting her stockings on the side of the Appian Way, a famous tourist roadway in Italy that gives a lurid context to the photo, suggesting she is a prostitute. When the image ends up on the cover of an Italian magazine, again without her consent, she commences to denying to everyone "that's not me!" in the now infamous photo.
Her lawyer boyfriend, with which she seems to give very little attention or affection, tracks down the photographer (played by Marcello Mastroianni ) and wants to sue him in court for "moral and material damages" because the photo on the magazine cover is a stain on "his honor."
While arguing this in person at the photographer's studio, the photographer defends himself by pointing out the various cheesecake photos on his walls of other girls, and reels off a list of advantageous results from his photographing them: this one married a count, this one is being chased by an American industrialist, this one is covered in furs and buys antiques for her large house. Loren's character, who has said very little, finally speaks up and proceeds to break up with her lawyer boyfriend on the spot, who threatens, as he exits, "I'm going to tell your mother!"
La Fortuna Di Essere Donna is not a sequel to the superior Italian comedy Too Bad She's Bad (Peccato che sia una canaglia) from 1954, but this film is from the same director, Alessandro Blasetti, and it has the same two stars. The pacing is also the same, with the precision comedy team of Mastroianni and Loren battling each other through each stage of the plot. We watch Mastroianni's character's growing inability to persevere as an emotionally uninvolved promoter and photographer of Sophia Loren's character as she becomes involved with the very untrustworthy Charles Boyer playing a womanizing noble. This humorous turning-of-the-tables propels a lot of the latter part of the film.
There are interesting moments of commentary in the script, such as Marcello's photographer faking a phone call to a high-end Italian fashion house, but he's actually called a butcher shop, talking on the phone to set up a modeling appointment for Sophia's character who is impatiently standing by, while at the butcher shop, unbeknownst to her, they're insulting the fast talking Marcello from the other end of the phone.
Sophia's character arrives the next day at the fashion house and of course they know nothing about her because they never received the phone call, but the manager looks her over and instructs her that if she were to lose five or six kilos in weight, and to come back in a proper black dress, she'd consider her for modeling. Immediately Sophia is in front of a mirror sucking in her gut to try and appear as 13 pounds lighter, then starting a crash diet plan that tells her she can eat one cracker a day.
The neighbors in her apartment house believe someone in her family has died because she's looking so much thinner and she's dyed all of her clothes black, even her hankerchiefs.
The satire in La Fortuna Di Essere Donna is strong, though the way it is played is too light to be taken seriously, which sounds like a contradiction, but certainly isn't in a better rendition of this sort of material, for example Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? which came out the next year and picked up on some of the same spirit that is in La Fortuna Di Essere Donna.
Loren is good as the ambitious, would-be celebrity who moons over a display of snacks on a table she can't eat, and Mastroianni presents his bumbling portrayal of a girly photographer who is equal parts protective and concerned but is also on the make: "Kiss me again like that and I'm going home!" she tells him after he helps her recover from drinking too much at a reception, he protests "It was a brotherly kiss!"
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Original Page November 13, 2023