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Italian Comedies

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 10:27 am
by Ann Harding
I think it's time to create a topic for Italian comedies, that's what the Italians made better than anybody from the 30s until the 70s. They knew how to weave social issues and comic moments. Let's start with a typical 30s comedy directed by the great Mario Camerini.

Daro un milione (I'll Give a Million, 1935) is a brilliant comedy with a very young and dashing Vittorio de Sica and his partner for 4 films, the blonde Assia Noris. The storyline is a mixture of Chaplin and René Clair. Gold (De Sica) is a bored millionaire. He jumps from his yacht and meets a tramp. They exchange their clothes as Gold wants to experiment what it is, not be well-known and rich. He says he will give a million to anybody who would show human kindness to him not knowing who he is. He meets lovely Anna (Assia Noris) who works at a circus nearby. In the meantime, the tramp, wearing his clothes, has become the focus of attention. A newspaper man organises a press campain trumpeting a millionaire is hiding among the tramps of the city. Suddenly, there is frenzy of generosity towards tramps as everybody is wondering if they are not the millionaire in disguise. The whole film is beautifully paced. De Sica makes a great couple with Noris. Like their other pictures together, it's a breath of fresh air. It's not unlike some American comedies of the time with some social comments. Really great!

I repost my previous review of another Camerini with De Sica.

I Grandi Magazzini (Department Store, 1939) by Mario Camerini is a sparkling comedy with lovely Assia Noris and Vittorio de Sica. It takes place in a department store where some crooks are stealing merchandises. De Sica is just an employee who falls in love with a salesgirl played by Assia Noris. After several twists and turns, all ends well. The film is very well directed by Camerini and reminded me of contemporary American comedies. The two leads make a great couple. Lovely! I just hope it will make it onto DVD at some point!

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 1:28 pm
by charliechaplinfan
I've not seen any early Italian comedies but I have seen Divorce Italian Style, Marriage Italian Style, Too Bad She's Bad, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow all Mastroianni, he's a delight at comedy. From what I've seen Italian comedies are delightful in the way they poke fun at society, Italians and life in general. Fellini has many comic moments in his films, in I Vitteloni, the errant husband keeps making passes at his bosses wife, getting himself sacked in the process, it's superbly done introducing humour into what is a serious subject, the lack of jobs for young Italian men. There are many other examples.

I'd love any recommendations you have Christine.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 16th, 2011, 12:25 pm
by MikeBSG
I love "Everybody Go Home," which is from around 1960 with Alberto Sordi as an Army officer at the time of the overthrow of Mussolini in the summer of 1943. There is a lot of serious stuff here, but also some very funny moments. Putting it on a double bill with "To Be or Not to Be" would be interesting.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 16th, 2011, 3:44 pm
by feaito
How interesting, I did not know about the Noris-DeSica comedies. Thanks Christine.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 17th, 2011, 9:38 am
by Ann Harding
Yesterday I saw La Fortuna di essere donna (Lucky to be a lady, 1956) directed by Alessandro Blasetti with Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and Charles Boyer. This comedy is about Antonietta (S. Loren) a simple girl who gets caugh on film while pulling her tight. The picture ends up on the front page of a girl magazine. Her fiancé is furious and finds the photographer, Corrado (M. Mastroianni) to ask for compensation. But Antonietta changes her mind when he tells her she could be become a movie star, a model or the wife of a rich man thanks to his picture. He presents her to his friend Count Sennetti (C. Boyer) who works as an agent for actresses. Though he is married, he doesn't tell her. He decides to make her a lady by changing her clothes and her manners... This comedy works on quick-fire dialogue delivered with skill and wit by both Matsroianni and Loren. But, I don't think all the humour of the original transfers that well on French subs. But, the film works thanks to its actors who are doing an excellent job. Marcello Mastroianni is brilliant as the paparazzo who likes nothing better than seduce girls while Loren learns quickly how to behave in this world of predators. After much fighting, she will land the man of her choice, Marcello (of course!). Charles Boyer plays an old roué who likes to entertain starlets while his wife is not around. This is the kind of part that De Sica could have played. Overall, it's not absolutely top-drawer Italian comedy like the Camerini, Monicelli or De Sica films, but still enjoyable.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 17th, 2011, 10:19 am
by JackFavell
I think the Italian's must have at heart a great sense of humor, judging from the Italian films I have seen... Even the dramas I have seen (like Fellini or Antonioni) have their share of comic situations or nuance within the drama itself. They seem to have a great sense of the absurdity of everyday life and a sardonic approach which I find very funny.

I have enjoyed the Sophia Loren comedies I have seen very much. This is a great thread for those of us who may not have much knowledge on the subject to get to know what to look for.

The Department Store is the only one of the comedies so far that I have heard of. It's a shame these films are not known more in the U.S.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 17th, 2011, 12:16 pm
by charliechaplinfan
It sounds like my kind of film, thank you for the review. I've loved Marcello and Sophia's other films together, they have great chemistry together.

It amazes me how the French and Italian actors work happily together and that their work gets dubbed afterwards. Is it the case here? Does Boyer speak Italian or is he dubbed and then subtitled?

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 17th, 2011, 1:27 pm
by Ann Harding
In Italy, they always dubbed foreign actors. Actually, most of the times, they even asked their own actors to dub themselves after the shooting. The post-synchronisation process was part of their culture.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 17th, 2011, 2:25 pm
by charliechaplinfan
It's a strange way of making films but nevertheless effective, I love seeing non Italian actors in Italian films.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: May 27th, 2011, 1:56 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Thanks to Christine I got to see Lucky to be a Lady, in italian with French subs, my French is abysmal, my Italian non existent yet after Christine's synopsis above I followed it quite well. It wasn't hard to tell what was going on, it must be the expressive Italian faces and gesticulating hands, it's a real treat when you can't fully grasp the dialogue, also the calibre of the three leading actors make the film just flow pleasantly along. I would recommend any man to watch the film, you don't need the dialogue, Sophia's figure is a treat, even I can't understand how she does it, underwear just isn't that substantial these days. I loved the portrayal Boyer gave as an unfaithful husband shepherding film hopefuls around town, giving them his wife's fur coat. The wife has a splendid role near the end, the interpaly between the Comte, Boyer and his wife, he knows what she's going to do and she does it so well. The chemistry between Marcello and Sophia is quite steamy. I like the films they've made together although it's A Special Day that stays with me, their only non comedy.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: July 11th, 2011, 12:18 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Ann Harding wrote:
I Grandi Magazzini (Department Store, 1939) by Mario Camerini is a sparkling comedy with lovely Assia Noris and Vittorio de Sica. It takes place in a department store where some crooks are stealing merchandises. De Sica is just an employee who falls in love with a salesgirl played by Assia Noris. After several twists and turns, all ends well. The film is very well directed by Camerini and reminded me of contemporary American comedies. The two leads make a great couple. Lovely! I just hope it will make it onto DVD at some point!


I saw I Grandi Magazzini this morning and completely fell in love with it, I've always been partial to Vittorio De Sica whether it's his direction or his acting, I've never seen him in an early movie, another feather in his cap, he was somewhat a matinee idol too and good at romantic comedy. I haven't watched Assia Noris before but I'm taken with her too. De Sica's character reminds me of part that Maurice Chevalier might play in Hollywood, cheeky, glib and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Camerini's direction is sparkling. I'm looking forward to watching another film with them both.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: July 12th, 2011, 2:45 am
by Ann Harding
I knew you'd love the young (gorgeous looking) de Sica. 8)

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: July 12th, 2011, 1:24 pm
by charliechaplinfan
You hadn't mentioned it in your previous post just how handsome he was as a young man, my goodness, I was quite taken aback, he's lovely with such a flair for comedy. I tried to think if he reminded me of anyone else, the older de Sica alway reminded me of Chaplin and it's not lost in his younger days, nobody else sprung to mind. I think too how much I've enjoyed him in his later acting roles, usually as the other man and always memorable. Heck, he has my sympathy in Madame De when he really shouldn't have it.
[quote="Ann Harding"]

Daro un milione (I'll Give a Million, 1935) is a brilliant comedy with a very young and dashing Vittorio de Sica and his partner for 4 films, the blonde Assia Noris. The storyline is a mixture of Chaplin and René Clair. Gold (De Sica) is a bored millionaire. He jumps from his yacht and meets a tramp. They exchange their clothes as Gold wants to experiment what it is, not be well-known and rich. He says he will give a million to anybody who would show human kindness to him not knowing who he is. He meets lovely Anna (Assia Noris) who works at a circus nearby. In the meantime, the tramp, wearing his clothes, has become the focus of attention. A newspaper man organises a press campain trumpeting a millionaire is hiding among the tramps of the city. Suddenly, there is frenzy of generosity towards tramps as everybody is wondering if they are not the millionaire in disguise. The whole film is beautifully paced. De Sica makes a great couple with Noris. Like their other pictures together, it's a breath of fresh air. It's not unlike some American comedies of the time with some social comments. Really great!

quote]


De Sica, aside (he was very good) I was completely charmed by this film and preferred it to I Grandi Magazzini. It's a great example of what you were highlighting with this thread, the comedy has such a flair, a touch of Chaplin, a touch of romance, a sense of the absurd, how hilarious I found the scenes with the tramps being taken in and looked after by all and sundry and then rejected when they'd picked the wrong guy. I do like Assia Noris too, she's utterly charming. I'm a complete convert to Italian comedy, i always liked the 50s/60s films now I've discovered I like the early ones too.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: July 13th, 2011, 5:48 am
by Ann Harding
After reading Alison's reviews, I felt like rewatching I Nostri Sogni (Our Dreams, 1943) de V. Cottafavi with Vittorio de Sica, Maria Mercader and Paolo Stoppa. This is a comedy with a bitter ending. De Sica and Stoppa are both small time crooks selling razor blades on the pavement. De Sica is on the look-out for any neat trick to land them some money. They spot a department store, owned by a milllionaire where De Sica thinks he can get money from. Following a case of mistaken identity, De Sica manages to get himself invited to a concert with the daughter of one of the store's accountant. He poses as the millionaire's son and arrives at the girl's home. Once there, he falls in love with the girl and decides not to steal money from them. He takes the girl to a very posh restaurant knowing he won't be able to pay the bill... This comedy has far more social depths than the usual 'white telephone comedies' of the time. De Sica is as usual brilliant as the crook suddenly realising his life has been worthless. Very enjoyable.

Re: Italian Comedies

Posted: July 13th, 2011, 12:29 pm
by charliechaplinfan
It sounds like another wonderful De Sica film. I don't know what it is but I find Italian cinema such a satisfying experience, some times it can be heart breaking but it's always memorable. I wish the British market would recognise this a little more and give us more releases from Italian cinema.