Marriage Italian Style (1964): De Sica’s Oscar-Nominated Comedy, Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni

Vittorio De Sica directed Marriage Italian Style, a flamboyant Italian comedy, starring two of his frequent and charming actors, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni at the peak of their status as global stars.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

Marriage Italian Style
Marriage Italian Style.jpg

US release poster

The film was adapted by Leonardo Benvenuti, Renato Castellani, Piero De Bernardi and Tonino Guerra from Eduardo De Filippo’s famous play, “Filumena Marturano.”

Filumena Marturano previously was adapted as a film in 1950 in Argentina.

It tells the World War II era story of the cynical, successful businessman Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni), who, after meeting a naive 17 year old country girl, Filumena (Loren), in a Neapolitan brothel during bombing outside, keeps visiting her for years in an on-again, off-again relationship spanning 22 years.

Filumena is deeply in love with Domenico but her love is not reciprocated. After Filumena expresses her wish to be solely his woman, Domenico arranges a lease for her with Rosalie as maid and Alfredo(Aldo Puglisi) as the butler.

He eventually takes her in his house as a semi-official mistress, pretending to the niece of Carmela (his mother’s old maid), tasked with taking care of his ailing senile mother. Domenico’s mindset about Filumena’s past keeps him from taking their relationship seriously.

After having fallen for the young 20 year old cashier of his store; Domenico, now 50, plans to marry her. But he finds himself cornered when Filumena feigns illness and “on her deathbed,” asks to be married to him. Thinking she’ll be dead and the ‘marriage’ won’t even be registered, he agrees.

After having been proclaimed his legal bride, the shrewd and resourceful Filumena drops the charade of feigning death. Domenico feels that Filumena tricked him for the money. But Filumena reveals the real reason for the marriage: she did it for her 3 children that she bore. As the children were coming of age, she wanted them to have a family name.

Domenico won’t accept this and decides to contest the marriage. The law comes in his favour and the marriage is annulled. Filumena accepts the annulment but tells Domenico that he fathered one of the children. She does not say which as she considers all of them as equal.However, she gives him a hint that his child was conceived on the night Domenico said ” to pretend they are in love” and gave her a 100 lire note where she wrote the date of that night. She leaves that note to Domenico. Domenico is visibly rattled by this revelation but can’t solve the clue.

Domenico tries desperately to figure out which child he fathered. He visits the children at their workplace but hits a dead end.

After many complications, the boys say goodnight to their ‘father’ Domenico, and Filumena weeps with joy at this, telling him that “it feels wonderful to cry.”

Oscar Context:

Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Marriage Italian Style was a huge hit internationally, reaffirming the status of Mastroianni and Loren as mega movie stars.

The winner that year, however, was the Czech film, The Shop on Main Street.

Sophia Loren as Filumena Marturano
Marcello Mastroianni as Domenico Soriano
Aldo Puglisi as Alfredo
Tecla Scarano as Rosalia
Marilù Tolo as Diana (credited as Marilu’ Tolo)
Gianni Ridolfi as Umberto
Generoso Cortini as Michele
Vito Moricone as Riccardo
Rita Piccione as Teresina, seamstress
Lino Mattera
Alfio Vita as Un pasticciere
Alberto Castaldi as (credited as Alberto Gastaldi)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Produced by Carlo Ponti
Screenplay by Renato Castellani, Tonino Guerra, Leo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, based on Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo
Music by Armando Trovajoli
Cinematography Roberto Gerardi
Edited by Adriana Novelli

Distributed by Embassy Pictures (US)

Release date: 1964

Running time: 102 minutes
Box office $3.7 million (Italy); $9.1 million(US and Canada)