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Wife for a Night

Wife for a Night
Ivy Video
1952 / B&W / 1:33 flat full frame / 86 min. / Moglie per una notte / Street Date February 10, 2004 / 24.98
Starring Gino Cervi, Gina Lollobrigida, Nadia Gray, Armando Francioli, Paolo Stoppa
Cinematography Aldo Giordani
Film Editor Adriana Novelli
Original Music Alessandro Cicognini
Written byFranco Brusati, Mario Camerini, Paolo Levi from the play L'Ora della Fantasia by Anna Bonacci
Directed by Mario Camerini

Also available with Too Bad She's Bad and Girl With a Suitcace in a three-disc boxed set called Italian Babes of Yore for 49.95

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

A North Carolina outfit called Ivy Video has packaged three Italian comedies with three different female stars, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale.

This first film is a classic farce set in 1800 that revolves around music, marital politics and the contrasting roles of housewife and courtesan. If the plot seems familiar, it ought to ...


Unknown composer Enrico Belli (Armando Francioli) needs some way to make the important Count D'Origo (Gino Cervi) get his opera premiered in the big city. The Count is a womanizer, but Enrico's wife Ottavia (Gina Lollabrigida) is plain, so Enrico gets "adventuress" Geraldine (Nadia Gray) to pretend to be his wife for one night, so she can dally with the Count, and the opera can have its day on stage. The plan goes fine until Enrico becomes jealous and drives the Count away from his "wife", real or not. But Ottavia has plans to save the day.

A lustful nobleman who chases after every woman in sight meets a composer with a brilliant idea to gain recognition and success. An insecure wife learns what it means to be desired and sexy, while a "woman of affairs" gets a chance to pretend she has a husband and a wedding band.

This straight version of the play L'Ora della Fantasia is pretty cute in its own right, but even more interesting as the "original" version of Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid, the controversial comedy that transformed the farce into a dirty fairy tale. Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond added a character, stratified the composer hero into two small-town dopes The high-born Count became jet-setter Dino, the modern version of royalty, but the story is still basically the same.

Basically. As might be expected, the tale paints all men as sexual children. The Count is a big baby trying to escape from the clutches of the ugly Grand Duchess (Eugenia Tavani), and our hero Enrico loves his wife but easily strays toward the attractive Geraldine. It's up to the two women to wisely manipulate the males for their own good. Geraldine effortlessly uses her boudoir wiles to keep the Count in a spin. Innocent and virtuous Ottavia learns that she doesn't have to be a Plain Jane, and that honesty is never the best policy. The rest of the plot is charming enough - mistaken identities, silly coincidences. An opera diva (Marisa Pintus) threatens to quit and the Count's wife might catch them all in the act. As might be expected, nobody actually gets seduced and everyone but the Count gets what they want. Enrico's opera (represented by one limp song) is a huge success, and the wife and courtesan exchange winks as each goes off to their proper place once again.

The film is pretty cute in an old-fashioned way. The costumes and sets are amusing, and Mario Camerini's direction is standard but effective. The real star is Gino Cervi, an accomplished comedian, with 25 year-old Gina Lollobrigida and the equally beautiful Nadia Gray (8 1/2) always fun to watch. Gina quickly lost any association with "virtuous" roles, but here she's really part of an ensemble. Comedy relief is provided by the familiar Paolo Stoppa (Miracle in Milan), who roughly corresponds to the garage mechanic character in the Billy Wilder version.

This was Lollobrigida's eleventh film and one of the last before she went international in 1953's Beat the Devil. She's definitely on view, although the revealing costume on the box cover is not typical of the show.

Ivy Video's DVD of Wife for a Night is a good if not glowing presentation. The film is an American version, with the main titles replaced. But the audio track is still in the Italian language, with original pale white film subtitles burned into the images. The first reel has two or three splices, and from then on the show is more or less intact, with good audio. The encoding is also okay, with the image looking a bit soft only on the largest monitors. Like the other two Ivy Video offerings in this collection, this a fun show.

Ivy adds two interesting extras, the kind of added attractions that might have been seen in American art theaters where this kind of import played. The first is an Italian concert piece with the Rome Symphony orchestra playing Rossini's Barber of Seville and Beethoven's Prometheus Overture. The quality is fine. The second is a strange little animated film about The Kinsey Report, of all things. It uses cartoons that resemble the work of Jules Feiffer, and recurring closeups of actors pretending to be ordinary people picked out by the narrator's roving eye. The film wants to be open-minded, but is packed with assumptions about male and female roles, and betrays its bias. It repeats the rumor that the extreme sexual behaviors reported by the Kinsey people were the result of interviewing braggarts and extroverts.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Wife for a Night rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: Italian concert short subject; Report on Love, an animated look at the Kinsey report.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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