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One of the most appealing comedies of the Italian Fascist period was this fast-paced entry directed by Mario Camerini and starring matinée idol Vittorio De Sica.
Set in France, presumably to suggest a René Clair film or to hint that the forward-looking Italy of Mussolini didn't have poverty, it is about a poor man, Blim (Luigi Almirante) and a rich one appropriately named Gold (De Sica) who exchange roles after the rich guy rescues the down and out hobo from suicide. The guy looks somewhat like Michel Simon in Renoir's "Boudu Saved from Drowning."
The wealthy man offers a million francs to anyone who will offer kindness to him incognito in the garments of a poor man. This all generates a frenzy in the city as everyone goes out of their way to be nice to beggars and the down-and-out. Kindnesses are shown; dinners are served to the poor. No one is successful save the sincere and selfless young circus cashier Anna, played by the lovely Assia Noris.
Besides suggesting René Clair, the movie has some of the same feel as the depression-era American movies "It Happened One Night" and "My Man Godfrey." And is quite a delight if you can see it. It got a very limited U.S.release in 1937, opening unsubtitled at the Broadway Cine-Roma. It was shown in the Museum of Modern Art's 1978 retrospective: "Before Neo-realism."
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