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"Daddy's Little Devil" - Deanna Durbin, Italian style.
The film opens with a perky song sung by title character Nicoletta as she drives a carriage at top speed while driving a doctor home over country roads. The family wonders where Nicoletta had disappeared to. She had escaped from her room again. That girl...always running off. This time it was to fetch the doctor in time for a birth...of a colt.
This is a delightful escapist comedy with songs and suggests some of the Gregory La Cava movies of the 1930s. Although a completely inconsequential piece, the movie is well-made and exudes a great amount of charm.
The young heroine Nicoletta is played by Chiaretta Gelli and she reminded me of Deanna Durbin in her feisty tomboyish charm. The plot is a silly inconsequential affair about the bratty and unmanageable Nicoletta (birichino = little devil) who wants to prevent her sister's marriage to an incorrigible womanizer, and after their marriage, to tell her about his peccadillos and infidelities. Her sister Livia is played by Anna Vivaldi and her man Roberto is played by Franco Scandurra.
Nicoletta has been sent to boarding school, where she is a thorn in the side of the teachers and doesn't take well to schooling and doesn't impress when she's called upon. "It's a month they've been wanting to know when Napoleon died. I know but I won't tell them!" The highlight of her short-lived school days before she runs away is parents' day. A chorus of girls is performing on the school lawn, but the excluded Nicoletta is giving her antiphonal commentary from a window above: "You all have ugly faces!"
The supporting cast is quite good with special praise to be given to Armando Falconi as Nicoletta's doting dad Leopoldo and Carlo Campanini as the hilarious lawyer Marchi whom Nicoletta inadvertently reaches by phone when locked in the infirmary at school and whose help she later enlists to attempt to rescue Livia from the clutches of her Don Juan husband.
The lively direction is by Raffaello Matarazzo, later to be known for his many popular Italian weepies. The music is by Nino Rota, who uses at some points a motif that we would later hear in his 1963 score for Visconti's "The Leopard." The movie was never released commercially in America but had showings at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1978 as part of the Italian Fascist era series "Before Neo-realism."
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