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A dog's life...for performers in provincial theatres.
(Spoilers included) I would characterize this film as a delightful discovery for me. It is a comedy-drama about a troupe of third-string variety-act performers who tour Italy's provinces putting on shows in decrepit movie theatres.
It bears a great deal of resemblance to VARIETY LIGHTS, Fellini's first film (co-directed by Alberto Lattuada), which was made around the same time. The troupe leader, as well as singer of comedic songs, is Nino Martoni (Aldo Fabrizi) who must use every resource available to him to have his company stay afloat. And times are tough insufficient box office, mounting company debts, no money to pay performers, train fares, hotels, restaurants.
Much of the film involves the lives of three of the women performers. There's Franca (Tamara Lees) who is engaged to Carlo (Marcello Mastroianni in one of his earliest appearances). She leaves him to attempt to find fame and fortune in show business. There's Vera (Delia Scala) who finds true love during the course of the movie, and Margherita (Gina Lollobrigida) who has show business in her blood, is devoted to Martoni during good times and bad, and ends up by film's end with a first rate company. Franca, on the other hand, in marrying a rich industrialist for his money, and realizing she has lost her true love in the process, commits suicide by jumping out a window.
The cast is an incredibly good array of the Italian screen's top performers. Fabrizi's weaselly manner is a wonder to behold, and his scene with a hotel manager unwilling to accept a check in payment for the troupe's stay is a little masterpiece. Nino Rota did the nice musical score as well as providing some of the song numbers, along with Fabrizi and Mario Ruccione. They have real appeal.
Directed by Mario Monicelli and Steno (Stefano Vanzina), both major directors of comedy for many decades to follow, the movie deserves to be resurrected and shown in "commedia all'italiana" programs.
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