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London-based Millionairess Epifania (Sophia Loren) is attracted to Dr. Kabir (MD from Delhi and PhD from Calcutta), who is more intent on treating patients. When she persists, he confides in her that he had made a commitment to his late widowed seamstress mother that he will wed any woman who will manage to survive on just Rs.500/-, for 90 days. She finds out that this sum is equivalent to just 35 shillings but readily accepts this challenge. She also informs him that her late father had also imposed a condition that she must wed a male who will turn £500 into £15000 within the same period. Epifania then finds employment with an Italian firm, ends up re-organizing, and turning up the firm's profits. At the end of 90 days, she goes to meet Kabir and discovers that he has not only given all the money away but also has no interest whatsoever in marrying her. Written by
The Millionairess reminds me of why people will sit through generally stale movies sometimes instead of just packing it in, the odd glitter or chemistry between two major movie stars who one does not often get to see together. This is a flat uncompelling piece of work about a newly minted heiress (Sophia Loren) who can't find the right man to marry and a devoted Indian physician (Peter Sellers) who has no interest in money- or women.
Sellers performance is about the only thing that takes this picture above banality; he has so much integrity as an actor that he raises the level of the mostly shoddy material. He has some truly wonderful, charming moments as the doctor who resists the stunning Loren at every turn (the same could not be said off-camera; Sellers wrecked his first marriage over the obsession). Loren, is a good, but not great actress; her appeal lies heavily in her charm and good humor. Here, those qualities are muted by the character she plays: a self-obsessed bombshell who has no real love to give- only money- and doesn't understand why a man of true integrity won't respond to that. But what's wrong with the screenplay is fairly obvious. In the typical Hate At First Sight movie romance, the characters learn and grow to see the virtue of the each other's worth, then fall in love. Here, they don't. Sellers character gives no indication of wearing down, Loren's never stops being exasperating (in one scene, she fakes an illness at 4:30 AM so Sellers will come over to examine her). When they hook up at the end, it's totally implausible and not very satisfying (she fakes committing suicide to draw him to her).
That said, the movie is not quite boring, the audience may be drawn to the radiance of the stars in spite of itself, but it has no real spark and no drive. The look of it is quite nice, it's expensive without being gaudy. But it doesn't serve the actors very well; even the great Alastair Sim isn't well-used. I suspect watching The Millionairess is something like being super-rich, one gets the feeling of having too much time to kill. 2** out of 4
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