Deathly ill, Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren) is brought home, and Alfredo (Aldo Puglisi) is sent for Don Domenico Soriano (Marcello Mastroianni), a 50-year-old rich businessman, in the midst of making a deal to sell his shops in Naples and planning his wedding with Diana (Marilù Tolo), a cashier less than half his age, before moving to Rome. The doctor Assures Domenico that Filumena’s condition is grave and in need of a medical consultant, though the woman who has gone from being a prostitute to his mistress says to him: “Not a professor … a priest.”
Domenico recalls his initially meeting Filumena, twenty-two years earlier during World War II when she was seventeen, in a brothel during an air raid but refusing to leave for the shelter: “People make me feel ashamed.” Two years later they meet again after the war.
Between trips away from Naples, he visits her, treating her like a lady. As he returns her to the bordello, she says indignantly: “You say you love me, but what sort of love is it? How can you let me stay up there available to anyone?” Domenico replies: “Yes, it’s been tormenting me, making me ill.”
Provided with a flat, the lease in her name, Filumena also is put in charge of Domenico’s businesses while he’s away. Upon his returning from London with new shoes, Filumena informs him that a young man has proposed marriage to her, prompting him to introduce her to his ailing mother, who’s been led to think she’s the niece of Carmela the maid. Moved into the maid’s quarters, Filumena takes care of Domenico’s mother until she dies.
A dramatic comedy with social comment on the legal injustices confronting women, directed by Vittorio De Sica and based on Eduardo de Filippo’s play, Filumena Marturano, the screenplay was written by Renato Castellani, Tonino Guerra, Leo Benvenuti, and Piero De Bernardi.
Back to the present, Filumena is on her death bed receiving last rites from the priest, who also weds the couple. Believing Filumena will soon expire, Domenico calls Diana on the phone to complete their wedding arrangements when Filumena interrupts: “The Madonna has worked a miracle! We’re married!”
Deceived and tricked into matrimony, Domenico searches his bureau drawers for his revolver, pulling the dresser on top of himself. When Alfredo cries out that his employer is having a heart attack, Filumena says sardonically: “He won’t die. If you’ve no heart, you can’t have a heart attack.”
She remembers when back in the brothel her many sacrifices for her three sons, raised apart from her, with help from Alfredo, who promised not to tell Don Soriano but proposed marriage, willing to take the boys for his own. Her objective has been to secure a legal surname for Umberto, Riccardo, and Michele.
However, Domenico finds a lawyer who points out to Filumena that because she used a ruse to wed Domenico, the marriage is a fraud and thus must be annulled. Introducing Domenico to her three sons, she informs him: “One of those three is your son.” When he demands to know which one is his heir, after failing to disprove her claim, so that he may provide the 15-year-old mechanic or the glove salesman or the student with opportunities his wealth can afford, Filomena refuses to distinguish one from the others: “They must be equal.”
Marriage Italian Style is available at UW’s Coe Library.
Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html