- Ravi Swami
"Lucky To Be A Woman", Dir: Alessandro Blasetti, 1956
"Lucky To Be A Woman", or "La Fortuna Di Essere Donna" to give it its' original Italian title, and "Mating Modern Style", its' dubious American title and described on the poster as "Spicier than pizza", is a fairly routine potboiler "Commedia All'Italiana" available to view for free on YouTube.
That said, it boasts an appearance by Charles Boyer, by 1956 a veteran of countless Hollywood films and here playing an influential theatrical agent.
Marcello Mastroianni plays a "paparazzi", a role that anticipates his later similar role in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita and is paired with Sophia Loren - a successful on-screen pairing that would continue across several later films.
However, this is really Sophia Loren's film and she is placed center-stage as a street smart young woman eager to make her way up the greasy pole of success as a model and actress after Mastroianni snaps her by chance and sells the photo to a popular magazine.
The plot is a light-hearted twist on Antonio Pietrangeli's later, much darker and perhaps more realistic "I Knew Her Well", charting the same route of a young woman rising from poverty to the peak of success and recognition via her own wits and ability to navigate the overwhelmingly male-dominated environment of publishing and movies.
Loren's natural hair colour is dyed a platinum blonde for the role (curiously red/brown in the French and American posters) and her naturally voluptuous figure and height are set off by a variety of costumes throughout the film, which is filmed in black and white.
The film opens with a scene set at an airport where Loren is due to either meet someone or is there to hopefully get herself snapped alongside some visiting celebrity, in this case, Boyer. However, things don't go to plan and as she leaves, she accepts an offer of a lift from a rather sleazy looking man driving a big American car.
As the opening titles play out it become clear that the man has other less honourable intentions and he takes a diversion at the edge of the city along the ancient "Via Appia" which is where Loren struggles with him before he stops and let's her out. This scene allows the viewer an insight into her mettle in such sticky situations and clearly she has the confidence to take no nonsense from predatory men.
It is here that she is snapped by Mastroianni, who is driving back after an assignment at the airport, as she adjusts her garter in the hope of hitching a lift, which proves unsuccessful as passing drivers assume that she is a prostitute, finally accepting a lift from a man with a horse and cart who intervenes when he sees her arguing with the driver who gave her a lift by threatening to knock him out.
Later, she manages to track down Mastroianni after her photo on the magazine is a sensation across the city and he agrees to help her to become a model by fooling her into thinking he has influential contacts in the modeling and films worlds but again, he has other intentions resting primarily of getting her to disrobe for saucy photographs, which she reluctantly agrees to, but only because she is developing a fondness for the rakish photographer.
Via a series of introductions orchestrated by Mastroianni, she eventually meets Boyer's suave "Count Gregorio Sennetti", an impresario, who agrees to represent her for movies on condition that she agrees to marry him, but leaves out the fact that he is already married.
As her fast-tracked career reaches a point where she is on the brink of stardom, Mastroianni is left behind to pursue other ingenue would-be models and actresses and begins to resent the fact that Loren's "Antonietta" seems to ignore his role in her success.
However, her rise comes to an abrupt end during a meal at an expensive restaurant where Boyer intends announcing that he wishes to tie the knot after getting her to sign a contract, when his wife turns up and derails the plan, and Loren storms out pursued by Mastroianni, who is present to take photographs of the couple for the various celebrity rags that he works for.
The films end with a romantic scene between Loren and Mastroianni after the two have a blazing row near his apartment, but it is clear that they have fallen in love with each other.
"La Fortuna Di Essere Donna" is an entertaining film and a vehicle for Loren to display the range of her ability in embracing strong female and comedy roles and the title expresses the notion that a woman may make her way in the world with certain natural advantages, but combined with intelligence, she can beat men hands-down, which must have been an empowering message for women at the time.
"Lucky To Be a Woman" / "La Fortuna Di Essere Donna", Dir: Alessandro Blasetti, 1956