The Millionairess (1960)

The Millionairess
Peter Sellers resists Sophia Loren’s forward advances in The Millionairess (image via operagloves.tumblr)

Sophia Loren is Epifania, a millionairess (as the title of the film would suggest). Her father has passed away, leaving her to inherit his fortunes. She’s living in the wonderful city of London. But her life isn’t as enchanting as the money and lovely setting would make it seem. She’s depressed, and after attempting suicide is sent to Dr. Ahmed el Kabir (Peter Sellers).

Epifania forms a love/hate relationship with the doctor, who is much more focused on helping the poor and treating his patients than falling under her spell. She makes many attempts to woo him, first with her beauty and then with an offer of financial support to his practice. She wants to marry him, but they can’t just go right ahead and do it, even if he does finally agree; Epifania’s father left conditions in his will that must be met by any man that she marries, and the doctor has his own set of conditions as well. These conditions require both of them to essentially ditch their current lifestyles for a time.

Despite all of Sophia Loren’s charm, this film doesn’t really live up to its potential. The premise could have easily turned into a fantastic zinger of a comedy, especially given the greatness of the George Bernard Shaw play that the film is based on, but a couple of problems keep that from happening.

The biggest issue is the pacing. There is no consistent pace to this film. Some scenes are entirely dull. There are very few fast-paced scenes, with most falling in an all-too-comfortable middle ground or in the aforementioned ultra-slow zone. As a result the film often borders on losing the viewer’s interest.

Millionairess poster
(Promotional poster via listal.com)

Still, the film does have its redeeming qualities. Sophia Loren gives a great performance in a role that seems to be an exaggerated caricature of the upper class. She’s very funny, and far outshines her co-star Peter Sellers, though his character is quite noble and in all honesty much more likable than Epifania. Alastair Sim is also great as the family lawyer who consults Epifania and often disagrees with her decisions.

As hinted in the previous description of Loren’s character, I also found the underlying social commentary of this film to be much enjoyable. It makes subtle statements on class conflict and corruption in business, which provide the film with an interesting edge when it could have easily appeared as a fluff comedy.

The Millionairess is not a phenomenal film, but it is a decently pleasant watch nonetheless. Despite the ill pacing of the story, it succeeds in providing a number of laughs and also providing a subtle commentary on society. The score: 3/5

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