In my list of films set in Rome, I included Boccaccio 70 and I revisited it yesterday. It is in fact a quartet of films, three of which are by Italy’s foremost directors Vittorio de Sica, Lucchino Visconti and Federico Fellini and featuring two international stars, Anita Ekberg and Sophia Loren. My mind and everything else was captivated by Romy Schneider, the Austrian actress. She played the role of a rich wife married to an impoverished count who is caught by the tabloids with a high class hooker. She decided she must get a job, though she is not qualified for anything. Directed by Visconti and set in a sumptuous apartment, it’s big on style and weak on content. Romy as Pupa is skittish, sexy, adorable and confident acting in another language. She is more than equal to the other two more famous divas.
Anita Ekberg is forever known for that scene in the Trevi fountain in La Dolce Vita which showcased her magnificent breasts. In her film she disturbs the mind of a moral crusader offended by the huge billboard of her stretched out provocatively in advertising milk. This Fellini film was the funniest of the quartet as she comes to life to seduce the man. The first film features 2 employees who get married, contrary to company rules, and is a rather light piece. In the final film, Sophia Loren sells lottery tickets and makes herself a prize in order to raise money to pay her sister’s taxes. A nerdy sacristan wins and there is a titillating scene when he collects his prize, as she is thrown everywhere in the bed of the mobile caravan when it is driven off. The common theme to each is that the woman takes charge, quite remarkable for a pre-feminist film made in 1962.
But back to Romy. She had a sad life. Her son died in a tragic accident, impaling himself on a garden stake in 1981, and she never recovered ,descending into an abyss of alcohol and drugs, losing her life – but neither her beauty nor talent – a year later. Though the cause of death was cardiac arrest, it is widely thought she took an overdose of sleeping pills.