Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Great and Glorious Totò, Part 2 (1950 to 1959)

Totò in Sette ore di guai (1951)
Figaro qua, Figaro là (English title: Figaro Here, Figaro There) (1950) 

The film is an adaptation of the opera "The Barber of Seville."  Figaro (Totò), a barber, is arrested for operating his shop on a Sunday.  The barber later schemes with his nobleman friend, the Count of Almaviva, to undermine the governor, who refuses to allow the count to marry his daughter Rosina.  The pair figure to abduct Rosina by arriving at an inn ahead of the governor and his daughter and posing as the innkeepers.  But the plan goes awry when the inn is raided by bandits.

Totò cerca moglie (English title: Toto Looks for a Wife) (1950)

IMDb: "Aunt Agatha writes to Totò, informing him not to send him a penny more until he is married."

Totòtarzan (1950)  

Le sei mogli di Barbablù (English title: Bluebeard's Six Wives) (1950)  

Totò Esposito (Totò) tries to abduct his beloved to marry her, but he mistakenly kidnaps a homely woman named Carmela (Marcella Rovena).  Carmela is smitten with Totò and will not let him escape her.  She pursues him to the United States, India, Africa and the South Pole.


Totò sceicco (English title: Toto the Sheik) (1950) 

Antonio (Totò) joins the foreign legion to forget a woman who scorned him.


47 morto che parla (1950) 

Totò terzo uomo (English title: Toto the Third Man) (1951) 


Sette ore di guai (English title: Seven Hours of Trouble) (1951) 

A poor tailor (Totò) hopes that his grandmother will give him money for his son's baptism, but the wet nurse loses the son in a park and the tailor figures to rent another baby as a substitute until he can track down the missing child.

Guardie e ladri (English title: Cops and Robbers) (1951) 

Throughout his career, Totò was often partnered with other popular Italian comedians, including Alberto Sordi, Peppino De Filippo and Aldo Fabrizi.  Totò and Fabrizi made a perfect team in Guardie e ladri.  

The film is remarkable in its effectiveness at presenting characters that are funny as well as sensitive.  I laughed often at the characters, but I also cared about them a great deal.  It is because I cared about the characters that my eyes teared up a bit at the end.  Guardie e ladri is regarded by many as the comedian's best film.      


My favorite Totò films are the ones the comedian made in the 1950s.

Toto a colori (English title: Toto in Color) (1952)

IMDb: "A musician, Antonio Scannagatti (Totò), hopes to sell his composition, 'Epopea italiana,' to Tiscordi, one of the most important Italian impresarios."


Totò e i re di Roma (English title: Toto and the King of Rome) (1952)  

Government bureaucracy is sharply ridiculed in Totò e i re di Roma.  One particular subplot of the film stands out for me.  The mayor puts his nephew, Palocco (Alberto Sordi), in charge of transforming the childhood home of the city's most famous resident, Maestro Calogero Belloni, into a museum.  Palocco says of the home, "From slippers to glasses, everything is still intact, as the Maestro left it, when he flew up into the sky, the pure soul!"  But he needs to recover the Maestro's parrot, which the man's niece donated to a zoo during the war.  Ercole Pappalardo (Totò), the city archivist, is entrusted with the task of acquiring this exceptional bird.  Palocco says excitedly, "It's a fantastic parrot!  It can sing all the patriotic hymns and even parts of 'Ermengarde.'"  He is insistent that Ercole recover the parrot quickly.  He exclaims, "It's ours, it belongs to us, it belongs to the museum!  They must give it to us!  We must get that parrot!"  Unfortunately, Ercole is informed by the zoo director that the parrot is dead.  Italian resistance soldiers shot the bird during an insurgence.  Ercole says, "They came upon it singing 'Giovinezza' [the official hymn of Mussolini's National Fascist Party] at the top of its lungs."  "He deserved it," his friend Ferruccio (Aroldo Tieri) says.  Ercole shakes his head in grim agreement.  "It was a nasty parrot," he says.

Knowing that the mayor will be displeased with the news, Ercole finds another parrot and tries to teach it to sing a patriotic hymn. The ruse doesn't turn out well.

This premise was later used by the U. S. sitcoms The Gale Storm Show ("Singapore Fling," April 20, 1957) and Car 54, Where Are You? ("I Hate Captain Block," November 18, 1962).

Totò e le donne (English title: Toto and the Women) (1952)  

Blogger Ric Quidam summarized the plot of Totò e le Donne as follows:
Filippo Scaparro [Totò] is convinced that the main source of trouble for men is women.  He takes refuge in an attic to read his "giallo" [crime mystery pulp novels] in peace, smoke a cigar, and pray to his protector: Landru [famed serial wife killer Henri Désiré Landru].  A series of flashbacks evoke his relationships with women: wife, mistress, client, prostitute.
Totò frightens away a young man who has come by to take out his daughter (Giovanna Pala).

Una di quelle (English title: One of Those) (1953)

IMDb: "Rocco [Totò] and his brother Martino [Peppino De Filippo] are two rich country estate owners who descend into the city in search of adventure."

Rocco does not have the type of adventure that he expected.  He visits a night club with the idea to pick up a prostitute and take her back to his hotel room.  He meets a young woman, Maria (Lea Padovani), who is working for the first time as a prostitute.  He learns that the woman is a widow who has a sick son that needs immediate care.  Rocco makes it his mission to help the woman and her son.  He finds a doctor (played by the film's director Aldo Fabrizi), who diagnoses the boy's illness as diphtheria.  The boy is having trouble breathing and has a high fever  Rocco rushes off to purchase a diphtheria vaccine at the pharmacy.  He gets caught in a bad storm and struggles to return to Maria, who worries that her new benefactor has abandoned her.  To her relief, Rocco returns and the vaccine restores her son's health.  Maria admits to Rocco that she is not really a prostitute.  He tells her that he already guessed her situation.  He invites her and her son to return with him to his country estate.

L'uomo la bestia e la virtù (English title: Man, Beast and Virtue) (1953) 

Un turco napoletano (English title: Neapolitan Turk) (1953)

An escaped convict poses as a Turkish eunuch.

Il più comico spettacolo del mondo (English title: Funniest Show on Earth (1953) 


Questa è la vita (English title: Of Life and Love) (1954) (segment "La patente")

IMDb User ItalianGerry: "The third episode [in this anthology film] is 'La patente' ('The License,' or as it was called in the U.S.A. 'The Jinx').  It is an amusing little anecdote about a man who wants to get certified as a jinx so that he can make money from his special abilities of warding off the evil eye."

Dov’è la libertà. . .? (English title: Where Is Freedom?) (1954) 

A barber who committed murder in jealous rage is released from prison after twenty years.  He cannot adjust himself to the changed world and decides to return to prison.


Tempi nostri (English title: A Slice of Life) (1954) 

Miseria e nobiltà (English title: Poverty and Nobility) (1954)

A poor writer, Felice Sciosciammocca (Totò), poses as an aristocrat.

Il medico dei pazzi (English title: The Doctor of the Mad) (1954)

Il medico dei pazzi  is based on a 1908 play of the same name by Eduardo Scarpetta.  Scarpetta, a popular comedian and playwright, was the father of Totò's frequent co-star Peppino De Filippo.  The film is the classic burlesque routine "Crazy House" cleverly expanded into a full-length feature.  Felice Sciosciammocca (Totò) travels to Naples to visit his nephew Ciccillo (Aldo Giuffrè), who he believes to be a recent graduate of medical school.  Uncle Felice has been led to believe he has been paying for his nephew's medical studies when, in fact, he has been financing his nephew's hedonistic lifestyle.  Ciccillo, in desperate need of money to pay gambling debts to a loan shark, elicits help from his friend Michele to stage a new deception against his uncle.  He claims that he is working as a psychiatrist at a mental health clinic and that he needs money to purchase an electroshock machine.  He takes his uncle on the tour of the "clinic," which is actually a pensioners' hotel, and introduces him to the hotel's eccentric residents.  The loan shark surreptitiously takes Ciccillo away before he can finish the tour and Felice panics thinking he has been suddenly left alone with dangerous psychiatric patients.  

I tre ladri (English title: The Three Thieves) (1954) 

L'Associazione Antonio De Curtis in arte Totò, a group formed by the comedian's daughter Liliana de Curtis and his niece Elena Anticoli de Curtis, provide a detailed plot summary for this clever film.
Tapioca [Totò] is a petty thief who gets caught often.  To escape from a shopkeeper after the theft of a salami, he rushes through a skylight into a deserted stately home. After having satiated with the food found in the kitchen, he meets his old apprentice Gastone Cascarilla, who in the meantime has become a class thief: impeccable in tailcoats, hats and redingotes, he wants to extort money from the wealthy businessman Ornano, owner of the house.  Gastone, in possession of the letters that his wife has sent to one of his many lovers, is given the combination of the safe from this.  He manages to steal 10 million and escape undisturbed.  Tapioca still remains in the house and is discovered while escaping. . . Ornano wants at all costs to get back the stolen money as without it he would go bankrupt.  In fact, the money allowed him to support the entire financial empire of which he was the owner, acting as an "advance" for a whole series of operations at the limit of legality.  To convince Tapioca to reveal where he put the money Ornano decides to fill his prison cell with gifts. . . [T]he cell is equipped with every comfort, with the guards transformed into servants and waiters.  In a short time, Tapioca becomes a very popular person even abroad. . . The accused then declares himself guilty of the crime he did not commit.  But at that moment Gastone intervenes in the courtroom, revealing that he was the author of the theft, distributing the money to everyone present and causing a tumult during which he has little difficulty escaping from the court's guards.  Even Tapioca, almost disgusted by the violence of the crowd unleashed to collect the banknotes, manages to escape from the courtroom, refusing even the wad of bills offered to him by a man he once helped.
We learn in the final scene that the three thieves, Tapioca, Gastone and Ornano, have successfully joined forces and lead luxurious lives.

Totò cerca pace (English title: Toto Seeks Peace) (1954) 

IMDb: "Two widowers decide to get married but their decision is continually hampered by their grandchildren, who are just interested in their inheritance."

L'oro Di Napoli (English title: The Gold of Naples) (1954) as Don Saverio Petrillo (segment "Il guappo") 


Totò e Carolina (English title: Totò and Carolina) (1955)


Totò e Carolina is funny and heartfelt.  A police officer, Antonio Caccavallo (Totò), is put in charge of returning a runaway girl to her rural village.  It is not an easy job.  To start, the girl is suicidal.  Also, we eventually learn that the girl is pregnant.  A tender relationship develops between the fatherly police officer and the troubled girl during their road trip.

Totò all'inferno (English title: Totò in Hell) (1955)

Antonio Marchi (Totò), an unhappy thief, fails several times to commit suicide, but then accidentally drowns in a river and ends up in hell.


Siamo uomini o caporali (English title: Are We Men or Corporals?) (1955) 

Totò is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.


Destinazione Piovarolo (English title: Destination Piovarolo) (1955)

 A railwayman, Antonio La Quaglia (Totò), is excited to finally win a job as stationmaster until he learns his new station is in a rainy, remote village (Wikipedia: "The only entertainment of the stationmaster is to play chess games at distance via the telegraph with colleagues from other stations.").  The story follows the stationmaster for the next seventeen years as he contends with unending politics to gain a transfer.  He confronts the biggest obstacle to his transfer when he marries a Jewish teacher and finds that Fascist officials disapprove of the union.

Racconti romani (English title: Roman Tales) (1955) 

Il coraggio (1955) 

Commendatore Aristide Paoloni (Gino Cervi) saves Gennaro (Totò) from drowning in the Tiber River.  But, as is often said, no good deed goes unpunished.  Wikipedia explains: "Gennaro begins to disturb the quiet family life of the Commendatore, who soon begins to look for a way to kill the poor Gennaro."

La banda degli (English title: The Band of Honest Men) (1956) 

This film is a favorite of mine.

Antonio Buonocore (Totò), a caretaker of an apartment building, visits an elderly tenant who is dying.  The tenant, a former mint employee, tells him that he has a suitcase that contains engravings for bank notes and enough watermarked paper to print 10,000 liras.  He says that he never had the courage to become a counterfeiter and wants Buonocore to throw the suitcase into the river to destroy its contents.  Buonocore is an honest man, but he is at risk of losing his job for refusing to cooperate with a fraudulent accounting scheme proposed by his new boss Casoria (Luigi Pavese).  So, he decides to go into the counterfeiting business.  But he needs help.  He enlists the cooperation of typographer Giuseppe Lo Turco (Peppino De Filippo) and painter Cardone (Giacomo Furia), both of whom are having their own financial problems.

The three men embark in earnest in their counterfeiting enterprise.  Once they produce their first note, Buonocore tests if the note is passable by using it to buy a bar of soap at a tobacconist shop.  He is visibly shaking as he hands over the note, but the tobacconist accepts the note without question.

Buonocore discovers that his eldest son Michele (Gabriele Tinti), a revenue officer, is heading an investigation to find the source of a recently discovered counterfeit note.  Buonocore believes that this must be the note he gave to the tobacconist.  He is afraid of being discovered and afraid that his illegal activities will reflect poorly on his son and possibly cost the young man his job.  He convinces his cronies not to spend their fake lira and help him immediately to bury their equipment.  Wikipedia notes:
The son, seeing this strange burial by chance, asks his father what he is doing, but Cardone does not think better than to say they are burying Mustafa, Buonocore's poodle, killed by a car.  Antonio is therefore forced to get rid of the dog, and not having the courage to kill him, leaves him on the road, tied to a milestone. . . But Mustafa frees itself and returns home during a visit of Michele's supervisor.
Buonocore remains fearful to spend any of the fake money, but he sees Lo Turco buy expensive new shoes and Cardone buy himself a new coat.

Buonocore gets the idea that Michele is close to capturing him and figures that, if he immediately surrenders to his son, the young man will likely get a promotion.  But, when he makes his confession, his son thinks his father is joking with him.  He tells him that they have closed the case, having just finished arresting a group of professional counterfeiters from Switzerland.  As it turns out, his son's investigation had nothing to do with his father's undertaking.  Michele shows him a counterfeit note that he found at the the tobacconist shop.  Buonocore recognizes a unique marking on the note.  This is a note that he received at a pawn shop when he hocked his fobwatch.  He realizes that he was so nervous at the tobacconist shop that he used this note to purchase the soap instead of the phony test note.

Buonocore gives his partners the good news.  He is surprised to learn that, like him, his partners never had the courage to spend any of the bank notes, which means none of their notes have been in circulation for the revenue officers to find.  Lo Turco explains that he purchased his new shoes with money he borrowed.  Cardone says he took money out of his mother's mattress to buy his new coat.

The three men destroy the counterfeit notes and the suitcase in a bonfire.  The final joke of the film occurs when Buonocore realizes that he mistakenly threw his pay envelope into the flames.

The film is good entertainment.  The plot, counterfeiting materials falling into the hands of ordinary decent folk, is believable and engaging.  The characters are humorous and sympathetic.  And Toto's acting has never been better.

Totò, lascia o raddoppia? (1956)

A penniless duke (Totò) uses his knowledge of horseracing on a television quiz show to win the grand prize of five million lira.  Before his final appearance on the show, he is kidnapped by a gangster who has bet against him winning the grand prize.


Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina (English title: Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy) (1956) 

Ted Shen of The Chicago Reader favorably reviewed Totò, Peppino e... la malafemmina, writing:
Italian comedian Toto and his frequent sidekick Peppino De Filippo are bachelor brothers from the outskirts of Naples who set off for Milan to rescue their nephew from the designs of a voluptuous showgirl.  The story takes quite a while to get moving, and the action sputters whenever the lovers occupy the screen alone, but once the two bumpkins arrive in town the surreal silliness takes over, many of the gags exploiting regional and class differences.  This 1956 feature by Camillo Mastrocinque is oddly reminiscent of the work of Hollywood director Frank Tashlin (then hitting his peak), and the chemistry between Toto and Peppino often suggests Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge (English title: Toto, Peppino and the Outlaws) (1956) 

Antonio (Totò) is married to a wealthy woman who keeps him on a tight budget.  He devises a plan with his friend (Peppino De Filippo) to stage his own kidnapping and collect the ransom money.


Totò, Vittorio e la dottoressa (English title: The Lady Doctor) (1957) 

IMDb: "The fake private detective Mike Spillone [Totò] is hired by two old ladies to find out if Brigitte, the wife of their nephew Otello Bellomo, has a lover."


Totò e Marcellino (English title: Toto and Marcellino) (1958)  

Il professore (Totò), a street musician, cares for an orphan boy (Pablito Calvo).

La legge è legge (English title: The Law Is the Law) (1958)  

  I solti ignoti (English title: Big Deal on Madonna Street) (1958)  


Due to his great popularity, Totò was prominently featured in the film's marketing materials even though his role in the film was small.

Totò, Peppino e le fanatiche (English title: Toto, Peppino and the Fanatics) (1958) 

Totò, Peppino e le fanatiche was the fifth of thirteen films that teamed Totò and Peppino De Filippo.  The plot was an excuse to feature the comedians in a series of loosely connected episodes.  The medical director of a psychiatric clinic runs tests on two patients, Antonio Vignanelli (Totò) and Peppino Caprioli (De Filippo).  The men explain the hardships that they suffered in the outside world.  It soon becomes apparent to the doctor that it was the stress of family life that caused the men to suffer mental breakdowns.  When their spouses and adult children come to visit them, the doctor has attendants seize the family members and bind them in straitjackets while he discharges Antonio and Peppino to resume their lives without the encumbrance of their selfish family members.     


Totò a Parigi (English: Toto in Paris) (1958)

The Marquis Gastone De Chemandel (Totò) encounters a vagabond who looks identical to him.  In desperate need of money, the aristocrat concocts a plan to have the vagabond serve as his stand-in in a death scene shrewdly staged to look like an accident.  This way, he will be able to collect an insurance settlement for his own death.


Totò nella luna (English title: Toto on the Moon) (1958)


Gambe d'oro (English title: Legs of Gold) (1958)  

Totò plays Baron Luigi Fontana, the owner of an amateur football team.


Totò, Eva e il pennello proibito (English title: Totò in Madrid) (1959)

A talented painter Scorcelletti (Totò) is engaged by a swindler Raoul La Spada (Mario Carotenuto) to forge a Goya painting.  La Spada's beautiful girlfriend Eva (Abbe Lane) convinces a celebrated art critic, Francisco Montiel (Louis de Funès), to authenticate the painting.

I tartassati (English title: The Overtaxed) (1959)  

Mr. Pezzella (Totò), owner of a chic boutique, uses a shady accountant (Louis de Funès) to evade paying tax.  But then an incorruptible tax inspector Topponi (Aldo Fabrizi), comes poking around and Pezzella works his hardest to get on Topponi's good side.


I ladri (English title: The Thieves) (1959)

Police Commissionar Di Savio (Totò) is on the hunt for stolen gold coins.


Arrangiatevi (English title: You're on Your Own) (1959)  

A housing shortage leads Giuseppe Armentano (Peppino De Filippo) to move his family, including grandfather (Totò), into an abandoned brothel.  He doesn't tell his family the history of the building, but his wife eventually finds out and threatens to leave him.


La cambiale (English title: The Promisory Note) (1959)   


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