I am a big fan of Sophia Loren, but the trajectory of her international stardom rests firmly in the late ’50s and ’60s. Those were the year’s fur fashion was merely phoning it in, a dreary wasteland of minks that were better suited to funerals than glamorous ladies on the big screen. Loren compounded this problem by doing a lot of period and western genre pieces. History teaches us that the only westerns with big fox furs starred Mae West. Thankfully, there’s at least one bright spot: The Millionairess.
The Millionairess – The Film
The film is about the epically named Epifania Parerga, a spoiled (not madcap) heiress. Not just any old heiress, the richest one in the world, who is having some dude trouble. Due to one of those plot device wills that seem ever so less familiar these days, she has to marry a guy who can turn a profit in 3 months, a system she readily games. Finding no love that way, she eventually meets and falls in love with a humble inner-city doctor named Kabir, played by Peter Sellers, doing Indian instead of French. Naturally humble inner-city doctors rebuff wealthy heiresses every day, so their love takes another couple acts to fully bloom, but, you know the drill, happy endings all around.
The Millionairess – The Furs
The richest woman in the world can afford to buck the fashion trends of the day, a fortunate development for our viewing pleasure. Epifania wears four furs in the film, and three of them are actually interesting.
There’s a brief glimpse of fur number one before a full viewing while Epifania visits her psychiatrist after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. A very funny one, of course.
Later we get to see more of this lynx wrap on a windy day at the banks of the Thames. Sadly this, like the third entry, is filmed entirely in fairly wide shots. Still, it hangs around for a while, and we get to enjoy Miss Loren adjusting it and her hair constantly in the breeze.
And here’s the rich nougaty center of the film. This is an extended sequence where Epifania attempts to win Kabir’s love by showing him the tremendous state-of-the-art clinic she built next door to his crappy one. While doing so, she wears this outfit, trimmed with rich, thick white fox fur.
Since the sequence is so long, they had to do a few with closer shots from time to time.
The story even has an x-ray machine gag. It’s a comedy.
There is a lot of Peter Sellers in this sequence, it almost makes me wish for the pan-and-scan version. Though then there’d be even more “solo” shots of him, and I’d have to cut more.
Final view, the sequence ends with a good shoot of Miss Loren. They quickly mar the shot with an overlay of the following sequence.
Later, Epifania shows up to again declare her intent and outline the terms of that will, the one where Kabir has to turn a profit of 15k on 500 pounds in 3 months. She does so in a lovely chinchilla wrap that, like the lynx wrap at the beginning, is filmed chiefly wide.
There are very few shifts in camera angles for this one, though they pull in a little closer at one point.
Oh… is that how this works? You give me money? Awesome!
Finally, in something of a nod to the period, the costumer eventually relents and allows her to wear this reasonably pedestrian wrap. It looks like ermine, but I wouldn’t rule out a sheared mink. At least it’s white and not brown.
For the time, this is an impressive film. Lynx, fox, and chinchilla all in a movie with the big “C” saying 1960. Even more notable is that the most screen time is given to the white fox collar and cuffs and not one of the more (comparatively) conservative options. Sophia Loren is in her prime and looking magnificent, well suited to be framed by big fox furs. Sadly that was quite the rarity throughout her film career. The cinematographer wasn’t really up to the task of documenting just how magnificent she looked, relying far too much on wide shots, never allowing us to linger for very long on this beauty alone and in richly detailed close-up.
Fur Runtime: approx 11 minutes
Film Runtime: 90 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 12%