Marriage Italian Style tells the World War II era story of a cynical, successful businessman named Domenico (Mastroianni), who, after meeting a naive country girl, Filumena (Loren), one night in a Neapolitan brothel, keeps frequenting her for years in an on-off relationship (as she continues working as a prostitute). He eventually takes her in his house as a semi-official mistress under the pretense that she take care of his ailing, senile mother. After having fallen for a younger, prettier girl and having planned to marry her, he finds himself cornered when Filumena feigns illness and “on her deathbed”, asks to be married to him. Thinking she’ll be dead in a matter of hours and that the ‘marriage’ won’t even be registered, he agrees. After having been proclaimed his legal bride, the shrewd and resourceful Filumena drops the charade and reveals to have put up the show for the one child she bore from him (she gave birth to three sons but Domenico always maintained to have fathered none). Domenico tries to cajole her into telling him which one is his but she stalwartly refuses, telling him that sons can’t be picked and chosen and that he has to be the father of all three. It stars Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and Vito Moricone.
One of the film’s most memorable moments is when Domenico is on the phone with his new flame, shortly after having married the “moribund” Filumena. As he reassures his fiancée that death is near, a wild-eyed and vengeful Filumena emerges from a curtain behind him and exclaims in Neapolitan that she is in fact alive and well—the Madonna having taken pity on her.
The film was adapted by Leonardo Benvenuti, Renato Castellani, Piero De Bernardi and Tonino Guerra from the play Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo. It was directed by Vittorio De Sica.