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The White Sheik

(Italian 1952 b 83')

En: 6 Ed: 5

A young Italian couple arrive in Rome for their honeymoon; but they are separated when she goes off to visit the glamorous lover of her dreams.

         Ivan Cavalli (Leopoldo Trieste) and Wanda Cavalli (Brunella Bovo) get off a train in Rome, and they stay in a hotel. They plan to see the Pope at 11. Ivan lets Wanda order a bath. While he is resting, she goes off to see Fernando Rivoli (Alberto Sordi) who plays the White Sheik. She talks with writer Marilena Alba Vellardi (Fanny Marchio). Wanda knows her movies and likes the White Sheik best.

         Ivan wakes up and finds bathwater overflowing, and he learns where Wanda went. Wanda sees actors and goes with them in a truck. Ivan reads a letter from Fernando inviting her to visit him. Ivan meets his relatives and says Wanda has a headache. He tries to stop his aunt from going up to see Wanda.

         The actors arrive at a beach, and Wanda says she has to go back to Rome. She sees Fernando on a high swing. He remembers her letters and dances with her. The director Doctore Fortuna (Ernesto Almirante) prepares for the scene and tells the slave girl not to smile.

         Ivan and his relatives dine at a restaurant. During the lunch break Fernando takes Wanda out in a sail boat. She says she is not free. He says he is married but that on his wedding day his wife drugged him and disappeared.

         At an opera Ivan makes a call and asks for Wanda. He goes to the police with his delicate matter and shows them her letter. He does not want anyone to know and leaves.

         Fortuna blames Fernando for losing three hours, and Fernando accuses Wanda, who gets angry at Fortuna’s wife Aida (Gina Mascetti). Wanda runs off, and the actors leave.

         That night relatives leave Ivan at his hotel, and he waits outside for Wanda. Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) and another prostitute find Ivan crying. He shows them photos of Wanda and goes with the prostitute. A man in a car drops off Wanda. She calls and leaves a message for Ivan. Wanda falls in a shallow river.

         Ivan comes back to the hotel, sees his relatives, gets a call, and faints. They carry him up to his room. Ivan tells them to go to see the Pope and that he will come later. Ivan takes a cab to a hospital. In a room he finds Wanda in an alluring dress. She is ashamed and cries. He tells her to get dressed to see the Pope.

         Ivan and Wanda meet his relatives in the plaza, and they welcome her warmly. She tells Ivan that she is pure and innocent. She says he is her White Sheik as they walk toward St. Peter’s Church.

         This comedy directed by Federico Fellini satirizes the fantasies young women have for lovers that come between them and a real relationship. The religious solemnity of a wedding symbolized by meeting the Pope may replace those fantasies with marriage.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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