The Millionairess (1960) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Millionairess (1960)

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Danny DISLIKEPeter Sellers was fairly unique-- a man of a million accents and dispositions. And since his output can be described as partly amazing with more than a few regrets, it's always unsurprising when you come up with a turd.

In The Millionairess, a movie whose wit ran dry after the creation of the title, Sellers plays a noble Indian doctor who only treats poor people at his clinic and detests money. And while it's always troublesome for an exceedingly white fellow such as myself to call 'racism' on a certain portrayal, the least you can say is that watching Sellers in this part can be called distracting.

Oh well. It's still better than Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's, though that still ain't saying much.

But I haven't even gotten to the titular millionairess yet. Played by Sophia Loren, a woman better known for her look than much anything else (seriously, name three movies she's done, and no fair using this one), she is the orphaned daughter of a very rich man. Her love for her father  (whose paintings depict him as looking identical to Peter Sellers for that extra layer of ickiness) leaves Loren to spend most of the movie in a Freudian haze.

All of this-- the vague racism of Seller's character and the general grossness associated with Loren's-- is pretty lame on the surface. It might have worked if they were given something to do with their characters other than wallow in this traits. Well, maybe not.

But most of the movie is concerned with Loren's pursuit of Sellers. As she is very beautiful, this movie sets this up by putting Loren into various states of undress and trying to lure him with coos and whispers while he merely acts uninterested or exasperated. In fact, the most damning thing about the movie is that Sellers spends almost all of it resisting her charm with such dogged determination that you can't help but notice that he really, really doesn't seem to like her. Even when there's an annoying, overblown scene of him checking her pulse that is quickly cut to try and show him suddenly becoming smitten with her heartbeat, Sellers still looks more stupefied than enchanted.

Speaking of being stupefied, the thrust of the plot, once we get beyond the initial pursuit, is so dumb I'm worried that spelling out for you here might make me seem dumb by proxy. But, alas, the sacrifices we make for film criticism.

Loren's father, whom she adores in death in the same way that Norman Bates did for his mother, had made her promise that any man she chose to marry had to undergo a trial in which he makes a certain amount of money in a few weeks. In a coincidence best described as 'lousy screenwriting', Seller's beloved mother had also designated whomever he was going to marry undergo a trial, only they had to work hard and prove their worthiness or something.

Shot in vibrant technicolor, The Millionairess is best described simply as just such an exercise in lousy screenwriting. There is nothing to care about or read into this film besides possibly the depressing state of Hollywood comedy in 1960.  Propriety begs me to try and relate the finer points of the film, but, since all of them seem to belong to Ms. Loren, describing those would induce the exact opposite of such.

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The Millionairess (1960)

This film is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Directed by Anthony Asquith
Starring Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers

Posted by Danny

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