Cast & Crew
Vittorio De Sica
By the terms of her late father's will, spoiled London heiress Epifania Parerga, the richest woman in the world, cannot marry unless her prospective husband is able to turn £500 into £1,500 within a three-month period. When Epifania becomes smitten with Alastair, a muscular tennis player, she rigs the contest by giving him £500 in stock and then buying it back for £1,500. Alastair is unable to live with the domineering Epifania, however, and leaves her for the more domestic Polly Smith. Contemplating suicide, Epifania melodramatically plunges into the Thames, and when Dr. Achmed el Kabir, a self-effacing, selfless Indian physician who runs an inadequately equipped clinic for the poor, ignores her plight and paddles past in his rowboat, she swims to shore and accuses him of being an assassin. Julius Sagamore, the shrewd family solicitor, then suggests that Epifania undergo therapy with noted society psychiatrist Adrian Bond. The opportunist Bond makes a bid for her hand, but after he criticizes her father, Epifania throws him into the Thames, and when Kabir rows out to help Bond, Epifania jumps in the river after him. To ensnare Kabir, Epifania feigns injury, but the dedicated doctor remains impervious to her beauty and wealth. Determined to win the doctor, Epifania buys the property surrounding his clinic and then erects a new, modern facility. After Kabir rejects Epifania's offer to run the facility, she suggests that they marry instead. Intimidated by the headstrong heiress, Kabir manufactures a deathbed promise that he made to his mother, pledging that he would not marry unless his prospective bride can take 35 shillings and earn her own living for three months. Undaunted, Epifania accepts his challenge and then discloses the details of her father's will and hands him £500. When Kabir protests that he has no head for money, Epifania plops down the wad of bills and leaves. Setting out to prove her worth, Epifania takes 35 shillings and heads for a sweatshop pasta factory. There, she threatens to expose the labor violations unless Joe, the proprietor, allows her to manage the plant. Three months later, Epifania has installed labor-saving machines, thus boosting productivity and making the plant a big success. Kabir, meanwhile, has tried in vain to give away his £500. After Kabir becomes drunk at a scientific dinner hosted by a wealthy doctor, he finds a sympathetic ear in his former professor and mentor, who generously offers to accept his money. At the clinic, Kabir eagerly turns over the cash to the professor. Soon after the professor leaves, Epifania appears and informs Kabir that she has met his mother's challenge. When he replies that he has failed and given all the money away, Epifania is deeply offended. Deciding to turn her back on the world of men, she announces that she plans to fire her board of directors, disband her empire and retire to a Tibetan monastery once she has fired all the monks. Desperate to keep his job, Sagamore realizes that Kabir is responsible for Epifania's erratic behavior and goes to see the doctor. At the clinic, Sagamore tells Kabir that Epifania has vowed to withdraw from the world at the stroke of midnight. Concerned, Kabir hurries to the reception where Epifania is to bid farewell to her previous existence. Certain that their marriage is now imminent, Sagamore meets the terms of the will by purchasing Kabir's medical papers for £1,500. After Kabir rushes to Epifania, they kiss and he finally expresses his love.
Vittorio De Sica
Anatole De Grunwald
Dimitri De Grunwald
J. B. Smith
Georges Van Parys
A. W. Watkins
As the years passed and it became clear that Hepburn had grown beyond the age to attempt the role in front of the cameras, 20th Century Fox, which had become the film's financier, wanted Ava Gardner to play the world's wealthiest woman. Executive producer Dimitri De Grunwald thought this casting idea to be "terrible" and insisted that the actress with the beauty and "buoyancy" the role required was none other than Sophia Loren.
Peter Sellers, reportedly considered by Loren at the time to be "the funniest man living," had been cast in the leading male role -- that of the humble East Indian doctor who unexpectedly wins the heart of the millionairess. (The character had been Egyptian in Shaw's original, causing The Millionairess to be banned in Egypt because the change was deemed an insult to national pride!). Such well-thought-of actors as Alastair Sim, Dennis Price and Gary Raymond were cast in supporting roles, and a brief part was even found for Loren's longtime friend and mentor Vittorio De Sica.
The screenplay, by Sellers' friend and associate Wolf Mankowitz, took liberties with Shaw but marked the first time onscreen that Loren was allowed to deliver literate, intellectual dialogue. She was promised and got the full glamour treatment from Oscar®-winning cinematographer Jack Hildyard and production designer Paul Sheriff, with costumes especially designed for her by ultra-chic French couturier Pierre Balmain. At a cost the Fox publicity department set at $75,000, Balmain created a parade of delectable low-cut gowns, sleek suits and elaborate hats, not to mention a knockout black satin merry-widow corset.
The thing that most drew Loren to the project, however, may have been the distinguished director Anthony Asquith, who had made a specialty of filming the works of Shaw (Pygmalion , The Doctor's Dilemma ) and Terence Rattigan (The Winslow Boy , The Browning Version , The V.I.P.'s , The Yellow Rolls-Royce ). Loren knew his reputation as a man of exquisite taste who took loving care of his actors.
Like Cary Grant before him who starred opposite Loren in 1958's Houseboat, Sellers became madly infatuated with Loren upon first meeting and pursued her passionately throughout the filming of The Millionairess. As she had been with Grant, Loren was kind to her costar and didn't discourage his attentions. It was also Loren's inclination to fall a little bit in love with every leading man. But observers felt that she would never let things get serious enough to pose a challenge to her marriage to producer Carlo Ponti.
By all accounts, however, Sellers was madly in love and remained obsessive about Loren for the rest of his life. Years later he would state, "All I can say is that I don't think I have ever been in love with anyone the way I was with Sophia." Needless to say, these feelings did little to endear Sellers to Anne Howe, his wife at the time, and they were divorced the year after The Millionairess was released.
Together Sellers and Loren recorded a novelty song, "Goodness Gracious Me," to promote The Millionairess. Although not heard in the movie itself, the song became a surprise Top 10 hit in the U.K., selling 200,000 copies. It was incorporated into a long-playing album entitled "Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren: England's Gooniest Meets Italy's Loveliest."
The Millionairess was a box-office hit in England but performed less well in the U.S., where at the time many of Sellers' fans were art-house patrons who may have been put off by tepid critical response to the film. Even Bosley Crowther, Loren's ardent fan at The New York Times, complained that she "postures and swivels through virtually every scene... When she isn't rolling her hips, she rolls her eyes."
Producer: Pierre Rouve, Dimitri De Grunwald (executive producer)
Director: Anthony Asquith
Screenplay: Wolf Mankowitz, Riccardo Aragno (adaptation), from play by George Bernard Shaw
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Film Editing: Anthony Harvey
Original Music: Georges Van Parys
Production Design: Paul Sheriff
Costume Design: Pierre Balmain
Cast: Sophia Loren (Epifania Parerga), Peter Sellers (Dr. Ahmed el Kabir), Alastair Sim (Sagamore), Vittorio De Sica (Joe), Dennis Price (Adrian), Gary Raymond (Alastair), Alfie Bass (Fish Curer).
by Roger Fristoe
The order of the closing onscreen cast credits differs slightly from the opening order. According to a 1952 Los Angeles Examiner news item, Katharine Hepburn was planning to star in the film, which was to be an independent production by a British company. Hepburn had starred in a 1952 Broadway revival of George Bernard Shaw's play, and according to several news items, owned the rights. At the time, negotiations were ongoing with Charles Boyer to co-star.
By June 1953, a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that José Ferrer and Hepburn were talking about co-starring in the film. In January 1955, Daily Variety announced that American auto magnate Walter Chrysler, Jr. would finance the picture under the supervision of Lester Cowan. By June 1955, however, Los Angeles Times announced that producer Howard Welsch had bought the rights to the play from the Shaw estate and that Nicholas Ray was slated to direct. In September 1958, a Los Angeles Times news item stated that Hepburn wanted Louis Jourdan to co-star and that Preston Sturges was to write the screenplay. Although an April 1960 Daily Variety news item noted that The Millionairess was to be a production of Loren's husband, Carlo Ponti, the extent of Ponti's participation in the released film has not been determined.
Released in United States Spring March 1961
Released in United States Spring March 1961