Set during the French Revolution, Sophia plays Catherine Sans-Gêne, a laundress who works in the streets. There, she cleans the shirts of one Lieutenant Napoleon (Julien Bertheau) and ends up falling in love with the handsome rebel Lefebvre (Robert Hossein).
Madame Sans-Gêne (1962) Directed by Christian-Jaque starring Sophia Loren and Robert Hossein
Set during the French Revolution, Sophia plays Catherine Sans-Gêne, a laundress who works in the streets, her low-cut white blouse soaked with soapy water. There, she cleans the shirts of one Lieutenant Napoleon (Julien Bertheau) and ends up falling in love with the handsome rebel Lefebvre (Robert Hossein) when his battalion takes over her laundromat for their battlestation. The smitten Sans-Gêne chases Lefebvre across the Italian battlefields and then to the royal court, where her free will and compulsion for self-expression could cost them everything. The couple perform a deed of heroism which abets Napoleon’s victory, so that after the war the grateful Emperor bestows on the now married couple the title of Duke and Duchess. Catherine squabbles with Napoleon’s haughty sisters, scandalizes the nobility with her lack of courtly manners, flirts with the men – and consistently creates havoc as she remains true to her earthy background.
The light-hearted pseudo-history lesson appears to be tailor-made as a Sophia Loren vehicle. Director Christian-Jaque holds out as long as he can from dressing his star in anything with a high neck, only raising the bustline when Sans-Gêne has her Eliza Doolittle transformation to serve the emperor. It’s actually a welcome change, because it lets us see that Loren is as beautiful as she is sexy. Her animated performance, where she plays the spicy Italian even when she’s supposed to be French, also shows that her personality has a lot to do with her sex appeal. Madame Sans-Gêne spends most of her time in this picture hanging with the men, and her comfort amongst them makes her spitfire mannerisms all the more attractive. She’s a woman among the boys.