06 January 2019

La signora di tutti (1934)

Isa Miranda (1905–1982) was the only international film star produced by the Italian fascist cinema. Her breakthrough film was the drama La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (1934), the sole Italian film of the great director Max Ophüls. Isa Miranda played her future self: a glamorous and famous film star who is everybody's woman... Her haunting beauty drives men mad.

Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934).

Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda.

Isa Miranda and Enrico Benfer in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Enrico Benfer and Isa Miranda. Gaby and Roberto at the ball.

Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for ;La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda. Gaby cannot stand to be in Leonardo's house anymore.

La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda. Gaby breaks up with Leonardo.

Attracting Men Like Moths to a Flame


La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) was shot at the Cines Studios in Rome and on location in Como. The plot verges on the melodramatic but German born director Max Ophüls' spirited flashbacks within flashbacks, his lush tracking shots, his montages and dissolves, are stunning, and turn the film into a bravura masterpiece. La signora di tutti daringly begins with a wipe of the label on a 78 rpm record and ends on a static shot of the face of the heroine on a poster. The film deservedly won a 'technical' award at the Film Festival of Venice.

Isa Miranda plays beautiful Gabriella Murge, a.k.a. famous film star Gaby Doriot, a woman who attracts men like moths, destroying themselves or others. The film opens with a panorama of the film studio where after a frantic search her agent finds Gaby after an attempted suicide, slitting her wrists.

On the operation table in the hospital, the anesthetic gas she is given induces the flashbacks which make up the entire film. Gaby relives her life. At school, a married music teacher tells her he can't live without her. He flees abroad, leaving his family. Though she has done nothing, Gaby is expelled from her school, and is punished by her stern father (Lamberto Picasso).

Later, after being confined to her home, she is at a party of Roberto Nanni (Enrico/ Federico Benfer), son of wealthy businessman Leonardo Nanni. Roberto and Gaby dance and Roberto falls in love with her. Roberto's handicapped mother Alma (Tatiana Pavlova), fearful of Gaby's reputation, eventually loves her and adopts her as an aid.

Gaby goes to their house to take care of Alma, and while Roberto goes on a trip to Rome, his father Leonardo (Memo Benassi) falls in love with Gaby and takes her to the opera. Fate strikes one night, when Leonardo invites Gaby to a private talk in the garden, and meanwhile, Alma, having put on music to go to bed, calls out for Gaby. Not hearing a response, Alma becomes frantic. While Leonardo declares Gaby his love in front of his villa, a desperate Alma falls down the stairs in her wheelchair, killing herself.

La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Mario Ferrari and Franco Coop as the film producer and Gaby's agent Verari challenging each other when striking a deal over star Gaby Doriot (Isa Miranda). This is the very first scene of the film.

Franco Coop in La signora di tutti
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Franco Coop in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934). Coop is Miranda's agent Verari who, at the beginning of the film, crosses the whole studio and discovers the film star has committed suicide. After that, the film is told in flashback.

La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Isa Miranda singing in the school choir (shortly before her affair with a school teacher is exposed), in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934). Miranda is the blonde, in the middle, wearing a checkers motived dress. After hearing what has happened to her teacher, she faints.

Nelly Corradi in La Signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Nelly Corradi, Lamberto Picasso and Maria Puccini. Caption: Film prescelta per la II Biennale Cinematograficia di Venezia. (Film selected for the second Venice Film Festival). For the scandal in school, Gaby's father decides to punish her by isolating her.

La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda. After the ball, Gaby comes home ecstatically.

Haunted by the memory


After Alma's death, Leonardo and Gaby go on a seemingly endless trip across Europe, despite the calls of Leonardo's business associates to return, and when they finally return, Gaby is haunted by the memory of the house and flees hysterically. Gaby leaves Leonardo, telling him he should be with his wife, even if she is dead, and soon after, Leonardo is charged with embezzlement and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Gaby becomes a film star. When released from prison, Leonardo wanders around the foyer of a cinema, during the premiere of her new film. Leonardo is stunned by the multiplication of Gaby's images on the pictures in the foyer, but he is expelled for being improperly dressed for the occasion (not being in evening attire). Chased outside, he's run over by a car.

To avoid a scandal, Gaby's managers and entourage call in Roberto to exonerate her. Gaby realises she has loved Roberto all along, but it is too late, as Roberto married her more modest sister Anna (Nelly Corradi), after meeting her at the auction of his father's house. "We'll still be together in the film", Roberto says.

Gaby realises she will stay lonesome despite wealth and stardom and slits her wrists. Gaby leaves a note detailing her loneliness that persisted through her stardom. The flashback ends when the anesthetic mask is removed. The doctors confirm her death, and the printing presses stop to print the poster for her last film.

At AllMovie, Hal Erickson writes that La Signora di Tutti can be regarded as a dress rehearsal for Ophüls' masterpiece Lola Montes (1955): "though it comes nowhere near the brilliance of that later classic (...), but Ophuls' basic premise--that fame and celebrity are ultimately hollow entities--is not to be taken lightly. The director's fabled camera techniques help smooth over some of the rougher and more ludicrous passages."

D.B. DuMonteil at IMDb: "The flashback was not so innovative after all (the year before, Stahl did the same in Only Yesterday) but the directing which sometimes has thriller accents: the scene when the heroine hears a radio nobody can't hear would not be out of place in a psychological suspense; ditto for the wheelchair scene in the night which is really awesome."

Isa Miranda and Memo Benassi in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda and Memo Benassi. Leonardo takes Gaby to the opera.

Isa Miranda and Memo Benassi in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda and Memo Benassi. Leonardo is wildly in love with Gaby.

Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda. Gaby at the villa of the Nanni's in the countryside.

Isa Miranda, Memo Benassi and Tatiana Pavlova in La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Isa Miranda, Tatiana Pavlova and Memo Benassi. Remarkable is that Pavlova stands, while in the film her character is crippled.

Enrico Benfer and Nelly Corradi in La Signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Publicity still for La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) with Enrico Benfer and Nelly Corradi. After his father's death, Roberto and Anna meet at the auction of Leonardo's house.

Enrico Benfer and Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, no. 1934-XXII. Photo: Novella-Film. Enrico Benfer and Isa Miranda in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934). After his father's death, Roberto pleas Gaby's innocence to save her star image. When Gaby tries to reunite, he confesses he has already chosen her sister instead.

Enrico Benfer in La signora di tutti
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Enrico Benfer in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934). Roberto's last call with Gaby.

La signora di tutti (1934)
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1934-XII. Photo: Novella-Film. Isa Miranda on the operation table in La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, 1934).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), D.B. DuMonteil (IMDb), Wikipedia (English), IMDb, and the postcards and the film itself.
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