Mastroianni and Loren, as a pair of on-and-off lovers, are funny and sad in this Italian farce, which owes much of its appeal to director De Sica's inventiveness and natural caprice. The film opens in 1964, while Mastroianni is admiring the wedding dress his fiancee is going to wear at their upcoming nuptials. He suddenly gets word that his long-time mistress, Loren, is on her deathbed, with a priest at her side. He goes to her and then remembers how he first met her, in 1943, during a Naples air raid while she was hiding in the closet of a bordello. In flashback he becomes her first patron and the true love of her life. Following the war, Mastroianni again meets Loren in a brothel and is so enamored of her that he takes her away and gets her an apartment of her own. Loren manages his bar and restaurant while he continues playing the field. Later, he installs Loren as the housekeeper in his mother's home, where she slaves to clean, cook, and look after his elderly, ailing mother, slipping into Mastroianni's bed late at night. She is reduced to servant status, having to stay in the maid's room when Mastroianni is not at home. Then the story flashes forward to show Loren deathly ill and Mastroianni promising to marry her (in front of a priest) as a deathbed gesture. She miraculously recovers and holds her ex-lover to his promise. Although he rashly marries Loren, Mastroianni explodes when she tells him she has three grown sons who will come to live with them. He has the marriage annulled, saying that he has been tricked and that Loren has perpetrated a fraud. Then he is told that one of the boys is his own. After meeting the youths, Mastroianni is convinced that they are all his sons, and he accepts Loren and the boys as his real family. Loren cries tears of happiness at the fadeout. It's all pretty silly--but De Sica's surprising twists and turns, and his deft direction, lift this fluffy farce above the average. Loren doesn't have to act, merely to steam the screen. (In one brothel scene her voluptuous Amazonian body is so skimpily clad that she virtually does just that!) She received an Oscar nomination for her role. Mastroianni is very funny as the hoodwinked Lothario. There is, however, something erotically grotesque about bogging down so much of the humor in seedy brothel scenes--bad taste at its most extravagant. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1965, but lost to THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET.