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February 12, 2024

Paul Newman and Sophia Loren Photoshoot for “Lady L” (1965)

Lady L is a 1965 comedy film based on the novel by Romain Gary and directed by Peter Ustinov. Starring Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, David Niven and Cecil Parker, the film focuses on an elderly Corsican lady as she recalls the loves of her life, including an anarchist and an English aristocrat. The ending of the film is very different from the ending of the novel.

This movie was originally intended as a comedy vehicle for Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida, and Ralph Richardson, with George Cukor as its director. A personality conflict between Lollobrigida and Cukor contributed to that version being aborted.

Peter Ustinov claimed that an earlier attempt to film Romain Gary’s best-selling novel had foundered because it presented the story as a romantic melodrama, whereas he saw it as an absurdist comedy. After it had proved to be a box-office failure, he remarked that this movie had a most unusual problem. He’d been given too lavish a budget, rather than too small a one, as on his previous movie, Billy Budd (1962). He had aimed, he said, at “a cross between René Clair and Preston Sturges,” but this movie was too grandiose to be as funny as he'd intended.

More than thirty years after this movie’s release, writer and director Ustinov reflected that the romantic aspects of the story hadn’t really worked, because Sophia Loren and Paul Newman strongly disliked each other.


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