La donna del fiume
by Mario Soldati


Italy - December 12, 1954 - La donna del fiume - 117'
West Germany - October 21, 1955 - Die Frau von Fluß - 98'
France (Paris, Cinémas Normandie, Rex, Moulin-Rouge) - November 11, 1955 - La fille du fleuve -
Belgium - La fille du fleuve / 'T meisje van de stroom -
Spain - 1955 - La chica del río - 95'
USA (New York City) - 1957 - Woman of the River -

German poster French poster American poster Italian poster


Nives, a beautiful young woman who lives and works honestly in the valleys of Comacchio, is wooed persistently by Gino, the factory caretaker who is actually a smuggler by night. As a result of his persistent courting, Nives ends up yielding and becomes his lover. Gino doesn’t want any firm ties however and later on, tired of it all, he leaves the girl who is expecting his baby. Gino’s cynicism and selfishness offend Nives who, exasperated, reports his smuggling activities to the Finance authorities and has him arrested and condemned. Nives gives birth to a baby boy, and in order to have him grow up healthy and honest leaves Comacchio and finds work as a cane cutter along the delta of the Po. One day Gino escapes from prison and the news reaches Nives at a tragic time: her little boy, who had slipped away from the watchful care of a young girl, fell into the water and drowned. Gino, who had come with the idea of taking revenge, has a crisis of conscience and after having given himself up, promises Nives that he will marry her after serving his sentence. (Enrico Lancia)
Story by Ennio Flaiano and Alberto Moravia


Po River valley (Italy)
Comacchio (Italy)

Filming dates: August - November 1954


Sophia Loren (Nives Mangolini)
Rick Battaglia (Gino Lodi)
Gérard Oury (Enzo Cinti)
Lise Bourdin (Tosca)


Photography (Technicolor):
Otello Martelli
Costume design:
Anna Gobbi
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, Armando Trovajoli
Leo Coleman
Still photographers:
Federico Patellani, Sergio Strizzi, Otello Martelli
Sophia's voice is dubbed by:
Marion Delger (German)
Basilio Franchina for Excelsa Films (Rome) / Les Films de Centaur (Paris)


La donna del fiume is Sophia's first film to get American producers' attention. It is the film that convinces Stanley Kramer and MGM to sign Sophia in The Pride and the Passion two years later. Splendid Technicolor photography heightens Sophia's voluptuousness who is billed in the USA as "Sophia the Sizzler" and "the most luscious female on the screen today".

Sophia now earns $70,000 per film and appears on magazine covers everywhere in the world. The rivalry between Sophia and Gina Lollobrigida begins at this time.

It is said that Ponti invested all the money he had to produce this movie but he did not tell Sophia until after. "If he had", Sophia said later, " I wouldn't have had the courage to face the camera." On the last day of shooting,  he comes to the set and offers Sophia a ring with two diamonds.

For one of the first times Sophia feels she does not have to do everything Soldati asks and they disagree on set more than once.

Sophia experiences several asthma crisis during the shooting in the Po valley swamps.

Ponti comes to the set on the last day of shooting and offers Sophia a ring, which is the first significant gift Carlo offers Sophia.

Since Ponti couldn't be at the studio or on location every day, he selected his longtime associate, Basilio Franchina, to be the film's associate producer. Franchina spent so much time around Sophia that many believed him to be her bodyguard and under orders from Ponti to make sure she didn't get romantically involved with any of her male associates.
Warren G. Harris, Sophia Loren: A Biography.


"Everyone who's ever seen a pin-up of Sophia Loren knows she's all female and then some. But what an actress, too! That's the surprising thing. And the combination of such an actress and such a woman is pretty terrific."

"Sultry, seductive and altogether lovely... the matchless Loren. To me she's lovelier and more fascinating than even La Lollo and Anna Magnani..."
Peter Burnup, News of the World.

"Sophia could not have been more real and more on the mark. This is without doubt the film which shows her to be more of an actress than we would have expected from her other films, with her own sure talent, especially in tones of passion and intensity, and rare expressive animation."
Gino Visentini, Il Giornale d'Italia, 2 oct 1955

“To be fair one cannot help but point out the decisive achievement of the beautiful Sophia Loren, who perhaps for the first time is shown to be a spontaneously quick, and convincing actress, gifted with a temperament that bodes well for her career as a performer - ardent, expressive, often singularly animated.”
Piero Virgintino, La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, 9 oct 1955

"La donna del fiume, a post-neorealist melodrama set among the exploited poorest of the poor in northern Italy, casts Sophia as a girl in an eel cannery who ultimately ends up cutting cane at the mouth of the Po River. She sports ill-fitting shorts, rustic sweaters, and sun hats - and she owns the screen."
Deirdre Donohue, Sophia Style

“Sophia's sex appeal is a natural physical asset. She has it in her, and no amount of artificiality could ever conceal it. When she kisses her leading man, you can feel the reaction all the way back in the movie house seat."
Mario Soldati

“If I get very dirty and uncomfortable it will make me look all the more convincing for my part in the picture."
Sophia Loren

"Soldati, le metteur en scène, a choisi de faire un documentaire - émouvant à plus d'un titre - sur la géographie physique de sa vedette. Après ce film, il est bien peu de régions de la surface de cette planète que nous ne connaissions pas par coeur.
Robert Chazal, Paris-Presse, 21 nov 1955

Copyrights for all photos belong to their respective owners.
© Excelsior Communication - 2007

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