American democracy falls in love with Austrian aristrocracy in "Breath of Scandal," one of Sophia Loren's lesser-known movies. The frothy Hollywood movie takes a look at aristocratic attitudes and class differences, and Loren does a magnificent job with her snobby character.
In 1907, Princess Olympia (Sophia Loren) was banished to her late husband's country manor, after a scandal in Vienna. But while horseback riding, she is knocked off by Charlie Foster (John Gavin), and decides to seduce the sexy American. She ends up passing out, and wakes up the next morning thinking that she and Foster were intimate.
After the emperor forgives her for the scandal, Olympia is to return to Vienna -- for an arranged marriage to a stuffy Prussian prince. But a hint of scandal could derail the whole thing. The problem is that Charlie has also arrived in Vienna to see Olympia's father (Maurice Chevalier), and the prince's spurned mistress (Angela Lansbury) is looking for dirt on Olympia.
"Breath of Scandal" is not a heavy period romance, but then, it never tries to be. You know how it will end, and the fun is watching the drama and frothy romance unfold in the middle of beautiful Vienna, ancestral mansions and royal balls. The subplots rely heavily on European/American viewpoints on love and marriage, but that's about as deep as the movie ever gets.
Director Michael Curtiz was at his best with frothy comedy. And in this film, he did a good job with scenes like Charlie administering first aid while reading from the book, and sharp, light dialogue. What's more, scenes that could have been chokinglt sentimental (like Chevalier's "confession" near the end) manage to be touching instead. The biggest obvious problem in this movie is that Loren looks nothing like either of her screen parents.
Of course, the funny dialogue would fall flat if the actors were bad. Their romance is pretty lightweight, but Loren and Gavin do have some good chemistry as the sultry princess on the hunt for gorgeous men, and a good-boy American who "isn't that kind of man." Nice to see some gender role-reversal in an old movie. Also delightful are Lansbury as the devious ex-mistress and Chevalier for his usual cheery, charming role.
"A Breath of Scandal" is a lightweight romantic comedy, but is boosted up by excellent acting and some very funny dialogue. Charming.