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Casanova's Big Night

Casanova's Big Night(1954)

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One night, in Parma, Italy, in 1757, Pippo Popolino, a tailor's apprentice, impersonates the great lover Casanova in order to seduce widow Francesca Bruni, a grocer and neighbor. While wooing Francesca in her bedroom, the masked Pippo is confronted by the real Casanova, who recognizes him as his tailor's bumbling employee and playfully tosses him out. The next day, when Francesca, the tailor, Pippo and other local merchants storm over to Casanova's house demanding payment on numerous outstanding bills, Casanova convinces Pippo to exchange clothes with him, then flees on the tailor's horse. Moments later, the Duchess of Castelbello and her son Raphael arrive at Casanova's and offer Pippo, who they assume is Casanova, 10,000 ducats to seduce Raphael's fiancée, the beautiful aristocrat Elena DiGambetta, whose virtue the duchess wants to test. As proof of his success, Casanova must secure the embroidered petticoat the duchess gave Elena as an engagement present. Anxious to get their money, the merchants convince the cowardly Pippo to continue his impersonation, and Pippo travels to Venice with Francesca and Lucio, Casanova's valet, to meet Elena. Dressed in Casanova's finery, Pippo sneaks into Elena's chambers and flirts with her, but she is unmoved and orders him to leave. Before he can exit, Elena's father and brother knock on the door, and while hiding under a tailor's dummy, Pippo is exposed by the family cat. The DiGambettas chase Pippo, but he jumps out a window into the canal. Outraged by "Casanova's" boldness, the DiGambettas visit the Doge of Venice, who vows to protect Elena. After the DiGambettas leave, however, the scheming chief magistrate orders Capt. Rugello to call the DiGambettas up for military service. The Doge wants Casanova to seduce Elena so that the Castelbellos, who are from Venice, will call off the engagement and he will have an excuse to declare war on Genoa, the DiGambettas' home. To that end, Foressi, one of the Doge's ministers, invites Pippo and Francesca, who is posing as Casanova's cousin, to a banquet, which Elena also is to attend. Elena's mother is shocked to see "Casanova" at the event, while Foressi becomes suspicious of Pippo's buffoonery. To test his legitimacy, Foressi suggests that Pippo and Rugello engage in a gentlemanly sword fight. Pippo stalls until Francesca can position herself behind a curtain with a heavy serving dish, then leads Rugello to the curtain while dueling. Francesca accidentally hits Pippo over the head, but Pippo's subsequent stumbling and lurching cause Rugello to lose the fight. Triumphant, Pippo dances with an impressed Elena, and later at their army camp, the DiGambetta men receive word that Elena is in danger. Abandoning their post, father and son rush to Venice, arriving in time to see Pippo romancing Elena in a gondola. From his gondola, Elena's brother attacks Pippo, but Pippo gets the better of his challenger, then falls into the canal. Later, Elena comes to Pippo's room and begs him to leave her alone, as she wants to remain true to Raphael. After Elena departs, the Doge bursts in with a woman named Beatrice D'Brizzi, one of Casanova's first loves, and orders her to confirm Pippo's identity. Beatrice hesitates, however, and asks for a moment alone with Pippo. Believing Pippo to be Casanova, Beatrice confesses that she lied about being his lover and begs his forgiveness, and a relieved Pippo promises to keep her secret. Beatrice assures the Doge that Pippo is Casanova, after which the Doge reveals his war plans to Pippo, Francesca and Lucio. In turn, Francesca tells the Doge about Casanova's deal with the Castelbellos, and the Doge orders that Pippo deliver Elena's petticoat directly to him. Not wanting to hurt Elena, Pippo refuses to go through with the seduction and is thrown in a prison cell. There, old convict Emo offers to show Pippo an escape route in exchange for his clothes, and Pippo eagerly accepts. Emo's secret tunnel, however, merely leads to another cell, which is filled with other prisoners tricked by Emo. Francesca and Lucio, meanwhile, steal Elena's petticoat, but when the greedy Lucio suggests that they split the 10,000 ducats fifty-fifty, Francesca has a change of heart. Guilt-ridden, Francesca charms her way into the prison and helps Pippo escape. Although Francesca wants to return to Parma, Pippo insists they stay in Venice to prevent the Doge from sabotaging Elena's wedding. After pledging his love to Francesca, Pippo sews a crest identical to the one on Elena's petticoat on Francesca's petticoat, then he and Francesca sneak onto the grounds of the Doge's palace, where Elena's wedding festivities are about to start. Pippo and Francesca ambush a baron and his wife, then while dressed in the large baroness' gown, Pippo infiltrates the wedding with Francesca, who is wearing a false moustache and the diminutive baron's suit. After Pippo tries unsuccessfully to slip Elena the petticoat, which he is hiding in the bodice of the baroness' dress, Lucio arrives with the Duchess of Castelbello and Raphael. Armed with Elena's petticoat, the duchess denounces the young woman, but Pippo tears off his dress and confronts his startled enemies with his sword. While Pippo and the Doge fight, Francesca gets the second petticoat to Elena, who shows it to the duchess and accuses Lucio of subterfuge. Although the duchess is convinced of Elena's virtue, the Doge overwhelms Pippo and orders his execution. At the chopping block, Pippo is about to lose his head when an offscreen narrator stops the action and announces a happy ending, "written, produced and directed by Bob Orson Welles Hope." After knocking out the executioners and running dozens of others through with his sword, Pippo asks the audience to vote for their preferred ending and is dismayed when the audience demands his beheading.