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Film / That Lady in Ermine

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Beauty, Majesty, Humility.

That Lady in Ermine is a 1948 adaptation of a German operetta, which had previously been adapted into a stage play and a silent film. It stars Betty Grable, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Cesar Romero. It was directed by Ernst Lubitsch and an uncredited Otto Preminger.

On the wedding night of Countess Angelina of Bergamo (a Real Life place in northern Italy), her small state is invaded by Hungarian hussars. Her newlywed husband is forced to flee, and the invading army comes in unopposed.

Hope comes instead from a supernatural force. Francesca "The Lady in Ermine", a previous countess from three centuries ago had saved the castle before from invaders, wearing nothing but an ermine coat; even her feet were bare. The other ghosts in the castle appear and call on Francesca's spirit to once again save the day. It turns out Francesca's legendary act, and how she plans to save this nation again, aren't as simple as it seems.

This was Ernst Lubitsch's last film; he died just over a week after filming started. Otto Preminger took over and completed the film, but asked not to be given a directorial credit out of respect for Lubitsch.

Not to be confused with the Leonardo da Vinci painting "Lady With an Ermine".

Provides Examples Of:

  • Ermine Cape Effect: Aside from the dream dress, Francesca wears only her ermine coat from the painting.
  • Femme Fatale: Francesca's mystique is this. The details known of what happened are that she went into the tent of the Duke of the invading force, and then stabbed him in the back.
  • Leg Focus:
    • The 19th-century dress Francesca wears has nothing under the crinoline, so Grable can lift it up and show off her gams.
    • The way the ermine coat is cut also seems designed to show off her lower legs.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Angelina's husband annuls the marriage due to this.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: A few, from Angelina's wedding dress, to the dream dress Francesca wears.
  • Pretty in Mink: The eponymous ermine coat, and at the end, Angelina wears a white ermine coat, hat, and muff which effectively became a wedding dress at the end.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In-Universe. When appealing to the 16th century invaders, Francesca wears an ermine coat to show her noble lineage, and bare feet to show she's being humble.
  • Undead Barefooter: Francesca is a ghost who always appears barefoot because she was depicted this way in the painting.