Life in the Italian cinema was a great adventure for a twenty-something American female costume designer. Living in Italy between 1968 and 1971, I worked on four movies, including "La Vacanza" starring Vanessa Redgrave, her brother Corin Redgrave and her future husband Franco Nero. The director, Tinto Brass, was still making films about social justice; this one was about a young Italian peasant woman, Immacolata (Vanessa Redgrave), who is abused by her very poor and very ignorant family. She finds refuge and friendship with people mainstream society considers marginal — gypsies, a traveling salesman of ladies underwear, and a poacher — only to be humiliated by Facists at a hunting lodge and exploited as a factory worker. Unfortunately, after this film, Brass would turn to pornography as his main cinematic form ("Caligua" and others).
My main role in this film was Costumer/Wardrobe Mistress. But I also played The Countess, a character whom screenwriter Roberto Lerici and Brass invented once we arrived on location. They wrote much of the film's dialogue the day before we shot each scene. Six-foot-tall Immacolata is desperately in love with The Count (4'11" tall) and sneaks into his kitchen to be near him. A scene you will NOT see depicted in my drawings is the one where The Countess (me), dressed in a skimpy pink nightgown, chases Immacolata around the kitchen table, throwing eggs at her in a jealous rage while screaming "Get out! Get out!". I found it almost impossible to stop giggling, and the film editor had to use footage that showed me only from behind.
For more images and stories from "La Vacanza," go to my Italian Cinema Gallery.