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  • Warning: Spoilers
    The title, Avanti A Lui Tramava Tutta Roma, is one of the most famous lines in Italian, dramatically spoken (not sung) by the leading character Tosca at the end of Act II of Puccini's opera named for her. She has just killed Rome's villainous police chief Scarpia. This film cleverly combines scenes showing the performance of the opera and its actors backstage, with a contemporary drama paralleling many of the events in the original melodramatic libretto. Instead of Scarpia and his agents harassing the painter Cavaradossi for harboring a fugitive pro-Napoleon rebel, we have the Nazis harassing a Roman opera singer,Franco,who plays Cavaradossi onstage, for harboring a fugitive British spy during World War II. This is a good role for Anna Magnani, a diva herself in real life, who plays Ada, a temperamental and jealous opera actress engaged to her co-star Franco, though the scenes in which Magnani sings onstage (she is dubbed by a professional singer)are less convincing. Magnani gets a great character introduction as we hear her imperious voice giving orders to different maids in her home, before we see her, in a glamorous closeup. The director, Carmine Gallone (whose career goes back to silents) was well known in Europe for his movie versions of operas. He co-scripted and is comfortable with the material. This is one of the few versions of Tosca with a happy ending. Instead of leaping off Castel Sant'Angelo, as is traditional, the Ada/Tosca character escapes with her fiancée Franco/Cavaradossi through a stage trap door which has been set up by some of the theater crew to lead to a hastily contrived getaway car. This is followed by a last minute,somewhat sudden rescue by the Allied forces, who have been mentioned in the story as approaching to liberate the city. The film concludes with scenes of the opera being performed again, under happier circumstances. Without perhaps deliberately evoking them, Gallone's movie here reminds one at times of the famous postwar Resistance classic, Open City, which Magnani had appeared in the year before, and Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be,in which World War II Polish Shakespeare actors also try to outwit the Germans. If there is one fault with this interesting period piece, it is that it fails to create a villain comparable to the great Scarpia of the opera. The Nazi officer is just your typical German bad guy.