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SE NON È VERO, a ben travato. It may not be true, but it’s a good story. And so it is with tales of Ferraris belonging to Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. There are stories a’plenty, maybe some of them even true.
Roberto Rossellini was one of the Italian film directors establishing its neorealist cinema in post-World War II. In fact, this was only one of several phases in his film career. Rossellini had what’s called his Fascist Trilogy, three propaganda films influenced by his friendship with Vittorio Mussolini, son of Il Duce. Even before the fall of Italy’s fascist regime in 1943, Rossellini was already working on his anti-fascist Roma città aperta, Rome, Open City, the first of his Neorealistic Trilogy. Another phase of his career is associated with Ingrid Bergman, film star of, among others, Casablanca, 1942.
A 1948 Bergman letter: “Dear Mr. Rossellini. I saw your films Open City and Paison, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who, in Italian knows only ’ti amo’ I am ready to come and make a film with you.”
They met later in Paris and soon a love affair blossomed, complicated because they were both married at the time. Bergman was in her first of an eventual three; Rossellini, his second of four. Bergman starred in six of Rossellini’s films and, important to our tale, she got caught up with another of Rossellini’s loves, Ferrari automobiles.
Rossellini was a friend of Enzo Ferrari and owned a goodly number of Maranello products, including a 1952 212 Inter Europa Coupe, a 1953 250 MM Vignale and, later in this tale, a 1954 375 MM. He entered the 250 MM in the 1953 Mille Miglia, as reported in an Associated Press item datelined Rome, April 17, 1953.
In part the item reads: “With the grudging approval of wife Ingrid Bergman, movie director Roberto Rossellini made ready to drive his car in Italy’s tough, dangerous 1,000-mile auto race…. ‘Forbidden things are always so desirable,’ said the blonde Swedish actress. ‘I thought if I said ‘yes’ he wouldn’t enter the race. Now I’m surprised.’ ”
Official records have Rossellini and Tonti’s No. 544 dropping out with a failed differential after 7 hours 28 minutes 26 seconds. An unofficial report has it that Bergman threw herself on the hood of the 250 MM at the halfway mark in Rome. Certainly a good story….
It’s tantalizing to analyze Rossellini’s 7:28:26 DNF and estimate whether it could have occurred in Rome. Another Ferrari 250 MM finished ninth overall and completed the entire 1000 miles in less than 12 hours. Paul Frère took just 13:38:03 to win the Unlimited Touring class in a Chrysler Saratoga, hardly as race-worthy as a Ferrari.
Another good story comes with the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours-winning 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe. Being the first Ferrari to be honored with Pebble’s Best of Show is true. Being ex-Rossellini is also legit.
However, the story has fascinating variations. Some report that Rossellini commissioned the car specifically for Bergman. Others say Bergman complained because the car’s original barchetta (open) coachwork mussed her hair, thus the Scaglietti conversion into a coupe.
According to barchetta.cc, on August 21, 1954, Rossellini paid 4 million Lire (about $6400 back then, perhaps $57,000 in today’s dollar) for a red 375 MM Spyder.
Continuing its history, supercars.net reports that the car returned to the works in 1955 after an accident that seriously damaged its front end. It was then that Scaglietti rebodied the Rossellini 375 MM as a coupe in silver paintwork and with front fender contours anticipating the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa to be introduced in 1957.
At Auto Shanghai 2015, Ferrari showed a California T said to be inspired by Ingrid Bergman and Jackie Kennedy. Its exterior is “Grigio Ingrid,” its leather-covered seats pay homage to the “Kennedee chair” designed for Jackie Kennedy by Jean-Marie Massaud in 1961.
Se non è vero, a ben travato. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016