"La Legge", or "The Law", starring the gorgeous Gina Lollobrigida, was released in 1959. Lollobrigida plays a servant, named Marietta, to aristocrat Don Cesare. Marietta is the town beauty who follows her own rules. Each night, men (including the three men in love with Marietta) go to the local tavern to select a "boss" by playing a drinking game called, "The Law", in which one man is selected boss and thus has power to humiliate and degrade whomever he chooses. Many men are vying for Marietta's love and attention, but she only has her eyes for one: Enrico (Marcello Mastroianni), an engineer. She is considered too poor and has no dowry, so her marriage to Enrico, by all accounts, can never be. Taking matters into her own hands, Marietta steals a large amount of money believing this could help her marry Enrico.
Marietta has a strong personality, knows what she wants, and isn't afraid to go after it. Initially, Enrico wants Marietta as his servant, to which she replies sharply, "I won't be anyone's servant!" When Marietta's brother-in-law hears of Enrico's request, he is angered, as he, too, is in love with her. He tells Enrico, "Southern girls aren't angels." This, of course, is meant to showcase the dichotomy between northern and southern Italy, as the former representing a more industrialized area, and thus wealthier, and the latter representing the "old country" and the poor.
Within the first 20 minutes of the film, Marietta tells Enrico she wants to marry him--something many women wouldn't say at the time--especially one of Marietta's caste to a gentleman outside her caste. This sets her character up to be different than the other female servants. Marietta then refers to herself as "the town's disgrace... or so the priest keeps telling me."
Though Marietta may think of herself with a bit of disdain, a gang of young boys are quite fond of her. In order to procure money for her dowry, she has the gang break apart a police bicycle. When Mr. Brigante (noted crime boss) finds the disassembled bike, he tells the gang to put it back together, but before doing so, they sing:
In Porto Monacore, she's the king, in Porto Monacore, she lays down the law. It's her (it's who?), Mari, Mari, Marietta!
It is Marietta who is the real "boss" in this town.
Mr. Brigante wants to marry Marietta, but she is unwilling to give him an answer. Her carefree attitude with a crime boss of all people is interesting, and greater demonstrates her power and confidence.
After stealing the money for her dowry from Swiss tourists, Marietta leaves Don Cesare and the life she had of serving him. Throughout the film, she consistently deviates from traditional gender roles. Of course, there are many traditional gender roles that she plays into, but she does this in a way which assumes her power.
After Mr. Brigante attempts to rape Marietta, she takes out a knife (Brigante's own knife that she had a kid steal for her) and she slices the side of his face. Since Brigante is so concerned with his appearance, he runs out to wash the wound. Marietta scares him away. Later, she sleeps with Enrico, even though he tells her he cannot marry her. In both of these scenarios, Marietta assumes control over herself/her body, as well as over the situation at hand.
Perhaps, what is so great about how this film ends is that Marietta is invited to play "The Law" with her male counterparts. She is face-to-face with her attempted rapist, Brigante, (as he is under suspicion of stealing the Swiss's money), and she does not allow him to drink when he asks. He has been thrice humiliated by Marietta: 1) by not choosing to marry him, 2) by creating another large scar on his face, and 3) by putting the missing Swiss money in his coat pocket leading police to think he stole it.
The film ends happily, of course, with Marietta being able to marry Enrico (since she was given Don Cesare's house when he died). The game, "The Law" is now over.
And if there was any ever question, Marietta is the boss.