Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


The beauty of Venice as photographed by Jack Hildyard
SUMMERTIME (1955). Director: David Lean.

Middle-aged secretary Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) comes to Venice in the hopes of finding a "magical, mystical miracle," some adventure and romance, and meets a handsome shopkeeper named Renato (Rossano Brazzi), but the true star of this movie is the city of Venice where it was filmed in its entirety. Arthur Laurents' play "The Time of the Cuckoo" has been refashioned for Hepburn, with the result that much of the play has been thrown out and the other characters get little screen time -- it's all Hepburn and Venice, with a little Brazzi thrown in for good measure. The romance between Jane and Renato is completely unconvincing because the two actors have zero chemistry together; Hepburn seems less a repressed spinster than a self-hating lesbian trying to fool herself with a good-looking man! You might catch a glimpse of Darren McGavin [Kolchak, the Night Stalker and Mike Hammer] as one of the fellow guests in the pensione where Jane is staying, but his affair with the woman (Isa Miranda) who runs the place is so downplayed it hardly exists; Mari Aldon plays McGavin's wife. Gaetano Autiero is charming as the little boy, Mauro, who takes Jane sightseeing and is always trying to sell her things -- he seems to get more screen time than some of the adults. Some of the beautiful music is from La gazza ladra by Rossini; other music is by Alessando Cicognini. This was later turned into the Broadway musical Do I Hear a Waltz? with a book by Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and music by Richard Rodgers. By then the lead character's name was changed from Jane Hudson to Leona as we'd already had one [Baby] Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Verdict: Enjoyable for its stunning shots of Venice, but don't expect too much of a story. **1/2.

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