Looking for a light-hearted movie set in drop-dead beautiful Italy?

That was exactly my goal recently, longing to go back, even just for a couple of hours, to a simpler time when better men were President of the USA and the world seemed full of possibilities.

That’s a lot to ask of a film, but I found one when I stumbled upon It Started in Naples. Starring Clark Gable and Sophia Loren, and set in gorgeous southern Italy, what could be better?


Gable is perfect for his role in the movie and Loren is, well, Loren.  Thanks to the advancement of women that has happened in the past 60 years, the silly woman Loren plays is a thing of the past.  I must admit I cringed a few times with the actions and words required for her part.





I am able to overlook those weaknesses for the chance to travel, vicariously, to Naples and environs.  The child actor steals the show, as does the scenery.


Roman Holiday; Vacanze Romane

In any language, it is divine!


Roman Holiday, 1953, William Wyler, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, poster


Roman Holiday, 1953, William Wyler, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, poster


Mandatory Film Credit / Collection Christophel/Alinari Archives


Image date:  1953

Place of photography:  Italy


Collection:  Christophel/Alinari Archives



The actres Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) in the movie "A Roman Holiday" directed by William Wyler, Italy 1953


The actres Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) in the movie “A Roman Holiday” directed by William Wyler, Italy 1953


Mandatory photo credit: Ullstein Bild / Alinari Archives

Place of photography: Rome

Collection: Ullstein Bild / Alinari Archives



The actors Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday", directed by William Wyler, USA 1953


The actors Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”, directed by William Wyler, USA 1953


Mandatory photo credit:  Archiv Friedrich / Interfoto/Alinari Archives


Image date: 1953

Place of photography: Rome

Collection:  Interfoto/Alinari Archives


Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" for which she won an Oscar in 1954., Personalities, Audrey Hepburn


Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” for which she won an Oscar in 1954


Mandatory photo credit:  2005 / TopFoto / Alinari Archives


Image date: 1954

Collection:   TopFoto / Alinari Archives



Katharine Hepburn in “Summertime”

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…


A beautiful film for a relaxing, lovely summer evening is Katharine Hepburn in Summertime. This achingly bittersweet dream of a film was directed by David Lean and released in 1955.  The debonair Rossano Brazzi played Miss Hepburn’s love interest and the movie was based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents.


Beginning with Summertime, Lean began to make internationally co-produced films financed by the big Hollywood studios.


summertime 001

Interestingly, Arthur Laurents had written The Time of the Cuckoo specifically for Shirley Booth, who starred in the 1952 Broadway production and won the Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Ever faithful Wikipedia tells us that: Italian officials initially resisted director David Lean’s request to allow his crew to film on location during the summer months, the height of the tourist season.  The local gondolieri, fearful they would lose income, threatened to strike if he was given permission to do so.


The problem was resolved when the American production company, United Artists, made a generous donation to the fund for the restoration of St. Mark’s Basilica. Lean also had to agree to a Catholic cardinal that no short dresses or bare arms would be seen in and around the city’s holy sites.

In one scene, Miss Hepburn’s character, Jane Hudson, falls into a canal when she steps backward while photographing Di Rossi’s shop in Campo San Barnaba.



Hepburn was  concerned about her health and didn’t want to be in the Venetian waters. Lean persuaded her to do it anyway because he felt it would be obvious if there was a stunt double.


Lean poured a lot of disinfectant into this spot on the canal, but that caused the water to foam, which only added to Hepburn’s reluctance.  The coup de grace was that he needed to film the scene 4 times until he was satisfied with the results. That night, Hepburn’s eyes began to itch and tear. She eventually was diagnosed with a rare form of conjunctivitis that plagued her for the remainder of her life.


Don’t forget it was the 1950s in a conservative world.  Upon seeing the completed film, the Production Code Administration head, Geoffrey Shurlock, notified United Artists that the film would not be approved, because of the theme of adultery. Of particular concern was the scene in which Jane and Renato consummate their relationship. Eighteen feet of footage was deleted, and the PCA granted its approval.


The National Catholic Legion of Decency, however, objected to a line of dialogue that  was later trimmed, and the organization bestowed the film with a B rating, designating the film “morally objectionable in part.”

In later years, Lean described the film as his favourite. He became so enamoured with Venice during filming he made it his second home.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed that:

“The challenge of making Venice the moving force in propelling the script has been met by Mr. Lean, as the director with magnificent feeling and skill…through the lens of his color camera, [captures] the wondrous city of spectacles and moods. It becomes a rich and exciting organism that fairly takes command of the screen. And the curious hypnotic fascination of that labyrinthine place beside the sea is brilliantly conveyed to the viewer as the impulse for the character’s passing moods…It is Venice itself that gives the flavor and the emotional stimulation to this film.”


The film was successful:  It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for the  Best Film; David Lean won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Director and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.  Hepburn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and was also was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress.




Giorgio Vasari, a new film

A new film, Le memorie di Giorgio Vasari, premiered at the Bari International Film Festival in April of this year. Vasari, the painter, architect, and historian of art, was an eclectic figure of the Italian Renaissance.  I got to see the film today at the best movie theater in the world, the Odeon in Florence’s historic center.  It was a feast for the eyes!



Luca Verdone directed the film and captured, together with the cinematographer, Gianluca Gallucci,  the deep, rich, saturated colors of the Italian world in which Vasari lived. The story is told in first person, with Vasari himself telling us rather idiosyncratic events in Vasari’s life and the works of art he created using the stylistic themes and content he learned from his masters, Michelangelo and Andrea Del Sarto.

Vasari's greatest fame today is not so much linked to his works as tohis treatise, The Lives of the most excellent Italian painters, sculptors and architects, from Cimabue to the present time, published in  1550 and reissued with additions in 1568. A treatise "of a technical and historical-critical nature on the 3 major arts (architecture, sculpture and painting) was a milestone in the study of the life and    works of the more than 160 artists included. 

Luca Verdone has brought to life the story of an important artist anddesigner, one who has never before been brought to the big screen.


If Vasari isn’t playing at a theater near you, you can learn about him in these two fine BBC documentaries.