Monday, October 18, 2010

Olivia Goes to Italy

We close our Olivia de Havilland film festival with a film that is a personal favority of mine, 1962's Light in the PiazzaMargaret Johnson (Olivia) and her daughter Clara (Yvette Mimieux) are traveling in Italy, when they meet Fabrizio Naccarelli (George Hamilton), a young Florentine who is immediately besotted by the dazzling Clara.  Unfortunately, Clara has a secret: injured as a child, she has the mental capabilities of a 12-year old.  Though Margaret initially discourages the growing connection between the couple, as Clara falls more deeply in love with Fabrizio Margaret finds her opposition weakening.

I think this is a beautifully romantic movie.  Ms. de Havilland's role is a tricky one.  You have to believe, with Margaret, that her choices are the best ones for both Clara and Fabrizio, not merely the romantic imaginings of a delusional mother.  Most of this is achieved by the genuine caring that Ms. de Havilland shows for her child.  But a great deal is accomplished by her co-star, George Hamilton, who portrays Fabrizio with such beauty and sensitivity.  Watch the scene where Clara becomes hysterical, and look at the way Fabrizio gently pulls her back from her attack.  And then there is the final scene. In both cases, it is Margaret's commentary that provide the complement to Hamilton's caring scenes.  

In this scene, the lives of Clara and Margaret Johnson change forever:

We all thought that Barry Sullivan (as Clara's father, Noel) is the weak link in the movie.  Sullivan plays Noel as rather cold and distant towards his child.  We felt that we should understand his frustration with his wife's obsession towards his daughter, but that some of the lines (like his comment "Don't skip, dear" to his naive daughter) just made him distasteful.  You almost would rather the lovely Margaret would remain in Italy, and find herself a nice guy (though NOT Fabrizio's father, Rossano Brazzi. He's a bit of a cad - and married).

Light in the Piazza was made into a Broadway musical some years ago.  Though engaging, it is not comparable to the movie.  Somehow, the musical did not really portray the romance of this film.  

Next week, we'll begin a new series with another Hollywood lady. Please join us.

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