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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Metro On Euro Tour

Italo Setting For Light In The Piazza (1962)

Olivia DeHavilland marries off brain-damaged daughter Yvette Mimieux to a rich Italian family during Euro tour. Obviously a one-and-only of its kind, this was also a last lush vehicle for DeHavilland, who looks plenty good at forty-six, even if I'd have gone other directions with some of hair and wardrobe. Arthur Freed produced for MGM and Guy Green directed. You'd almost swear Vincente Minnelli was mixed in somewhere, being this seems his kind of project, and maybe he was induced at some point, but turned the property down. As is, the story is a grabber. I was sufficiently intrigued in December 1965 to watch Light In The Piazza past bedtime on NBC's Tuesday Night At The Movies.

Here's the gag: Yvette was kicked by a horse when she was ten and recovers, but with forever-after maturity level of a kid. But she's still Yvette Mimieux, and so guileless George Hamilton comes sniffing, which puts DeHavilland on prod. His dad Rossano Brazzi (did it always have to be Rossano Brazzi?) lays Continental charm  on Olivia and he's way more appealing than cold heart of a husband/father Barry Sullivan, who jets in briefly from the family home in Winston-Salem, NC (!!). Guess he flew out of NYC, as neither Greensboro nor Charlotte go direct to Florence, Italy, even today. Piazza was location shot, way more of it lensed outdoors than travel folders 20th Fox circulated in the 50's to celebrate Cinemascope.

Sub Rod Taylor For George Hamilton Here and It Would Look Exactly Like a
Scene From The Time Machine of Two Years Earlier

The picture is not a little dishonest, Mimieux supposedly of child mentality but comporting herself like breath-of-spring ingĂ©nue any guy might mistake for normal (or not care otherwise). Imagine her Weena from The Time Machine brought to present-day, and that's near the characterization we get here. Light In The Piazza has suspense for whether Olivia will pull off her marital scheme, and yes, the wrap sort of surprised me, message implicit that Italy is where Yanks go to unload broken toys. After all, don't earthy Euros like their women best at ten-year-old level? (Olivia says as much in the wrap) DeHavilland is her customary excellent. A pity there was too little worthwhile work after this. With botoxed mummies perfing into their sixties today, you'd think OdeH could thrive given later birth date. For that matter, at age 97, this actress institution still looks better than a lot of what's out there hustling leads.


Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon has some very interesting observations about Billy The Kid, "Light In The Piazza," and of all people, Clu Gulager:

Hi John,

I enjoyed your stuff today about "Billy the Kid", and I've never managed to see the Spangler Arlington Brugh (that is, Robert Taylor!) version, though I'd like to. Neither have I seen Paul Newman's turn. I've always heard bad things about that one! Maybe true? I was never a big fan of Newman when he was younger, but I thought he matured well and that in the George Roy Hill pictures, hit his stride. (I also liked "Cool Hand Luke", something of a classic depending, I suppose, on whether you think it IS one! It made a strong impression on me when I saw it new.) And I think most people admire him in, say, "The Verdict". I think a lot of it was that some of the young actors of the '50s were trying to both make a name for themselves and align themselves with the 'modern' mode, the Actor's Studio thing, and at that time their work seemed a bit stilted on account of it, hilariously enough, considering they wanted to prove how "real" they were.

And another one of those was Clu Gulager, I think, who played Billy on the Revue TV show, "The Tall Man", which I used to watch as a kid. The title character wasn't Billy but Pat McGarrett, played by Barry Sullivan (recently discussed in your piece on "Light in the Pizza"--I mean, "...Piazza"! I'm sorry.) It so happens that the first thing I ever worked on as a makeup artist, unless I'm getting no more than one to two other things out of line here, was an AFI (American Film Institute)-backed short film that starred Mr. Gulager. I worked on that and my main responsibility was to make Clu look very badly beaten-up for nearly the entire length of the shoot. (However, the time frame of the film and story is only about 48 hours.) It was called "The Drought" and I thought it was quite a good little movie---shot in B&W. If it wasn't my debut, it nearly was, and the score was by another guy starting out: James Horner! Clu was a bit eccentric but very friendly and cooperative, and I really liked him a lot. And lo and behold, I ran into him on two recent occasions! He evidently lives in the Hollywood area, and he seems to like movies. I saw him in the audience (where he was duly acknowledged by 'film noir' commentator Alan K. Rode from the stage upon intro ducting the feature) for a showing in 3-D of "Inferno", possibly (?) 20th Century-Fox's only 3-D feature during the 1953-'54 craze. And then, there was Clu again, attending a showing of "Son of Frankenstein" and "House of Frankenstein" at the New Beverly Cinema on the fringes of Beverly Hills, an occasion upon which I got to appear on a panel between the shows, me the mouthpiece for monster makeup, which included the always-enthusiastic representatives of their famous dads, Sarah Karloff and Bela Lugosi, Jr. Clu Gulager actually played Billy the Kid with distinction and charm. I remember it, even though I'm reaching back decades since I saw those shows. He had another good role, as many know, in the Don Siegel version of "The Killers", as one of the title characters, opposite Lee Marvin.

Speaking of "Light in the Piazza", you hinted at it, but I'd always heard there was a rather 'shocking' line spoken by Olivia de Havilland at the end of the film. Now I see that its nature is in its broad generalization of European males as preferring very submissive women! As in 'retarded' use another term that's being retired for insensitivity, and probably rightly so.


7:48 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This was a typical movie that would frequently appear in Sunday movie marathons on TV in the eighties in Argentina, that went beyond just action films.

Your comments about Rozzano Brazzi apply only to his English language films. He did far better displaying a lot flexibility in other languages, in far better films. One of them is LA CORONA NEGRA which quite an impressive film from Spain and France (other countries were probably involved as well) that can be seen here:

9:41 PM  

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