Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

I'm not such a huge fan of war movies, but I tend to endure them if actors that I like are in them. Nothing but pure unadulterated adoration for Michael Redgrave could get me to watch the likes of The Dam Busters. And so it is with Gregory Peck in Twelve O'Clock High as well, except that Twelve O'Clock High is actually a good movie! Made in the late 1940s its a much more frank look at combat than something that could have been made in World War II. The movie begins, after a leisurely opening in modern day England, with the results of a failed bombing mission. After the plane lands, one man has had the back of his skull blown off ("You can see his brain" the doctor observes), another a broken leg and there is a stray arm inside the plane cabin. The fourth member of the crew is obviously traumatized by the two hours he spent keeping what was left of the team alive and flying the plane. The ill-fated mission is just the latest in a series of "hard luck" incidents to face this daylight bombing unit.

The unit's commanding officer Col. Davenport (Gary Merrill) is distressed to learn that not only has he lost five planes, he will only be receiving three replacements and he has another mission to fly the next day. To further add to his troubles, the mission is directed to be at a much lower altitude than previously. Thinking the whole thing a mistake, he goes to his friend at headquarters, General Frank Savage (Peck). Savage tells him that mission is possible and in the interview he decides that the strain of command is getting to his buddy. He arranges to have him relieved and he takes over command of the unit. Of course this is a hugely unpopular move and he doesn't gain any friends by being extremely strict about regulations on the base. Half the base is put on report of one kind or another and there are demotions as Savage puts his tough love plan into action. His one ally turns out to be his clerk, Harvey (Dean Jagger) an older man who is a self-described retread from the last war. In civilian life, he's a lawyer and he helps his boss navigate base politics. Their friendship is the most interesting part of the film I think because it humanizes Frank and because it gives the an audience a character in Harvey with whom they can identify. Harvey has a really great scene where he gets drunk because he can't remember the faces of the pilots who've died recently. It's such a great speech they ripped it off for Battlestar Galactica. (The more I watch war movies the more I realize that all the best bits of that show were ripped off from films from the 40s and 50s.)

Of course Frank whips the unit into shape and of course he has lots of great scenes of chewing people out. Seriously, Gregory Peck yelling at me would probably motivate me to do just about anything. These are usually followed by a scene in private where he proves that the command is getting to him. There are a few scenes where he shows his enthusiasm and pride in the men and those are just too adorable. You can see why he has to keep all that under wraps.

For a war movie about bombers there is refreshingly little time spent inside the actual planes. What is there is well-done, easy to follow and director Henry King wrings as much tension as possible from these scenes. When Frank has his inevitable meltdown at the worst possible time, all the men whose he pushed so hard are there to cover for him. I guess his tough love plan really worked then, but the viewer is left with a sense of fragility in the hero that is pretty atypical in war movies. Well, actually if you look at the war movies of the pre-code era, usually set during WWI, that is a very common theme. It took Hollywood almost twenty years and another war to be able to be even marginally realistic when it comes to war.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Merrily We Live (1938) and If You Only Could Cook (1935)

Merrily We Live has been on my Wish List for years. TCM has started showing it recently to my delight. It's difficult to describe the movie, without using the words "My Man Godfrey" and "derivative," and yet this is a wonderfully enjoyable film. I will go so far as to say I enjoyed it at least as much as the earlier far more famous flick. Billie Burke plays the ditsy mother whose habit of hiring tramps as chauffeurs has left the family destitute of silver. An early scene has the family eating breakfast using kitchen utensils. She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the role. Despite the "forgotten men" as servants/love interests plot device, this movie is derived from different source material, a 1926 play, "They All Want Something" and the first film incarnation of it, What a Man (1930).

Brian Aherne plays Wade Rawlins a novelist who has a car accident on a fishing trip and stops at the Kilbourne mansion to use the telephone. Assuming he's a tramp looking for work, he is whisked away, protesting loudly, to be be suited up as the family's new chauffeur. One look at him in his work duds and heiress Jerry (Constance Bennett) is a goner. This is one of those moments where 1930s sensibilities are lost on me. While I think Aherne looks pretty tasty in his scruffy fishing outfit, shown above, chauffeur's uniforms always remind me a little too much of Berlin in 1939. It hardly signifies what he wears because when a tramp who isn't really a tramp and an heiress are in the same movie together, it's a sure bet they're gonna wind up getting married.

All the supporting cast are excellent including Bonita Granville as aspiring thespian/rich brat (territory that Virginia Wiedler had pretty well sown up in my book), Ann Dvorak as the chief rival for Rawlins' attention, Patsy Kelly as the sassy kitchen main and Alan Mowbray, as the family butler who quits at least once a day. This family is so screwball, even the dogs are funny, with names like "Down Boy" and "Off the Carpet" though sadly there are no wire-haired terriers present.

To add to the Dreamboat in Disguise as Servant sub-genre, If You Only Could Cook (1935) features Jim Buchanon (Herbert Marshall) as an automotive mogul who, after a rough day at the office, meets Joan Hawthorn (Jean Arthur) on a park bench while she's looking through the want ads. Mistaking him for a fellow job-seeker, she invites him to pose as a married couple in order to get jobs as a cook and a butler. Marshall of course, has his own butler, who he hits up for tips, before heading off for a few weeks vacation as a servant. Only in the movies!

Lionel Sander, best known as Max from the TV series Hart to Hart has a supporting role as one of the gangsters in the employ of Mike Rossini (Leo Carillo). The mob boss hires the couple, and then falls for Joan, which presents complications for Jim who is also in love with her. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Jim is supposed to be getting married to a woman he doesn't love in a few days. As is the way in screwball comedy, it all works out right in the end after much confusion over sleeping arrangements in the couple's cramped servant's quarters. One of Sander's lines, "If you were married to her, would you sleep on the sofa!?" sums up the tensions that drove the entire screwball genre.

Marshall doesn't quite go through the mistaken for a "forgotten man," routine. It's enough for him merely to sit on a park bench and to be branded as unemployed. Arthur is plucky and funny as usual. She always plays well as the wiser and more worldly member of a couple, and it's a nice twist to see reserved Marshall cast as her love interest. Mr. Smith and Mr. Deeds were hicks, but they were also dreamers, as is our Mr. Buchanon. He's just a bit more sophisticated.

Familiar tropes are sometimes the best because their variations delight and amuse almost more than those films which are entirely novel. During the Depression there was no greater fantasy than being a rich person with servants, unless of course it was that you were rich, your servant happened to look like a movie star and be a millionaire in disguise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Forbidden? Plan It!

Click on image to see the full size file. Also available as a printable pdf if you like. I will e-mail it to you.
More Forbidden Planet Nonsense. I just thought that Dr. M's pad deserved to the modern house porn treatment.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Forbidden Fashions of 1956

You can learn a lot about a movie from it's costumes. This is especially true with science fiction, I think. The notion of what people will wear in space or in the future tells a lot about the culture that spawned a film. Here's a look at some of my favorite costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). Keep in mind that Robby the Robot is supposed to have made all of the clothes worn by Dr. Morbius and his daughter, Alta.

The Fleet is in

One of the best things about this movie are the Space Navy costumes worn by the men. They look a little bit space, a little bit navy and they give everyone nice big shoulders. As Betty Davis and Joan Crawford might attest, everyone could use a little help in the shoulder department.

Well hello, Ruby Tuesday

No sooner is Alta introduced, than her costume causes problems for the space men who've come to investigate her father. Dopey looks quickly progress to kissing lessons. Though Dr. Mobious is jealous of any attention given to Alta by the starry sailors, he has yet to have the "you're not leaving the house dressed like that, young lady," talk with her. Her "statement necklace" is genuine ruby, synthesized by Robby.

That dress is so money

Since Dr. Morbius has failed teach Alta the facts about sailors, Commander Adams tries explaining that men who've been "locked up in hyperspace" for more than a year can't necessarily remain gentleman with her short skirts and free lip locks. He gets all bitchy and it's pretty clear he's feeling the pressure too. I love this dress with it's boat neck, funnel collar and texture reminiscent of coins welded to fabric.

Greece is the word

Taking his lecture to heart, Alta tones down her look for her next meeting with the Commander. Some of her good intentions are lost when she precedes the big reveal with a naked swim. It's so hard to explain cultural mores to space girls. Another of Robby's amazing necklaces accessorizes this Grecian inspired gown.

Nights in black satin

Alta wears this black satin number with off center silver sequins for a few minutes while she stands around in the background. As near as I can tell the movie takes place over three days, which gives Alta a number of costume changes approaching the Kay Francis level.

Kim-OH-NO you didn't!

Not to be left out, Dr. Morbius relaxes in this black kimono or Man Dress. The sumptuous black on black ensemble is just the thing to wear to meet your Id monster.

Nautical or nice?

This is my favorite of Alta's many ensembles. It's a travel dress, but you have to think she had Robby whip it up, taking style cues from the Space Navy uniforms. I love the collar and hood, the structured box sleeves and the button details on the waist.

Thanks Robby!

Don't forget to hug your robot!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not seeing Avatar?

Forbidden Planet: Just one of the many movies I'd rather be watching than Avatar.

I don't really have anything against James Cameron or mega blockbusters. I don't hate Avatar. (How could, I haven't seen it.) I just don't have any interest in seeing this movie. I felt the same way about Titanic, and I managed to avoid seeing that. When Titanic took over the world, I made a little web page, "The last people on Earth who haven't seen Titanic." So I thought I'd do it again.

Maybe it's just that I don't like being bossed around. So many people have said, "oh you have to see Avatar." That kind of word of mouth praise, just works in reverse for me. Please don't flood this page with comments about how great Avatar is, ok. I just don't care. If you do want to comment about some other sci fi movies, classic film or even movies in general, then please, by all means, go for it.

I'm also starting a Facebook group as a place for people to hang out who are not seeing Avatar. It's gonna be a whole thing, I promise.

King Solomon's Mines (1950)

A while back I did a couple of posts, Swoon-worthy Actors and Phonebook Actresses. Two stars that I neglected to put on either list out of sheer stupidity were Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. I've always loved Granger ever since I saw Young Bess, years ago. I even did a tribute to his legs a while back. How could I forget him? And Kerr is such a solid actress. I love her in comedy (the two she made with Cary Grant are slight , but entertaining) and drama (From Here to Eternity, Night of the Iguana) which is a rarity. I adore her in Vacation from Marriage and Affair to Remember where she gets to do a bit of both. So to make up for this oversight, I'm posting on yet another fifties movie, King Solomon's Mines, which stars Granger and Kerr.

This is a straight-forward action picture with a bit of romance. The story follows an English woman (Kerr) who hires hunter, Alan Quartermain(Granger) to find her treasure hunting husband who has gone AWOL in Africa. I watched this with my husband and the boy and they both loved it, too. At one point my husband went upstairs to check on the roast and came back ten minutes later. It took me a couple of minutes to summarize all the plot points he'd missed. With such a busy script this could have easily been a confused, over-blown mess. Yet, the basic journey motif keeps it all hanging together. Do characters drop in and out? Why, yes. Character development? Hardly any, unless you count Deborah Kerr cutting her hair. There are countless scenes of Granger rescuing Kerr from danger to be followed by an awkward moment when they seem like they might kiss. It's not so much a romance as a series of awkward moments.

I don't really mind these flaws though. This is a piece of spectacle and it excels at that. It is a big budget, highly proficient film made about an Africa that simply doesn't exist anymore, and probably never did anyway. The movie opens with Quatermain hunting elephants with a bunch of spoiled rich people. If there were any pro-Elephant hunting people left in the world, this movie would change their minds. The access to animals on the scale shown in this movie is pretty much never going to happen again. There is a long sequence of a stampede that had the intended effect of bowling me over. The native people in the film are presented in a way which was fairly unoffensive even today. Native actors Kimursi and Siriaque are especially memorable. Their tribes are shown with at least a minimal attempt at accuracy. I'm not going to go so far as to say they weren't exploited for the film , because I don't know but none of the usual savage stereotypes that plagued 1930s films of this genre are present. The worst you can say is that the film focuses too much on the white people. It plays like a technicolor, live action National Geographic photo essay. It's not exactly anthropology and it's not exactly high art, but it has an edutainment value.

I've often seen this film listed as among the inspirations for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The emphasis is on travelogue, not treasure hunting. When they are in the mines and there is a booby trap with at least one big, round obviously fake bolder. I could also see Quartermaine as a forerunner to Indiana Jones. He has a trademark hat and he wears khaki pants. He hates dragging women along but that is Victorian chauvenism. Indy doesn't like to bring women along because he such a commitment-phobe that it might seem like going steady with a gal if he talks to her more than twice. On second thought, maybe those are both the exact same reason!

One final note, for those playing along at home, Stewart Granger's legs do make an appearance in the film, but just barely. Thanks to all those jungle thorns his pants eventually get completely torn to shreds leaving just strips that occasionally offer a peek at those Granger Gams. Hooray! Sorry I couldn't make screen caps. You'll just have to trust me on this one, people. Speaking of legs, Deborah Kerr gets to wear gauchos in this movie. Kerr's gauchos are not quite in the same class as Susan Hayward's in Garden of Evil, but they'll do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bootleggers or preservationists?

I've been watching classic movies since the mid 1980s and I've been interested in film preservation since the mid-1990s. I must say though that my interest in film preservation, was at first entirely selfish. Being big into Cary Grant, there were a small group of us who simply wanted copies of all of his films. Cary Grant belonged to Paramount for the first seven years of his film career. Around a third of his total filmography belonged to Paramount and with all the corporate mergers in the 80s, these archives changed hands pretty frequently.

In the seventies and early eighties, before home video took over the world, classic films were primarily shown in the afternoons on local televisions stations as filler programming. Paramount sold the rights to many of their early films to be shown on television. At that time, satellite television was just coming onto the consumer market. They were expensive but they appealed to people who lived in remote places or who were gadget heads. There were also quite a few film fanatics and collectors who owned dishes. They could sit in their living room in Wyoming and tape movies off the dish being shown anywhere in the world. These unsung heroes were the renegade saints of the classic film world for they had in their vast archives of video tapes a great many films which were simply unavailable anywhere else. And luckily they were happy to sell them to us for little more than the cost of their efforts. This truly was a labor of love.

Though Turner Classic Movies existed in the late 90s their access to the Paramount archives was (and still is) limited. To this day, many early Paramount films are tied up in this limbo. There is very little hope that most of these films see the light of day as a DVD release. Paramount not only owned Cary Grant, but Gary Cooper. Cary Grant fans are lucky, all his work survives and many of those titles which we lovingly bootlegged and passed around amongst ourselves 15 years ago, have since been officially released. Gary Cooper fans are not so lucky. A great deal of Cooper's silent work is considered lost and many of his early Paramount efforts are only available through back channels on the internet. Of course, Paramount is just one studio and Gary Cooper is just one star. What of the fate of the work of lesser known, but equally great actors? What of the smaller studios? The foreign studios? Those films have even less of a chance of ever being rescued from the dustbin.

It is these back channels that I want to talk to today. There are numerous sellers on Ebay, Bonanzle and on small e-commerce sights who collect rare and out of print films and distribute them at a low price, usually enough to recoup their cost in time and materials. Some collectors keep lists of missing or lost titles. Occasionally collectors turn up with a copy of these lost titles and the film can be momentarily preserved because it can be seen. The quality of these copies varies so widely, it's hardly worth talking about, but suffice to say that it's not uncommon to buy two or three copies of a film over time, to try to improve one's luck. I have four copies of the Lawrence Olivier/Merle Oberon film, the Divorce of Lady X. The first two were old VHS tapes that were unplayable by the time I got a hold of them. Eventually, I was able to track down a decent fan made DVD rip of the movie just before an official DVD came out.

In recent years there are a die-hard group of film fans who upload classic movies to Youtube in 10 minute chunks. There are many films that I would not have been able to track down if it weren't for these new rogue bootleggers. Their films are constantly being removed by Youtube which doesn't allow complete films on its site, but they continue to operate, changing titles, keywords and accounts frequently. Again, this is a labor of love. The people uploading the movies receive no compensation for their time and efforts.

What does all this have to do with film preservation? As much as this internet back alley trading keeps collectors going, and in some cases is the only way we can preserve a film if its original has been lost, it is simply not enough. Google Books is in court battling an anti-trust suit and its outcome could potentially effect classic film fans. If the court allows Google to electronically publish books whose copyright holders can no longer be tracked down, there is a possibility that films whose copyrights are in similar limbo could be electronically cataloged in the same way. Five years from now we could sit down at our computers and stream these classic films to our computers.

Of course films aren't exactly analagous to books. To begin with, books are a lot tougher than movies. If you don't believe me just pick up an old Photoplay magazine from the 1930s and count the number of "lost" titles within. The cheapest pulp paper is more durable than the most expensive film stock from a given year. Even handling archived collections is risky, let alone figuring out how to digitize them. For those films that are in stable condition sitting in archives, unseen there should be a massive digitization effort. For film fans and for future generations these things should be made digital and they should be made available.

For films that are in the hands of private collectors, digital technology should make sharing them easier than ever. Sadly this has not been the case. Peer to peer (P2P) sharing, which has been the bane of music and movie industries has not had much effect on the classic film market. In order for P2P to be effective you need to have a large number of people interested in a title and willing to allow people to download it from their computer. If any of you are old enough to remember the final days of the original Naptster you may recall that it went from being a place where you could slowly download the latest top 40 junk to a music-lovers paradise where you get any obscure thing you could want at high speeds. The reason for this improvement was that the rumors of the demise of the site pushed a huge number of users there at once. Compared to the latest blockbuster still in the theater, there is almost no interest in sharing a 70-year old film.

It's conceivable that a safe harbor for out of print films could be created, where fans could peer to peer share their collections using the internet instead of the mail. It's possible that VEOH, which Time Warner and other corporations have invested in, which runs on P2P, might be the perfect place. They allow high quality dowloads, support flash streaming and most importantly, whole movies. My experiences with streaming classic movies there have been maddeningly frustrating, but if the site were to catch on with more classic movie fans, maybe the ease of delivery would be improved. I should start a rumor that VEOH is going away!

Another viable model for getting films out of the vaults and into DVD players, is being used by Warner Brother's for their Vault Collection. They burn a DVD after its paid for and send it out. It's rather like those Bonanzle sellers who make a DVDR for you after your Paypal has cleared. You can support this model by buying those DVDs. If it proves profitable, I think other film collections could be distributed in this way. Not only will it increase the number of titles on offer, it would greatly improve things for the average film collector subject to the whims of the market where titles constantly go in and out of print.

What of those films in archives that are not stable, that are damaged and deteriorated to the point that digitizing is out of the question? This is where the painstaking and expensive work of restoration comes in. I once looked in to the possibility of purchasing restoration software. I was told that a single license cost $30,000. This is before you take into account the user skill and expensive hardware set-ups required for such an undertaking. Many organizations public and private do film restoration. This blogathon is in support of the National Film Preservation Foundation, which is part of the Library of Congress. I can personally attest to the quality work that this organization does. In 2001, as part of a Cary Grant convention we were allowed to view the recently restored Notorious. I'd seen the film many times on television and at least once in a theater, but seeing a newly restored print in a theater is almost like watching a different movie. You notice new details in the background and on the soundtrack. Seeing the original contrast in a black and white film makes the images leap off the screen, where before they might have been very gray or washed out.

Please check out the NFPF, support the blogathon and consider giving a contribution. In a somewhat similar vein to my post, John McElwee of Greenbriar Picture Show recounts his own efforts at film collecting and preservation in the 1970s.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine redux

As 30 Rock pointed out to me this week, Valentine's Day is really a stalker's holiday. So I made an over long, totally stalkerish Valentine to one of my favorite classic films, David Lean's Summertime (1955).

I discovered this movie as part of a series I did about summer romance/travel movies that ripped off Roman Holiday. As much as I love Roman Holiday, I think Summertime might be a little better. While Roman Holiday definitely has youth on its side, Summertime is unabashedly mature. "If age is an asset than I'm loaded," Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) says. While Roman Holiday shows postwar Rome to great advantage, Summertime shows Venice in a more realistic, although still highly romantic, light. People dump trash in the canal and Hudson's guide throughout most of the film is a barefoot homeless child who smokes and procures gondolas for adulterous couples to use as trysting places. To its credit, the film doesn't try to squirm out of these unpleasantries. Nor does it try to squirm out of the bleak dilemma that traps its central characters. While the lovers in Roman Holiday are doomed to part, Audrey Hepburn goes back to being a princess, and Katharine Hepburn goes back to being a secretary in Akron, Ohio.

Yet, Summertime is much more than a Geezer Roman Holiday. For one, it is also a David Lean film. It moves at a casual pace. Rossano Brazzi doesn't even appear in the film until 15 minutes in and then disappears for another fifteen minutes or so. Though the images are tightly controlled and composed, you don't necessarily feel like they are. You feel like you might be watching one of Jane Hudson's home movies. In that spirit, I'm taking my sweet old time, getting to the re-cap, so here goes...

The train bearing Jane Hudson arrives in Venice, seemingly floating on the water. We're introduced to her character, a single woman traveling alone. Her tail-wagging enthusiasm is endearing. Having been a solo female American on many travels I can attest that this is the best way to travel if you really want to see a place and meet its natives.

Jane meets the McIlhenny's on the "bus." They are the stereotypical ugly Americans giving offense and making fools of themselves wherever they go. Mrs. McIlhenny speaks Italian and it embarrasses her husband. Even though they are supposed to be awful, I kind of like them.

Jane arrives at Pensione Fiorini, and meets its proprietress, a widow Jane's age. Mrs. Fiorini is sophisticated and smart and she instantly takes to Jane's open heart. She thinks a lot less of Mr. McIlhenny who complains that "this WOP food is ruining my digestion." OK, when I said I liked the McIlhenny's, I meant, "outside their appalling racism." Jane refuses Mrs. Fiorini's offer of dinner with real Italians and instead decides to check out the famed Piazza San Marco.

People watching in the Piazza.

This is one of Lean's most brilliant and brilliantly simple set ups.

As Jane watches a couple of pretty girls being chased by two wolfish young men, she is shocked by the openness of the young men's approach.

In her reaction shot, we first glimpse Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi) who is about to make the same completely straightforward move on her.

The noise of Janes' movie camera catches his eye and and Lean's camera follows their gaze up to the rooftops. One of the nice things is that although he lives in Venice, De Rossi always seems to be seeing the place through Jane's newcomber's eyes.

As he is about to turn away, he notices her legs.

I like these shoes, but I imagine, that's not what he's thinking about.

Jane senses she's being watched and is startled to find the wolf so close by.

She attempts to throw him off by putting on her sunglasses, which is hilariously ineffective.

Then she tries to pay the bill quickly and leave, but apparently the universal "check please" gesture doesn't work in Italy. Senior de Rossi steps in to gain the waiter's attention on her behalf to her mortification. Later when discussing their first meeting she says, merely, "you were wearing a yellow tie."

Jane flees to the quiet of the canal, where she broods a bit.

The next day Jane meets Mauro (Gaetano Autiero), a homeless boy who acts as her guide and sells her dirty postcards.

Jane is drawn to a red goblet in the window of an antiques store and goes in to inquire about buying it.

Jane is so focused on the goblet she does not notice that the attentive shopkeeper who is trying to sell it to her is the very same man from the Piazza San Marco.

"Maybe you could see it's color better if you took off your glasses," he says and she does.

There is a long beat before she finally recognizes him and then this hilarious reaction shot.

He smoothly inquires about her hotel, "in case a matching goblet ever turns up" and she responds "I'm staying in Venice" before she tells him the name of her pensione. It's hard to tell whether she is just awkward because she's nervous or used to repelling men out of habit, or both. He watches her walking away across the footbridge outside his shop and she tries to look back at him and trips, almost falling over.

That afternoon, Jane is writing a letter to her friends back home and already describing the handsome stranger as "me amico" and imagining that if her friends were there they could double date. This is so sweet and so real.

After a painful scene in which she attempts to wheedle an invitation to drinks with the Yaegers, an American couple at the hotel, Jane is left on her own again. She heads for the Piazza. She is waiting for her "amico" but sees the Yaegers walking past and doesn't want them to think that they should come join her. She puts the chair next to her up against her table as a sign that she wants to be alone. The Yaegers don't see her and Jane is relieved. Then Mr. de Rossi enters the frame from behind.

He approaches, says "good evening" and pauses.

Jane realizes too late that the chair against the table has warded him off and she makes this total "I love Lucy" face as he walks away again.

The next day, Jane gets lost exploring the back alleys of Venice. Mauro finds her and brings her back to the antique shop, where she inquires for her friend, who is out of the shop.

Then she tries to film the front of the shop and falls in the canal.

Jane's fall into the canal makes everyone's days and Mr. De Rossi turns up at the pensione to inquire after her health.

She is wearing a dish towel and keeps asking him why he's there. He tries to explain sexual attraction to her without using any words. I love how he just keeps getting closer and closer to her in this scene and we don't see him move. It's like he's on casters or something.

The McIlhenny's come in and ruin everything. They have half a dozen goblets to match the supposedly rare one Jane bought at Mr. De's store. Awkward. Mr. McIlhenny says "Arrivaderci" and that makes Mrs. McIlhenny all excited in a way that I really don't want to think about.

He tries to explain that hers is an antique but she is mad and knocks over one of Mrs. Fiorini's really old chairs. For someone who runs an antique store, Mr. De Rossi doesn't seem at all bothered by his new girl's furniture abuse, but we'll let this slide. He's in love.

Mr. De gets overly-familiar with her dishtowel and eventually asks her out on date. Jane finally accepts.

They go to a concert at the Piazza and then she surprises him by picking a white gardenia from the flower vendor. Why this is surprise, I have no idea. I guess I just don't have enough Fifties Italian flower savvy.

Jane looses her flower in the canal and he's unable to retrieve it.

Undeterred by the obvious symbolic foreshadowing, they kiss. Things get a little passionate, and she asks him why he kissed her like that, which is the kind of thing only people in old movies would say. I mean I get that she's a rookie to this whole romance thing, obviously, but it would serve her right if he would just say, "Because I'm Italian and I'll get busted down to being Belgian if I don't get to first base.." Jane first tells him she doesn't want to see him again and after another kiss, she says, "I love you" and runs away. Newbs.

The next day Jane has an old movie makeover, which is awesome. She gets her hair done, her nails painted, buys a strapless gown (which she still wears with a dishtowel-like scarf attached with a weird necklace thingy) and red high heel shoes.

The red shoe becomes a big symbol of her newly found sexy side so keep an eye on them.

Jane waits for Mr. De Rossi and his "nephew" turns up to tell her he's going to be late. Though the kid is 12, she offers him a cigarette. It's funny how the things that were shocking about this movie when it came out are kind of humdrum now, and things like this little cigarette business with the kid are scandalous.

Jane finds out that the kid is not really Mr. De Rossi's nephew but his son. What is worse, the boy's mother is still in the picture.She heads straight to Harry's bar to get shit-faced. At Harry's she meets Phyl Jaeger who has a head start on her in the whole drinking and crying department. Jane must hold it together in front of Phyl who thinks she is tough. Phyl and Jane bond--not over what pigs men are, as they would in a contemporary movie--but over how much it hurts to not be everything to the person you love.

Back at the pensione, Jane overhears Mr. Jaeger and Mrs. Fiorini arranging a late-night gondola excursion, which explains why Phyl was crying at Harry's bar.

Mauro helps the lovers get a gondola. Jane catches Mauro and freaks out at him. Just then Mr. De Rossi arrives and her anger switches to a more appropriate target.

Mr. De tries to explain that he and his wife are separated and then Jane pisses him off by asking him if Mrs. De Rossi has "gondola friends." I think that's the best euphemism ever, by the way. Jane asks him why he didn't tell her he was married and why he pretended that his son was his nephew. He answers lamely that he was afraid of scaring her away. She doesn't ask if he ever planned on telling her the truth, and I think it's because she's afraid he'll either lie again or she won't want to hear the truth.

He gives her a speech. "You wanted someone young, rich, handsome witty and of course, not married. I am not young. I am a shopkeeper. I'm not handsome or witty (I'd beg to differ on both accounts) and of course, I'm married. But I am a man. And you are a woman." Then he kisses her and at least this time she doesn't ask him why he did it. Then he gives her this beefsteak and ravioli analogy, which doesn't really work logically but has the effect of making her hungry which was all part of a clever plan to get her to go to dinner with him. Boy, is he smooth.

She decides to go for a walk and he follows, chasing her into some symbolic dead ends.

A gondola driver asks if they need a ride and Mr. De Rossi totally jumps down his throat, which would be funny if it weren't so painful.

At dinner a toy peddler comes by and Jane cheers up a bit. I mean who doesn't love wind-up monkeys? So cute!

Oh yeah, back to the adultery, which 80 minutes into the movie is finally starting to happen. After dining and dancing and lots more walking around Jane finally just decides to go for it.

Kiss with the red shoe.

It's a well-known fact that in the 1950s when people had sex, there were always fireworks.

The red shoes spend the night on Mr. De's balcony.

Sun coming up on the shoe.

We see the sun coming up on Venice, which is beautiful. Mr. De walks Jane to the dock and puts her in a gondola.

She waves goodbye with her shoe, which is genius.

Jane's walk of shame back to her room at the Pensione is adorable and the shoe makes it's final stand at symbolism. Is that a men's bathrobe she's rocking as outerwear? Also, I love how the dishtowel is now a sporty ascot.

Riding in speedboats is classic film short hand for adultery.

They rent an apartment on a little island and spend the next few days making sweet, sweet innuendo. Here's a sampling of dialog, "You sleep all day and then you don't want to sleep at night." Renato's "hungry like the wolf" look and his sleepy look are almost exactly the same. Ah, Men!

This scene is beautiful, but what distracts me is the building in the background. Is that a grain elevator or a nuclear power plant? Well anyway, it's phallic, so it works.

Jane is way more relaxed and laid back in these scenes which is hilarious when you think about it.

Jane suddenly remembers this relationship can never really go anywhere and decides that she can't wait until divorce becomes legal in Italy in 1974. Preferring to rip the bandage off quickly, she tells Mr. De that she's packed and her train leaves in two hours.

They have a fight which consists of him kissing her and her saying "Oh, Renato!!" I guess in times of distress you stick to what you know works for you.

Gut punched by love.

Jane jumps on a gondola and waves good-bye with her white shoe. It's here that I wonder about Katharine Hepburn and her real life paramour, Spencer Tracy. How much of this is just wish fulfillment for Hepburn? If she could have walked or floated away like this, I think she would have.

Even though she just totally dumped his ass, Jane seems to expect Renato to turn up at the train station. This is another one of those sweet and true to life character details that I love in this film. She says good-bye to Mauro who somehow knows she's there. There must be a Jane Hudson channel on the police scanner. Everyone always knows where she is.

As the train is pulling away, with Jane on it, Renato finally turns up with a little box. We never find out what's in it. It's too small to be a goblet. Also we hope it's not breakable because at one point it goes skittering across the platform.

Renato runs after the train, holding up a white gardenia. She is too far away to take it. This is Jane's final glimpse of him.

The movie ends with lavish hand waving and a blatant disregard for train platform safety protocols.

Yes, Summertime is an effective example of a tear-jerker romance, but what I really like are the characters. Renato di Rossi is very slick and polished and yet we get the feeling that this more a result of his being Italian than his being such a well-practiced player. Part of this is Brazzi's performance since he cleverly manages to be at once super smooth Euro dude and tired middle-aged guy. He has to realize that Jane is way more high maintenance the casual fling he'd probably originally envisioned, but he pursues her because, they are both lonely people who are practiced at putting on a brave face. When he turns up at the pensione and she pretends not to understand why he's there, he rightly points out that she's been stalking him all over the city. He cuts through all her romantic notions and dares her to take his love even though it doesn't live up to her ideals.

I can't decide whether it's because she's a "spinster" (God what a terrible word, I hate to even type it), because she's a free spirit, or because it's vacation and she just wants to enjoy herself that Jane allows him to seduce her. It is chauvinistic to conclude that if you are a woman of a certain age who has waited to fall in love because you were unwilling to "settle," you might actually end up alone. It is feminist to say that if you a woman alone you can be perfectly happy even though you do still sometimes feel like you are missing out on certain things. Miraculously, Summertime makes both conclusions without making your head explode. Then again it might have nothing to do with ones age or gender. With love , things might be more complicated than you are prepared to accept. (Try fitting that on a Valentine's Day card.) That truth hits everyone, even young people. If you don't believe me, watch Roman Holiday!