Summertime (1955) is one of those classic movies that makes you want to visit Venice, sit in the Piazza San Marco with a cold drink, see all the sights, and soak in the vibrant night life. Katharine Hepburn (Jane Hudson) is totally convincing as the spinster from the States on the vacation she’s saved up for over many years, hoping to inject some excitement and romance into her life. Rossano Brazzi is the handsome antique shop owner, Renato de Rossi, separated from his wife, lonely, and totally charmed by the lovely lady who enters his shop looking for a pair of beautiful red glass goblets.
Filmed by David Lean (Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Ryan’s Daughter among others), we see his trademark sweeping vistas and, especially, the intense bustle of the midday train arrival in Venice with all the traffic on the canal and the jumble of luggage (complete with travel stickers), contrasted with the softer, cooler, and slower evening scenes as Jane first settles in to her ‘pensione,’ and then the lovers meet in the square and begin a tentative relationship with all the complications of a different language, culture, and expectations.
Gaetano Autiero who plays Jane’s guide, Mauro, is perfectly delightful as the young, street-smart hawker always trying to sell her souvenirs (some of which are totally inappropriate), and who ends by giving her a gift at the train station when she’s finally tearing herself away from Venice to return to what we believe to be a mundane, lonely existence. It is Mauro who catches the ever-present movie camera when Jane tumbles backwards into the canal while filming the front of Renato’s store, and Mauro who catches her changing moods.
Hepburn didn’t use a double for her canal stunt and paid the price with a dreadful eye infection that plagued her for many years, eventually requiring radical treatment. Thanks to great filming by Lean, we are totally unaware of this while watching the movie and Hepburn gives her characteristic stunning performance. Also, fine acting by Mari Alden and Darren McGavin as the American couple who have settled in Venice, and by MacDonald Parke and Jane Rose as the rather obnoxious American couple who are doing Europe by timetable, unintentionally offending people everywhere as they bumble along.
This is a great movie you can enjoy over and over, especially if you’re a Hepburn fan but even if you’re not. * * * * *