“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness, one comes for life!”
We continue our trip around ‘The Boot”. We now head to Rome, where you never know who you are going to meet. Maybe someone dancing in a fountain or willing to show you Rome on a Vespa. Avanti!
If you joined us late on the tour check out: An Italian trip: Part 1
Stop 6: Rome
Roman Holiday (1953)
In 2003, my husband and I were luck enough to visit Rome. I knew one of the essential things I had to do was visit “La Bocca della Verita” (The Mouth of Truth). Because one of the many scenes I love from Roman Holiday. It is poignant scene as both characters are lying to each other and the Mouth of Truth is a symbolic storytelling device.
Produced and directed by William Wyler, this film successfully launched Audrey Hepburn to audiences in her first starring role. After filming, Gregory Peck informed the producers that, as Audrey Hepburn was certainly going to win an Oscar (for this, her first major role), they had better put her name above the title.
Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) is a reporter for the American News Service in Rome. On the verge of getting fired when he, sleeping in and getting caught in a lie by his boss Hennessy, misses an interview with HRH Princess Ann, who is on a goodwill tour of Europe, Rome only her latest stop. However, he thinks he may have stumbled upon a huge scoop. Princess Ann has officially called off all her Rome engagements due to illness. In reality, he recognizes the photograph of her as being the young well but simply dressed drunk woman he rescued off the street last night and who is still in his small studio apartment sleeping off her hangover.
10 wins and 15 nominations
1954 Academy Awards:
Best Actress – Audrey Hepburn
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White – Edith Head
Best Writing, Motion Picture Story – Dalton Trumbo
Note: Dalton Trumbo, was blacklisted as one of the legendary Hollywood Ten, and therefore could not receive credit for the screenplay, even when it won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story. Instead, his friend, Ian McLellan Hunter, one of the writers of the final screenplay, took credit for the original story and accepted the Oscar.
1954 Golden Globes: Best Actress – Audrey Hepburn
Stop 7: Another day in Rome
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is like an Italian, Italian, Italian experience of Rome. Its a passionate film noir exploration of Roma and life.
Journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) writes for a gossip magazine. He chronicles seven days and nights on his journey through the “sweet life” of Rome in a fruitless search for love and happiness.
11 wins and 12 nominations including the following wins:
1962 Academy Awards: Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Piero Gherardi
1960 Cannes Film Festival: Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) – Frederico Fellini
“It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.”
― E. M. Forster, A Room with a View
A Room with a View (1985)
Florence provides a magnificent backdrop to James Ivory’s film adaption of E.M.Forster’s novel A Room with a View. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala crafted the script, doing it the justice it deserved. Helen Bonham Carter and Julian Sands soar as lovers. Longtime friends Maggie Smith and Judi Dench display their mastership. This film also launched Daniel Day-Lewis as a new talent due to the fact that My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) of which he played a very different role excited filmgoers and critics to his talent. I love Denholm Elliott, such a passionate father. Not only do you get a sense of the time period, but the realities of life in Florence. This film is truly an exploration of Italian life from the view of the British tourists and their own individual responses to the city.
Lucy Honeychurch (Helen Bonham Carter) and her cousin and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), arrive in Florence. They are troubled by the fact that they don’t have rooms with a view. Later that night at supper, fellow guests Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and his son George (Julian Sands) offer to exchange their rooms for those of Lucy and Charlotte. This exchange is the first of many events where Lucy and Charlotte are involved in the plans of Mr. Emerson, George and other guests from the hotel they are staying at. Lucy and George realize their passionate feelings for one another when George kisses Lucy, and it is not a simple matter of boy likes girl, but boy likes girl and girl is engaged to another. Now Lucy begins to doubt her feelings for her husband to be and gets caught up in a web of lies to convince herself, George and everyone else that she isn’t in love with George. How will it all turn out in the end?
“Eleanor Lavish: Smell! A true Florentine smell. Inhale, my dear. Deeper! Every city, let me tell you, has its own smell.”
1987 Academy Awards
Best Writing, Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow, Brian Savegar, Elio Altamura
Best Costume Design; Jenny Beavan, John Bright
1987 Golden Globes
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
1987 BAFTA Awards
Best Actress: Maggie Smith
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Judi Dench
Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan, John Bright
Best Film: Ismail Merchant, James Ivory
Best Production Design: Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow
At the time of writing A Room With A View is available on Netflix.
Tea with Mussolini (1999)
Set in pre-WWI Italy, this semi-autobiographical tale from the early life of director Franco Zeffirelli looks at the illegitimate son of an Italian businessman. The boy’s mother has died, and he is raised by an Englishwoman. Living together each other in Florence, and presided over by an ambassador’s widow, a group of Englishwomen live a sheltered existence which they believe is guaranteed personal protection in a tea reception given by Il Duce. However, as war breaks out, the women are interned. Occasionally in this English colony is a wealthy American, who visits among her travels and marriages to wealthy older men. She respects the “Scorpioni”, as they are known, and secretly arranges for their stay in a hotel. The ambassador’s widow finds her vulgar and tries to ignore her, but when the United States enters the war, the American too is taken into custody. Only then does she discover that her Italian lover has tricked her into signing over all her money and modern art collection to him, and is now arranging her execution. This obliges all to join forces. Lily Tomlin also appears as an American archaeologist working at a dig in the city.
Stop 10: Venice
Middle-aged American secretary Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) travels from Ohio to Venice on her dream trip. On arrival, she immediately befriends the owner of the boarding house Signora Fiorini (Isa Miranda). At a café, an Italian helps her to call the waiter. The next day, she sees a red glass goblet in the window of an antique store and recognises the owner, Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi) as the man who helped her the previous night. A romance develops between the two.
2 wins and 5 nominations including winning:
* * *
There are countless other films set in Italy. I hope this exploratory trip around Italy via the cinema wet your ‘appetito’.
Please comment below if you think there any films set and filmed in Italy before 2000 that really must be on this list.