Monday, August 12, 2019

It Started in Naples (1960) and Avanti! (1972): The Ugly American Finds Love in Italy

 

I was surprised one week to come across two films with the same basic premise.  I watched It Started in Naples (1960) on a Tuesday and watched Avanti! (1972) on the following Saturday.  Both films involve an American man who reluctantly visits Italy to work out the affairs of a dead family member.  In either case, the man epitomizes the Ugly American as he grimaces and grumbles his way past the beautiful sights of Italy.  He meets a woman who initially inspires his disdain (she's too earthy and uninhibited for the straight-laced American in It Started in Naples and she's too sentimental and sweet for the straight-laced American in Avanti!).  But the woman eventually softens his heart and he falls in love with her.  Variety said of It Started in Naples, "Within this charming pictorial study weaves a frothy, frank and irreverent comedy that stumbles, sputters and stammers when its stretches its one basic gag - American puritanism vs Italian moral abandon. . ."


I enjoyed both films.  It Started in Naples stands out for Robert Surtees' fine Technicolor cinematography.  Patrick Nash of Three Movie Buffs wrote, "The isle of Capri is presented as an exotic, decadent enclave of nonstop parties. . . This provides the perfect setting for romance and culture shock."


The downside is that Gable doesn't look to be in good health (he died the following year).   He certainly is in no condition to be romancing the vibrant and voluptuous 26-year-old Sophia Loren.   


Avanti! stands out for the clever and funny script written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond and the sensitive performance by leading lady Juliet Mills.  Of course, Lemmon is great as always.


Other similarities are present. 

Gable is met at a train station by a lawyer and his lackey.


 Lemmon is met at a dock by a hotel manager and his lackey.


Gable spends much of his time barking into a phone in his hotel room.


 
 

Jack Lemmon spends much of his time barking into a phone in his hotel room.

 
 

Both men often retreat to the bathroom to shave, wash up or drink.



Both men often have an expanse of blue water as a backdrop.


The role of U. S. State Department official J. J. Blodgett was written for Walter Matthau, but Matthau dropped out over a disagreement with Wilder.  Fortunately, he was replaced by the marvelous Edward Andrews.


We lost Gable way too soon.


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