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Summertime (1955 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Summertime (1955 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Lean
Screenplay byDavid Lean
H.E. Bates
Based onThe Time of the Cuckoo
by Arthur Laurents
Produced byIlya Lopert
StarringKatharine Hepburn
Rossano Brazzi
Darren McGavin
Isa Miranda
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Edited byPeter Taylor
Music byAlessandro Cicognini
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • June 21, 1955 (1955-06-21) (United States)
  • November 7, 1955 (1955-11-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time
100 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$2 million (US)[1]

Summertime (released in the United Kingdom as Summer Madness) is a 1955 Technicolor romance film directed by David Lean from a screenplay he co-wrote with H.E. Bates, based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents. The film stars Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Darren McGavin, and Isa Miranda.[2][3]


Katharine Hepburn as Jane Hudson
Katharine Hepburn as Jane Hudson

Jane Hudson is an unmarried, middle-aged, self-described "fancy secretary" from Akron, Ohio, on her summer vacation, enjoying her lifelong dream of a trip to Venice after having saved money for it over several years. On the vaporetto to her hotel, she meets two fellow Americans, Lloyd and Edith McIlhenny. At the hotel, they are greeted by Signora Fiorini, a widow who has converted her home into a pensione. Also staying at the property are Eddie Yaeger, a young American painter, and his wife Phyl. Jane is pestered off and on during her stay by Mauro, a friendly Italian street urchin.

On her first evening in Venice, Jane walks to the Piazza San Marco, where the sight of so many romantic couples intensifies her loneliness. While seated at an outdoor caffè, she becomes aware of a lone Italian man watching her; panicking, she quickly leaves.

The following day, Jane goes shopping and sees a red glass goblet in the window of an antiques store. Upon entering the shop, she discovers that the owner, Renato de Rossi, is the man from whom she had fled the night before. He assures her that the goblet is an authentic 18th-century artifact, and she purchases it after he teaches her the art of bargaining. Hoping to see her again, Renato offers to search for a matching goblet. The next morning, Jane returns to the shop with Mauro, and is disappointed to discover that Renato is not there. Jane is humiliated when she accidentally steps backward into a canal while filming de Rossi's shop. She begs Mauro to take her home to the Pensione Fiorini.

That evening, de Rossi comes to her pensione and confesses his attraction for her. When Jane resists his advances, he warns her not to waste an opportunity for happiness. She seems on the verge of agreeing to have dinner with him when the McIlhennys return from a shopping trip to Murano where they purchased a set of new red goblets similar to the one Jane bought. Renato realizes that Jane now thinks he has swindled her, but he assures her that the same designs have been used for centuries in Venice and he insists that her goblet is a genuine antique. Jane's anger subsides, and the promise of Rossini in the Piazza San Marco convinces her to accept his invitation.

The couple attend the moonlit concert in the piazza, where an orchestra plays the overture to La gazza ladra. When a flower seller approaches them, Renato is surprised when Jane chooses a simple gardenia instead of an orchid. Later, as the couple wander through Venice, Jane drops her gardenia into a canal; despite much effort, Renato is unable to retrieve it for her. As they return to the pensione, Renato kisses Jane, and she responds passionately and murmurs, "I love you", before rushing off to her room. The next day, Jane treats herself to salon treatments and new clothes in anticipation of their date that evening. While she waits for him at the piazza, Renato's "nephew" Vito arrives and inadvertently reveals that he is actually Renato's son. Stunned to discover Renato is married and has several children, Jane takes refuge in a bar where she encounters Phyl, who confides that her marriage to Eddie is in trouble.

Upon returning to the pensione, Jane discovers that Eddie is having an affair with Signora Fiorini, with Mauro acting as go-between. She is appalled, saying "Something happens to this city at night." Renato arrives and tells her that in Italy things are different, and the relationship between the Signora and Eddie is none of her business. He admits that he is married, but claims that he and his wife are separated, which he had concealed because he did not want to scare her away. He accuses her of being immature and unwilling to accept what she can have rather than longing for the unattainable. Jane relents. Their date continues at an open-air courtyard night club, where they dance the night away. Afterwards, with fireworks in the distance, Jane and Renato go to Renato's home where their affair is consummated.

The couple spend several idyllic days on Burano. Jane, unwilling to remain in a relationship she knows is destined to end unhappily, decides to return home early. Renato begs her to stay, but Jane insists on leaving, arguing that it is better to leave a party before it ends. Although Jane asks Renato not to come to the train station, she hopes he will ignore her request. Later, on the station platform, Mauro runs up to say goodbye and offers Jane a free trinket as a gift. As the train begins to leave the station, Jane is thrilled to see Renato running down the platform. He tries to hand her a package through the window but the train is moving too quickly. He stops, opens the box and holds up his gift. It's another gardenia.



Arthur Laurents had written The Time of the Cuckoo specifically for Shirley Booth, who starred in the 1952 Broadway production and won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her performance. Producer Hal Wallis expressed interest in purchasing the film rights, but felt Booth was too old for the role, and envisioned Katharine Hepburn and Ezio Pinza in the leads. Ilya Lopert ultimately acquired the rights with the intention of casting Booth and hiring Anatole Litvak to direct. It was later reported that she was negotiating with Daniel Mann instead, and Laurents would be adapting his play for the screen. Laurents' screenplay was allegedly unsatisfactory, and newly hired director David Lean tried to improve it with associate producer Norman Spencer and writers Donald Ogden Stewart and S.N. Behrman, but without success. He finally brought in novelist H.E. Bates to collaborate with him.[4]

Numerous names were mentioned in conjunction with the project before filming finally began. At one point producer Lopert considered casting director-actor Vittorio De Sica as Renato. Roberto Rossellini expressed interest in directing the film with Ingrid Bergman as Jane, and Olivia de Havilland supposedly considered starring in the project.[4]

Government officials initially resisted director David Lean's request to allow his crew to film on location during the summer months, the height of the tourist season, especially when local gondolieri, fearful they would lose income, threatened to strike if he was given permission to do so. The problem was resolved when United Artists made a generous donation to the fund established to finance the restoration of St Mark's Basilica. Lean also was required to promise the cardinal that no short dresses or bare arms would be seen in or near the city's holy sites.[5]

In one scene, the character of Jane Hudson falls into a canal as she steps backwards while photographing Di Rossi's shop in Campo San Barnaba. Leading lady Katharine Hepburn, concerned about her health, was disinclined to do the stunt herself, but Lean felt it would be obvious if he replaced her with a stunt double. He filled the water with a disinfectant that caused it to foam, which added to Hepburn's reluctance, then required her to film the scene four times until he was satisfied with the results. That night, Hepburn's eyes began to itch and water. She was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of conjunctivitis that plagued her for the remainder of her life.[6]

Upon seeing the completed film, Production Code Administration head Geoffrey Shurlock notified United Artists executives that the film would not be approved because of its depiction of adultery. Of particular concern was the scene in which Jane and Renato consummate their relationship. Eighteen feet of footage were deleted, and the PCA granted its approval. The National Catholic Legion of Decency, however, objected to a line of dialogue that was finally trimmed, and the organisation bestowed the film with a B-rating, designating the film "morally objectionable in part".[4]

In later years, Lean described the film as his favourite. He became so enamoured with Venice during filming that he made it his second home.[4]


The Academy Film Archive preserved Summertime in 2008.[7]

Critical reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed, "In adapting for the screen Arthur Laurents' stage play The Time of the Cuckoo, Mr. Lean and H.E. Bates discarded most of the individual shadings and psychological subtleties of that romance. They reduced the complicated pondering of an American woman's first go at love with a middle-aged merchant of Venice to pleasingly elemental terms. And they let the evident inspiration for their heroine's emotional release be little more than the spell cast by the city upon her fitful and lonely state of mind. The challenge thus set of making Venice the moving force in propelling the play has been met by Mr. Lean as the director with magnificent feeling and skill. Through the lens of his color camera, the wondrous city of spectacles and moods becomes a rich and exciting organism that fairly takes command of the screen. And the curious hypnotic fascination of that labyrinthine place beside the sea is brilliantly conveyed to the viewer as the impulse for the character's passing moods. ... It is Venice itself that gives the flavor and the emotional stimulation to this film. For it can't be denied that the credibility of the brief love affair ... is considerably strained in substance. Nor can it be honestly gainsaid that the break-up after a blissful go-round is abrupt and illogical."[8]

A reviewer for Variety wrote that the film "stacks up as promising entertainment - with some reservations. There is a lack of cohesion and some abruptness in plot transition without a too-clear buildup. Lesser characterizations, too, are on the sketchy side. ... Rossano Brazzi ... scores a triumph of charm and reserve. Hepburn turns in a feverish acting chore of proud loneliness."[9]

In the 21st century, Laura Bushell of Channel 4 rated the film four out of five stars and commented, "Hepburn made a career out of playing vibrant heroines with a vulnerable side and it's her portrayal of Jane's insecurity and loneliness that give the film its substance. ... Summertime's notions of dating etiquette and holiday romance have dated greatly ... but as a coming-of-age story it remains touching. As a showcase for Katharine Hepburn, it is superb."[10]

Awards and honours

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Director David Lean Nominated
Best Actress Katharine Hepburn Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film from any Source Nominated
Best Foreign Actress Katharine Hepburn Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 5th Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Director David Lean Won
Best Actress Katharine Hepburn Nominated

In popular culture

In the anime based on Naoki Urasawa's manga Monster, Anna Liebert's employer Mr. Roso states the film as one of his favourites and always cries when it's on. In addition, he talks about the beauty of Venice and its soundtrack as major influences in his life.[citation needed]

In the TV series Call the Midwife episode "Episode 1" of series 2, the midwives Jenny, Chummy, Cynthia and Trixie attended the cinema where they watch Summertime for Jenny's birthday.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  2. ^ Variety film review; June 8, 1955, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; June 11, 1955, pag 95.
  4. ^ a b c d "Summertime (1955) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies.
  5. ^ Edwards, Anne, A Remarkable Woman: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-688-04528-6 pp. 290–91
  6. ^ Edwards, pp. 291–92
  7. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  8. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: Venice Stars in 'Summertime'; Film From 'Time of the Cuckoo' Opens".
  9. ^ "Variety review extract".
  10. ^ Channel 4 review

External links

This page was last edited on 6 May 2022, at 19:09
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