Cast & Crew
Olivia De Havilland
While vacationing in Europe with her mother, 26-year-old Clara Johnson falls in love with a handsome, well-to-do young Florentine, Fabrizio Naccarelli. As Margaret Johnson watches the budding romance between her daughter and Fabrizio, she conceals the fact that Clara is a mental defective; a childhood accident has left her with the mind of a 10-year-old. When it becomes apparent that the Naccarellis would be delighted to welcome Clara into the family, Margaret (unable to tell them the truth) cables her husband, Noel, to meet her in Rome. For the brusque and unsympathetic Noel there is only one solution: Clara must return to America and be committed to a mental institution. Still uncertain, Margaret takes Clara back to Florence. Gradually she begins to feel that with the Naccarelli family Clara would somehow be safe--her every whim indulged by a devoted husband, her household needs cared for by servants, her children reared by a doting mother-in-law, and her childish nature treasured as innocence. Margaret finally decides to remain silent about Clara's condition and permit the marriage to take place. Then suddenly Signor Naccarelli asks, "Why did you not tell me?" But with relief Margaret learns that he is referring only to the fact that Clara is 3 years older than Fabrizio. The situation is quickly resolved when Clara's dowry is increased from $5,000 to $15,000. Margaret remains in Italy only long enough to see her daughter wed. As she watches the radiant Clara taking her vows, Margaret feels certain that she has done the right thing.
Olivia De Havilland
Julius J. Epstein
J. B. Smith
A. W. Watkins
Light in the Piazza
Shooting on location in Rome and Florence with interiors at Boreham Wood studios in England, director Guy Green and producer Arthur Freed enjoyed exceptional cooperation from Italian authorities. According to some sources, Light in the Piazza was the first film to shoot in the astounding Uffizi Gallery in Florence, allowing art lovers access to historic treasures such as Michelangelo's David and Cellini's Perseus that could never be imitated by a studio props department. In addition, the famously snarled motor traffic on Rome's Via Venetto was diverted for three shooting days to accommodate the production schedule.
Light in the Piazza was the first movie for producer Arthur Freed under his new contact with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and he took great care in selecting the cast and crew. Guy Green, who had recently reaped critical acclaim for his films The Angry Silence (1960) and The Mark (1961), was tapped as director and scenarist Julius J. Epstein (Casablanca, 1942) was hired to adapt Spencer's story (winner of the McGraw-Hill Fiction award), toning down Clara's disability from the book to make her more charmingly child-like. The movie also marked Olivia de Havilland's return to filmmaking after a four year hiatus (her last picture was the British courtroom drama Libel in 1959). Yvette Mimieux had already been signed when Green joined the production and he wasn't happy about that. However, the situation improved once George Hamilton was cast as Fabrizio, Clara's Italian suitor. Green later said, "I was very disappointed with what she [Mimieux] did alone, but when she played with Hamilton he kind of inspired her and she sparked."
One of the more challenging scenes to be shot was filmed at the Ostiense Railroad Station and featured Mimieux's impending departure by train with Hamilton racing to stop her from boarding. "Sand was sprinkled across the tracks to safeguard Hamilton as he rushed across the railway ties to catch Mimieux before she departed," according to biographer Hugh Fordin (in The World of Entertainment: The Freed Unit at MGM). "Green had his second train racing in the opposite direction for the hazardous scene in which the actor disregards the oncoming train, dashes across the tracks, slips and comes within inches of being caught under the grinding wheels."
Light in the Piazza was released on February 9, 1961 and was well received by most critics. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Truly an uncommon love story, and one told with rare delicacy and force, Arthur Freed's Light in the Piazza is mature in the correct sense of that term, dealing with adult problems only adults are equipped to solve..." Variety concurred, adding that the movie "achieves the rare and delicate balance of artistic beauty, romantic substance, dramatic novelty and commercial appeal." One audience member was especially moved by the picture, and made her feelings known in a remarkable, unsolicited gesture. That movie-goer was author Elizabeth Spencer, who sent a letter to Olin Clark, the MGM story editor who initially handled the literary property, saying, "I have seen Light in the Piazza twice now, and I want to express my thanks through you to everyone responsible for making the picture. An author approaches this experience fearfully. So much has been seen to happen when books are transferred to film. The range is a wide one, but would seem often to include murder in every degree along with lots of plain bad taste. Still, one has to go and see: no power on earth could keep us away; so imagine my relief to find the movie Messrs. Freed, Epstein, Green, etc. have actually done sincere, sweet, moving, and as kindly attentive to the pages as I wrote them as one's own friends might be."
Although Light in the Piazza wasn't nominated for any Academy Awards®, it did garner a nomination for George Hamilton as Best Foreign Actor by the BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts).
Director: Guy Green
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein; based on the story by Elizabeth Spencer
Cinematography: Otto Heller
Editor: Frank Clarke
Art Direction: Frank White
Music: Mario Nascimbene
Costume Design: Christian Dior
Cast: Olivia de Havilland (Mrs. Johnson), Yvette Mimieux (Clara Johnson), George Hamilton (Fabrizio Naccarelli), Rossano Brazzi (Signor Naccarelli), Barry Sullivan (Noel Johnson).
C-102m. Closed Captioning. Letterboxed.
by Jessica Handler
The World of Entertainment: The Freed Unit at MGM by Hugh Fordin
The Films of Olivia de Havilland by Tony Thomas
Light in the Piazza
Guy Green (1913-2005)
He was born on November 5, 1913 in Somerset, England. Long fascinated by cinema, he became a film projectionist while still in his teens, and was a clapper boy by age 20. He bacame a camera operator during World War II in such fine war dramas as One of Our Aircraft Is Missing; In Which We Serve (both 1942) and This Happy Breed (1944). His big break came as a director of photography came for Carol Reed's The Way Ahead (1944). He was eventually chosen by David Lean to photograph Great Expectations (1946), and his moody, corrosive look at Dickensian London deservedly earned an Academy Award. His work as a cinematographer for the next few years were justly celebrated. Film after film: Blanche Fury (1947), Oliver Twist (1948), The Passionate Friends (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), The Beggar's Opera (1953), I Am a Camera (1955), all highlighted his gift for cloud-soaked period pieces with sweeping vistas of broad landscapes.
He made his directorial debut in a modest crime drama, River Beat (1954). Some minor titles followed: Portrait of Alison (1955); House of Secrets (1956); the ingenious mystery thriller The Snorkel (1958); the controversial child molestation drama The Mark (1961) starring Stuart Whitman in an Oscar® nominated performance; and his breakthrough picture, The Angry Silence (1960) which starred Richard Attenborough as an outcast who tries to battle labor union corruption. This film earned Green a BAFTA (a British Oscar equivilant) nomination for Best Director and opened the door for him to Hollywood.
Once there, he proceeded to make some pleasant domestic dramas: Light in the Piazza (1962), and Diamond Head (1963), before moving onto what many critics consider his finest work: A Patch of Blue (1965). The film, based on Elizabeth Kata's novel about the interracial love between a blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and a black man (Sidney Poitier) despite the protests of her bigoted mother (Shelley Winters), was a critical and commercial hit, and it earned Green a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director.
Strangely, Green would never enjoy a critical success equal to A Patch of Blue again. Despite his talent for sensitive material and handling of actors, Green's next two films: a forgettable Hayley Mills vehicle Pretty Polly (1967); and The Magus simply didn't attract the moviegoers or the film reviewers. He redeemed himself slightly with the mature Anthony Quinn-Ingrid Bergman love story Walk in the Spring Rain (1970); and the historical drama Luther (1973), before he stooped to lurid dreck with Jacqueline Susan's Once Is Not Enough (1975).
Eventually, Green would find solace directing a series of television movies, the best of which was an adaptation of the Arthur Hailey (of Airport fame) novel Strong Medicine (1986) starring Sam Neill and Annette O’Toole. Green is survived by his wife Josephine.
by Michael T. Toole
Guy Green (1913-2005)
Location scenes filmed in Florence and Rome.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States 1962