BUONA SERA, MRS. CAMPBELL (director: Melvin Frank; screenwriters: Sheldon Keller/Denis Norden; cinematographer: Gabor Pogany; editors: William Butler/Robert Lawrence; music: Riz Ortolani/Andrew Frank/Melvin Frank; cast: Gina Lollobrigida (Carla Campbell), Shelley Winters (Shirley Newman), Phil Silvers (Phil Newman), Peter Lawford (Justin Young), Telly Savalas (Walter Braddock), Lee Grant (Fritzie Braddock), Janet Margolin (Gia Campbell), Marian Moses (Lauren Young), Philippe Leroy (Vittorio), Naomi Stevens (Rosa); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: C.O. Erickson; United Artists; 1968)
“The longer this farce goes on, the more forced and unfunny become the gags.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This mildly amusing sitcom comedy gets off to a quick start but soon it’s swept away by sentimentality and becomes overcooked. The middlebrow frolic was a big box-office hit among those of middle-age. It starred Gina Lollobrigida, underrated by some for her comic abilities, who is at her best in this farce. It was also helped by a fine supporting cast, especially Telly Savalas and Lee Grant as the Ugly American couple who can’t stop feuding, and being so lushly photographed by Gabor Pogany. The always bankable studio director Melvin Frank (“The Jayhawkers”/Lost and Found”/”A Touch of Class”) helms it in a workmanlike way, offering no surprises but keeping it rolling along in its formulaic plot line. It’s written by Sheldon Keller and Denis Norden.
The gorgeous Carla Campbell (Gina Lollobrigida), from the Italian village of San Forino, has been receiving paternity support the last twenty years for her wartime child Gia (Janet Margolin) from three different American Air Force servicemen who were temporarily stationed in her hometown during WW II. One of the three is the poppa, but Carla is not sure which one. After their transfer, the pregnant Carla wrote a letter to the three men– Sgt. Walter Braddock (Phil Silvers), Phil Newman (Phil Silvers) and pilot Justin Young (Peter Lawford)–and each kept their promise to send her a monthly check for child support. To keep her reputation in her village, Carla made up an imaginary husband and named him Capt. Eddie Campbell after a can of American soup; she then claimed he was killed in action. The American money kept her living a comfortable life, and to the bargain no one knew about her lie–including her daughter. A squadron reunion brings the now middle-aged men back to San Forino with their wives and children in tow, and all the guys are anxious to see the daughter they have been supporting all these years. Their appearance brings about a potential crisis for Mrs. Campbell, but it’s all kept inanely sweet and worked out in a contrived way that should please those who savor safe and dull tales. The longer this farce goes on, the more forced and unfunny become the gags.
REVIEWED ON 10/17/2007 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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