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COME SEPTEMBER(director: Robert Mulligan; screenwriters: Stanley Shapiro/Maurice Richlin; cinematographer: William Daniels; editor: Russell Schoengarth; music: Hans J. Salter; cast: Rock Hudson (Robert Talbot), Gina Lollobrigida (Lisa Fellini), Sandra Dee (Sandy Stevens), Bobby Darin (Tony), Walter Slezak (Maurice Clavell), Brenda de Banzie (Margaret Allison), Rosanna Rory (Anna), Joel Grey (Beagle), Ronnie Haran (Sparrow), Ronald Howard (Spencer); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; Universal; 1961)
“Went down like a mouthful of soggy spaghetti.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This saucy romantic comedy directed by Robert Mulligan (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) went down like a mouthful of soggy spaghetti. The harmless sex farce scenarios awkwardly waver between the fight over the “generation gap” and the “battle of the sexes.” It features the fiery Gina Lollobrigida, to give the film some spice, who was one of the first of the sexy Italian actresses to become a big international star. This film was her biggest American film box office success ever. It was also teenage idol singer Bobby Darin’s first picture, and where he met his future wife Sandra Dee (the film was much delayed and took 12 months to finish).

Rich American businessman Robert Talbot (Rock Hudson) arrives in July instead of for his annual September vacation visit to his palatial Italian villa, only to find he can’t be alone with his long-time girlfriend Lisa Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida) because the trustworthy major domo of his villa, Maurice Clavell (Walter Slezak), turns out to be not so trustworthy and rented out the place as a posh hotel while the owner was away the other eleven months. This is something the smooth-talking Maurice has gotten away with for the past six years.

Staying at the hotel is the prim Margaret Allison, who is chaperoning a group of giddy California college girls on an Italian tour.

The goofy problems that arise because of the misunderstanding are of the predictable formula ones from the sitcoms of the 1950s. The six American girls staying at Talbot’s posh digs have met four college boys from Connecticut, traveling in a Jeep, and their respective leaders Sandy (Sandra Dee) and Tony (Bobby Darin) have begun a summer romance. The comedy revolves around Talbot’s slow-boiling point reactions to his house being invaded by the younger generation, as the boys camp out in a tent outside the villa to court the girls. Their romantic situation is compared to his faltering romance with Lisa. Talbot takes an instant dislike to the boys as untrustworthy sorts and becomes paternally overprotective of the girls, telling Sandy that “If a woman is too easy to get, a man would never take her seriously.” When Lisa hears this, she turns the tables on Talbot and is prepared to marry a staid Englishman (Ronald Howard) unless he comes running after her to propose. If you guessed that this will lead to a happy ending, then you might as well know that you are right–this outdated film offers no surprises only hints at how bawdy sex can be, meant to induce snickers. Talbot chases after Lisa in his Rolls, but when that breaks down commandeers a poor farmer’s goose truck (You’re supposed to visualize that when he catches up with her his goose is cooked!); while Lisa pretends the baby she’s showing him as he’s about to split town is his. By this time she’s hooked her fella into marriage, and from what I could gather Sandy has also hooked herself a future hubby with the prospects of becoming in the future a wise-ass doctor.

Rock and Gina are adorable together, Slezak delightfully plays the lovable rascal, while Dee and Darin surprisingly seem to have little chemistry together for a pair who will soon get married in real life and are the weak links in this frothy film of little consequence except as a passably amusing diversion. Not much to write home about, but at least it was pretty to look at the great location shots of Italy and at Gina showing off her curves while wiggling around the villa in an assortment of stunning evening dresses.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”