Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones in Stazione Termini (1953)


(director: Vittorio De Sica; screenwriters: Cesare Zavattini/Luigi Chiarini/Giorgio Prosperi/Truman Capote/based on the story “Terminal Station” by Zavattini; cinematographers: G.R. Aldo/Oswald Morris; editors: Eraldo Da Roma/Jean Barker; music: Alessandro Cicognini; cast: Jennifer Jones (Mary Forbes), Montgomery Clift (Giovanni Doria), Gino Cervi (Commissioner), Richard Beymer (Paul, Mary’s nephew); Runtime: 63; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Vittorio De Sica/David O. Selznick; The Criterion Collection; 1953)

“Vacuous melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Vittorio De Sica (“Umberto D”/”The Bicycle Thief”/”Miracle in Milan”) directs this unsatisfying arty film, a poor attempt to emulate David Lean’s Brief Encounter. It has a big title for such a short film. It was cut by producer David O. Selznick from 90 to 63 minutes and he also added a theme song sung by Patti Page, as preview audiences didn’t take to it and the producer was trying to juice it up. It’s based on the story “Terminal Station” by Cesare Zavattini, and Truman Capote was called in to brush up the dialogue (he claimed that his contribution was only a few lines). But nothing can save this vacuous melodrama, filmed in B & W and entirely at Rome’s spanking new central railway station.

It’s about the bungled farewell between American housewife Mary Forbes (Jennifer Jones, the wife of O. Selznick) and the lovelorn professor Giovanni Doria (Montgomery Clift), her serious younger unmarried Italian lover. After her holiday in Rome, where Mary stayed with relatives, she’s going home to her much older husband and daughter in Philadelphia without telling Giovanni. But he finds her at the station when he phones her home and talks with her sister. Giovanni spends his time begging her to abandon her family and live with him in Pisa (nice guy!). Mary misses one train, but plans to catch the evening train to Paris. The two walk around the station, where she runs into her 14-year-old nephew Paul (Richard Beymer). Giovanni becomes upset that she called out to the kid and plans to stay with him. Before he leaves, the professor is so upset that she’s acting bitchy, he slaps her across her face. Later he hunts her down at the station and they make up and retreat to a darkened vacant train car, where they talk and kiss. The station police arrest them, but the station commissioner (Gino Cervi) lets them go to avoid a trial and scandal over such a minor public indiscretion.

The plot just doesn’t have enough going for it to justify being a full-length feature. The actors try hard to make it work, but this baby won’t walk on its own. It was further handicapped because De Sica spoke no English, and the film was in English.