WHEN IN ROME
(director: Clarence Brown; screenwriters: story by Robert Buckner/Dorothy Kingsley/Charles Schnee; cinematographer: William Daniels; editor: Robert J. Kern; music: Carmen Dragon; cast: Van Johnson (Father John X. Halligan), Paul Douglas (Joe Brewster), Joseph Calleia (Aggiunto Bodulli), Tudor Owen (Father McGinniss), Carlo Rizzo (Antonio Silesto); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Clarence Brown; MGM; 1952)
“A sentimental religious comedy about a con-man that tries to con the viewer into thinking that it’s a good pic about religion.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A sentimental religious comedy about a con-man that tries to con the viewer into thinking that it’s a good pic about religion. Clarence Brown (“Idiot’s Delight”/”National Velvet”/”Flesh and Devil”) directs by keeping it lighthearted, moralizing and troubling because of its bogus Hollywood-like idea of religion. It’s based on a story by Robert Buckner and is written by Dorothy Kingsley and Charles Schnee. The competently made but average tourist travelogue film best gives the viewer a guided tour of such landmarks in Rome as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Trevi Fountain, St. Mary Major and the Vatican. Otherwise it’s an unconvincing weepie melodrama about a Sing Sing escapee who reforms on cue after counseled by the forgiving priest he robbed and joins a monastery where he can’t talk and must serve a life penance for his sins.
For the 1950 Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome the small-town jolly priest from Pennsylvania, Father John Halligan (Van Johnson), leaves by luxury liner from the Big Apple and shares a cabin with the affable Joe Brewster (Paul Douglas). The priest doesn’t realize the con man gambler escaped from prison, but gets the message when docking in Genoa and Brewster eludes the Italian police by stealing the priest’s uniform, passport and money.
In Rome, Joseph Calleia plays the English speaking Italian detective inspector, Aggiunto Bodulli, who searches for the phony priest with the reluctant aid of the real priest, the only person in Rome who can identify the swindler. The real priest locates his imposter posing as him in the humble Monastery of the Three Saints, and instead of having him arrested agrees to wait 24 hours. Joe during that time receives Holy Communion, confesses to his priest pal and they go together on the pilgrimage until the police close in.
REVIEWED ON 1/24/2013 GRADE: C+