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   IT STARTED IN NAPLES (1960) 

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CAST
Clark Gable
Sophia Loren
Vittorio De Sica
Marietto Angeletti
Paolo Carlini
Giovanni Filidoro
Claudio Ermelli

DIRECTED BY
Melville Shavelson

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 100 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy/Romance


I have to admit the only reason I watched this movie was to see Gable and Loren. The location – the Isle of Capri – doesn't hurt either. I haven't seen many of Loren's films because I'm not a huge fan of watching subtitles, so I decided to give this, one of her American efforts, a try. She's a constant surprise, charming, sexy and funny, giving Gable a run for his money. Gable was at the end of his long and illustrious career and though always worth watching, this isn't one of his better efforts. Playing a gruff American hampers his innate charm and masculinity. Though not enough for this to be a total loss. In this version, what brings them together is the love and welfare of an 8-year-old boy, their nephew, played with great humor and passion by Marietto Angeletti. It's an interesting twist on the usual boy meets girl story, but it doesn't really serve much of a purpose. One certainly needs hindrances to keep the lovers apart, but neither looks very good when they're fighting over the welfare of a child. This is, however, a comedy, so it doesn't get too serious. God forbid they ruin the romantic flow.

The film opens with Mike Hamilton (Gable) arriving in Naples to settle the affairs of his recently deceased brother, who left Philadelphia 10 years earlier for a beer and never came back. It goes without saying that they weren't very close and he wants to get in and out as soon as possible. He has a fianceé waiting for him to tie the knot the minute he arrives back in the states. When he meets his brother's lawyer, he discovers there's more to this situation than he was led to believe. It appears that his brother got married, though he still had a wife, and has an 8-year-old son, currently being cared for by his deceased mother's sister, Lucia (Loren). Mike's first meeting with Lucia is a cursory one, she's the queen of a local parade and can't really chat, so he decides to do his duty and check up on the situation. Make sure that the boy, Nando, is well cared for before he leaves.




What he finds is a street urchin, selling dead flowers to tourists and smoking in doorways in the wee hours of the morning. It's clear that Lucia and Nando have a wonderful bond, but it's Mike's job to make sure that he gets a future, that he becomes something more than a taxi driver. He forms an instant liking to the boy and wants to take him to America with him. Mike's fianceé is less than pleased with the suggestion and horrified by his current behavior. Mike feels the same about Lucia, a dancer with dubious moral character. He likes her well enough, he's just not sure she's the best thing for Nando's future. Mike tries to swing Nando's feelings away from Lucia, to lure him away without the need to go to court. However, Nando has a mind of his own and he wants to stay right where he is.

So begins the sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle courtship between Mike and Lucia, while they pretend they are only interested in each other because they want to win Nando's heart. It should come as no surprise that in the end, they become one happy family. This is pretty apparent from the very beginning since Loren has no physical competition for Gable's heart. Gable only communicates with his fianceé by phone, so the path to true love and life on the isle of amoré is quite clear. This film would have been better off if his American love had flown in to fight for her man. Resisting Loren is not really an option when there's no other alternative. What's great about her here, is that despite being a night club entertainer, she's no dummy, using every curve to her advantage in the fight for her family. She may not be the brightest bulb, but she sure has Gable's number from start to finish. He has the straight man role, which he performs adequately, but will never be remembered for.

The only things that keep this film from being a rather run-of-the-mill romance are the location and the performance of Marietto. It's rare to find a child actor who's not too precocious and annoying. He gives this part just the right mixture of humor, bravado and pathos. He is completely enchanting, if somewhat out of place in a love story. I guess they needed something to bring them together. If you're looking for a light romance that's easy on the eyes, in both the scenery and human persuasions, then this is the film for you. A little confection for a lazy afternoon.



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