Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills, Clive Revill, Edward Andrews, Gianfranco Barra
One of Billy Wilder’s lesser known gems, this is the tale of American businessman Wendell Armbruster, Jr., who is called straight from the golf course to a trans-Atlantic flight when news of his father’s death comes through. Armbruster Sr. had spent every summer in the same Italian resort for ten years – to ‘refresh himself’. On arrival, it slowly becomes clear to Wendell that his father has been having a decade-long affair with an English lady, whose daughter Pamela is also there to collect the body of her mother, who died in the car with his father.
Whilst navigating the process of understanding the situation, handling the local bureaucracy, and trying to speed up repatriation for a funeral in just three days time, Wendell begins to understand how Pamela feels, and starts to see Ischia through her eyes.
Then the bodies disappear from the local morgue.
This is – for me at least – an unsung marvel. The story is a very gentle comedic romance, set against a beautiful backdrop. Lemmon and Mills work very well together, with her free-and-easy British way contrasting nicely with his somewhat brash American manner. But the real stars are the supporting cast.
There’s hotel manager, Carlo Carlucci, whose manner is sublime in portraying brusque professionalism, Italian charm, and genuine feelings at both his lost friends and their children’s plight. There are the staff – forthright Bruno and his girlfriend, the pregnant maid Anna, and the very cheesy barman.There are the local vineyard owning family, the Trotta brothers, into whose property the ill-fated Fiat plunged. and there’s State Department official J. J. Blodgett, determined to arrive and sort out the confusion with typical officious bluster, just when Wendell and Pamela would rather be left alone.
The scenery is excellent, the music swirls and soars, and the two hours flies by.
For any fans of Wilder’s other work (and who doesn’t love Some Like It Hot, The Producers, The Apartment or Irma La Douce) please make sure this one doesn’t pass you by…