Summertime (Directors Suite) (1955)

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Released 18-Mar-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic comedy/dram Theatrical Trailer-2:17 Original in very good condition.
Theatrical Trailer-2:22 Five Graves to Cairo : Billy Wilder (1943)
Theatrical Trailer-2:21 An Autumn Afternoon : Yasujiro Ozu (196)
Theatrical Trailer-2:36 The Front Page : Billy Wilder (1974)
Theatrical Trailer-3:16 The Leopard : Visconti (1983 restoration)
Audio Commentary- Feature length by Uni of Melbourne lecturer.
Filmographies- David Lean as director PLUS 300 word essay.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 95:46 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (41:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Lean
Lopert films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Katharine Hepburn
Rossano Brazzi
Isa Miranda
Darren McGavin
Mari Aldon
Jane Rose
MacDonald Parke
Jeremy Spenser
Gaetano Autiero
Virginia Simeon
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Alessandro Cicognini

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


    In 1954 a photo of Katharine Hepburn "accidentally" falling into Venice's Grand Canal made the front pages of newspapers around the world. The copy accompanying the photo said that director David Lean had decided to keep the unscripted incident in the film which he was directing. Strange that this incident also occurs in the script of the earlier play on which Lean's film was based. Publicity nonsense aside, now we can see the divine Kate take her plunge in freeze frame slow motion, because Madman have just released the DVD of Summertime, known in Europe as Summer Madness - with the famous photo reproduced on the inside of the slick.

    In the film's opening sequence, fortyish American tourist Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) is on board a train about to arrive in Venice. She is thrust into the jostling populace as soon as she alights from the train, and Jane's exposure to Italy's seductive power begins. Jane Hudson  has settled on a spinsterish existence back home in Akron, Ohio, and this is her big overseas fling of a holiday. Catching a canal ferry she meets  fellow American tourists Mr and Mrs McIlhenny (MacDonald Parke and Jane Rose) who are also staying at the pensione run by Signora Fiorini (Isa Miranda) a lustily warm woman, who is dallying with another residing customer Eddie Yeager (Darren McGavin), married to blonde and pretty Phyl (Mari Aldon). It soon become obvious that Jane Hudson can be a rather tiresome, socially inept woman, with a tendency to overstay her welcome. Left alone the yearning, aging tourist aches  for something, but does she know what it is ? Armed with her trusty Rolex camera she sallies forth and sees the beauty and vitality of Venice and its people filtered by the safety of lenses, either camera or  sunglasses. Sitting alone in an open-air cafe she attracts the gaze of a handsome Italian, Renato de Rossi  (Rossano Brazzi), and makes a flustered exit much to his amusement. When she later enters a shop to purchase a red goblet, she finds that the shopkeeper is the same de Rossi. The symbol of the distancing camera is replaced by that of the  blood red goblet and Jane's Italian experience with the handsome Italian begins. Disillusionment comes when she learns that the youth she was introduced to as de Rossi's nephew, Vito (Jeremy Spenser) is actually the shopkeeper's son, and, what is worse, de Rossi is married. What will be the outcome of this collision between the naive, aging American tourist and the sophisticated sensuality of her Venetian lover?

    David Lean is here working from a screenplay which he wrote in collaboration with H.E. Bates (The Darling Buds of May). Based on the successful Broadway play by Arthur Laurents, The Time of the Cuckoo, Laurents was the original writer for the film, but clashed with the filmic revisions. Laurents, who last year at ninety years of age directed Patti Lupone in her Tony winning Broadway performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy, and this year is directing a revival of West Side Story for which he wrote the original libretto, objected to the "cleansing" of his stage material. Specific objection was made to the removal of any suggestion of Eddie Yeager's homosexuality, as well as references to the nocturnal sexual services offered by the gondoliers in their well-upholstered craft. In the stage play, the street urchin Mauro, here cutely played by Gaetano Auteri, pimps for these nautical male prostitutes, much to the distress of the prim Jane Hudson. Interestingly, there was to be a further adaptation of this material, this time into the musical Do I Hear A Waltz? With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim,  Laurents retained the stronger sexuality of his original play, but the musical was not a "hit".

    Lean's film adaptation was, and definitely remains, a "hit". Never has there been another film which so gloriously depicted Venice. According to the credits, the film was "photographed entirely in Venice by Jack Hildyard" (Hobson's Choice / Bridge on the River Kwai) and it is a real experience just to look at this film. Venice pervades every scene, whether behind a dialogue exchange, glimpsed through a window, it is always there, glowingly vibrant and alive. Added to Hildyard's superb photography is the lush production design of Vincent Korda (The Four Feathers / The Thief of Baghdad). There is barely a frame in this film that does not stun with sheer beauty. At the helm, of course, is David Lean who is here working with a simple romantic story, as with his earlier classic Brief Encounter, and not the sweeping grandeur of his later epic films. Nevertheless, that same creative flourish is still apparent, seen in sequence upon sequence. Look at the lengthy scene where Katharine Hepburn is left alone, pacing the terrace of her pensione. Images and sounds flood the screen. Distant sounds of life, coming from unseen "others" out there living their lives. Closer sounds of the garden, the leaves and the lonely woman's shoes pacing on the stone terrace. This is brilliant film-making.

    Then there is a final creative force that raises this film to high art, and that is Katharine Hepburn. Personally the actress was the antithesis of Jane Hudson. Hepburn's emotional and intellectual brilliance shone through every performance she ever gave. Perhaps that was her limitation as an actress, to be unable to lose herself in a portrayal. The original stage Jane Hudson was the great Shirley Booth (Come Back Little Sheba / About Mrs Leslie), and one can only imagine how endearingly awkward and embarrassing, at times even pathetic, a creature she would have made of Jane Hudson. On film, though, we have Kate, and I would not lose one second of her performance. Although she was to have four Best Actress Oscars by the end of her career, in 1954 her only win had been for Morning Glory way back in 1933. She had been declared box-office "poison" by the end of the 30s, had resurrected herself on Broadway and in Hollywood with The Philadelphia Story (1940), and lost to Vivien Leigh (Streetcar) for The African Queen in 1951. The 50s, as well as giving us Summertime, also saw great Hepburn performances in The Rainmaker, Desk Set and Suddenly Last Summer. Still to come were three more golden statuettes for The Lion in Winter, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond. Katharine Hepburn was, and remains on film, a force of nature. She, like Venice, is a wonder to behold. I cannot single out any one scene, but the finale is unforgettable.

    There are others in the cast, and my apologies to them. Rossano Brazzi (The Light in the Piazza with Olivia de Havilland  and Little Women with June Allyson) has the charm and the looks for this sort of thing while the great Italian actress Isa Miranda (La Ronde) has little to do, but looks great. It is interesting to see a younger Darren McGavin (The Man with the Golden Arm) than we are accustomed to on TV, and Mari Aldon does well the year after her fine performance in The Barefoot Contessa. Jeremy Spenser does a convincing Italian as young Vito, two years away from The Prince and the Showgirl and six years away from The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone. That's quite a hat-trick of actresses for a young actor to have worked with - Monroe, Leigh and Hepburn.

    This is one of the great romantic films, set in the most romantic city of them all. Given a very fine print, though not restored, it is an absolute luxury to sit back and let this beautiful entertainment wash over you. Thanks goodness for DVD - and Katharine Hepburn.


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Transfer Quality


    There has been no restoration of Summertime, but the video transfer of this movie is extremely good, and obviously taken from a source that was  in almost perfect condition.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original having been 1.37:1.
    This film was produced during the early years of CinemaScope and other widescreen formats. It was undoubtedly filmed knowing that in many cinema situations the image would be "blown up" to fill the new wider screens. Bearing this in mind, I "blew up" the image to fill my widescreen TV. Although information was obviously lost at the top and bottom of the screen, the image remained nicely composed within its wider frame, with no noticeable loss of information. Indeed, frequently there was a more pleasing composition than when the entire frame was viewed, with the emphasis on the characters intensified. There is a modest amount of grain, giving a very cinema-like experience to the viewing, and the grain is only slightly more obvious if the image is enlarged to widescreen dimensions.
    The image is extremely clear and sharp, with Katharine Hepburn's lines and freckles very obvious. Happily there is no soft focus on the leading lady.
    Shadow detail is very good, although there is some variation. The daylit scenes glow with colour and light, but there is one slightly murky evening scene in a restaurant, with a transition into a beautifully detailed alley scene with shadows and shafts of light (101:11). There is no low level noise.
    The brilliant colour is by Technicolor. The entire film has the look one associates with Vincent Korda's designs for other superb films, such as The Thief of Baghdad. There is no variation of colour anywhere in the film, which is glorious in almost every frame. Skin tones are excellent.
    There were no apparent MPEG artefacts. There is a slight shimmer on one of Hepburn's dresses, but that is all that was noticed. Although this film has not been restored, there are minimal film-to-video artefacts. There are no reel cues, no scratches and just the occasional mild flecking. Short of a major restoration one could hardly imagine a better looking Summertime.

    There are no subtitles.

    The invisible layer change occurs at 41:33 in the fade-to-black between chapters five and six.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


        There are two audio streams on this local release, the original soundtrack and the audio commentary, both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 224 Kbps.
        The slick states that there is also an Italian soundtrack, but this was not on my review copy.

        This is a very good audio transfer, excellent given the original source. In the 1950s there was a general inferiority to soundtracks recorded in Europe, compared to the technical expertise of Hollywood.
        Dialogue is clear and perfectly easy to understand at all times, even in the jostling energy of the opening tourist scenes.
        There is a little noticeable looping  - Jeremy Spenser may have had trouble with his accent - but otherwise there are no sync problems. There are no clicks, no hiss an no dropouts.
        In many sequences there is a noteworthy use of sound, as in the above mentioned lengthy meditative solo scene for Miss Hepburn.
        The musical score by Alessandro Cicognini seems to be restricted to the memorably lovely theme, which was  given lyrics and recorded at the time of the film's release. The technical limitations of the Rome recording studios give a hollow, tinny edge to some of the music.

        The mono sound is of course limited by today's standards, but in no way is there anything to detract from the pure enjoyment of this beautiful film.



Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



Main Menu :

       The main menu is presented with a simple Venetian graphic, a live action insert and the main theme from the film.
       Options are : Play Feature
                            Select Scenes : Three screens offer twelve thumbnailed chapters, with no animation or audio.
                            Extras : A screen using a still with the two stars, no animation or audio offers :
                                                       * Original Theatrical Trailer
                                                       * Directors Suite Trailers
                                                       * Commentary by Mark Nicholls, Lecturer in Cinema Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:17) :
This is a comprehensive, typical 50s trailer. The audience is prepared for exactly what the film has to offer.
The quality is good, though not as good as the film itself with slightly more flecking than on the feature. The trailer is presented at the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound encoded at 224 Kbps.

Directors Suite Trailers :

Five Graves to Cairo (2:22) :
    This is Billy Wilder's 1946 exciting WW2 yarn, with doses of Wilder and Charles Brackett humour. Stars are Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff and Erich von Stroheim as Rommel. Very good quality, 1.33:1 with mono Dolby Digital audio.

An Autumn Afternoon (2:21) :
    This 1962 release was the final film from director Yasujiro Ozu, who died in 1963. All audio is in Japanese, and there are no subtitles. Good quality in a 1.33:1 image with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 224 Kbps.

The Front Page (2:36) :
    Billy Wilder again, with this 1974 newspaper comedy. stars are Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett and Susan Sarandon. This is a messy trailer, in structure and quality, and being cropped Panavision doesn't help.The final few seconds are letterboxed at approximately 2.00:1 while the remainder is 1.33:1.

The Leopard (3:16) :
    This is actually the cinema trailer for the restored reissue in 1983, with the Italian graphics subtitled in English. Very good quality, although a little dark and with some white flecking. The trailer is presented at the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in a 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

    The inside of the slick has a short piece of about three hundred words on the film career of David Lean. It is concise and basically informative, but misspells Miss Hepburn's first name. No author is cited.

David Lean : Filmography as Director
    The inside of the slick lists the films directed by Lean - a total of only sixteen. Sad to note the fourteen year hiatus after he was savaged by critics over Ryan's Daughter - promoted as "a film by David Lean, so of course it is a masterpiece". Somewhat premature, the critics justly suggested.

Audio Commentary :
    This feature length commentary is presented by Mark Nicholls , a lecturer in Cinema Studies at the University of Melbourne. Generally Mr Nicholls lecture is interesting and informative although a little dull in presentation, with an occasional lift coming from an occasional welcome burst of enthusiasm. The talk is very well researched, although there are occasional lapses, such as using the wrong preposition in his reference to The Bridge OVER the River Kwai, calling Jean Peters "aged goods" in Three Coins in the Fountain - the actress was twenty-eight when she made the film - and omitting to tie Jeremy Spenser to The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone. That actor, who plays Rossano Brazzi's son here, is the male prostitute to whom Vivien Leigh throws her key in the final scene of Roman Spring. There is also the claim that Vittorio DeSica's Indiscretion of an American Wife - note that it is not the plural  "Indiscretions",  Mr Nicholls- was set entirely within Rome's railway station. Not the movie I saw. One wonders whether Mr Nicholls actually saw these films, or has he only read about them?
    As is the fault of many commentators, Mr Nicholls is guilty of making sweeping generalizations when the unique film on hand should be examined for what it, specifically, does and says. Nevertheless, this was a listenable, if not stimulating dissertation, embracing, as well as Hepburn and Lean, such personalities as Noel Coward, Sigmund Freud and Clare Boothe Luce and Spencer Tracy . Worth a listen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Criterion release of Summertime has two pages of liner notes by David Denby, but no audio commentary. As with the local release, the US disc has the trailer for Summertime, but no other trailers are included.
    Region 1 also has the mammoth fifty disc box set entitled The Essential Art House - 50 years of Janus Films, which includes Summertime.


    This is a romantic classic, from a great director and one of the greatest actresses ever to appear on film. Venice never looked so beautiful, and the film is an artistic triumph of the fusion of art direction, photography, editing and direction. And then there's Kate. This is a DVD to treasure and play over and over again.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, April 17, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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