“ROMAN HOLLYWOOD,” a 16-day, 34-film series of Hollywood classics filmed in Italy, will run at Film Forum from Wednesday, December 6 through Thursday, December 21.
“I am going to Italy to learn everything there is to learn about love,” announces Suzanne Pleshette after quitting her librarian job at a women’s college. Like Pleshette in Delmer Daves’ Rome Adventure, Hollywood discovered Italy after the war. Fueled by the lure of advantageous co-productions, tax breaks, exotic locations, the bargain-priced soundstages and work force at Rome’s Cinecittà, and by la dolce vita, American moviemakers embraced the country passionately. When the embargo on anything American was lifted after Mussolini’s fall, Hollywood movies flooded Italian screens, and were soon followed by an army of producers, stars and directors – including Orson Welles, Edgar G. Ulmer, Vincent Minnelli, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, and Robert Aldrich and stars like Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, and Victor Mature.
Says Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, programmer of the series, “What became ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’ was an unlikely cultural/cinematic crossroad, where lavish epics like Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, and Cleopatra rose side by side with Italian Neo-realism. Rid of Fascism and entering an economic boom, Italy became a joyful, stylish symbol of Europe’s new freedom: political, cultural, and sexual – a progressive state of mind with authentic Old World backdrops, and a home-grown movie industry that could match its counterpart in California.”
In later years, Italian-Americans like Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Cimino, and Martin Scorsese have returned to make films at Cinecittà – founded eighty years ago this year by Mussolini.
The festival kicks off on Friday, December 6 with It Started in Naples, in which Clark Gable teams up with Vittorio De Sica to settle his brother’s estate, only to find he’s an uncle to an impish street kid looked after by Sophia Loren. Also screening on opening night is Billy Wilder’s vastly underrated Avanti!, starring Jack Lemon and Juliet Mills.
FILM FORUM JR., our Sunday mornings series of classics for kids and their families, will include a screening of William Wyler’s ROMAN HOLIDAY, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, on December 10. All Film Forum JR. seats (adults and children) are $9.