VHS / DVD
A Lopert Film Production
A United Artists Release
Produced: July 1954
Filmlocation: Piazza St. Marco - Venice - Veneto - Italy
and Shepperton Studios - Shepperton Surrey - England - UK
Premiere: June 21, 1955
Jane Hudson, a middle-aged American spinster, arrives in Venice, fulfilling a lifelong dream. On her first evening, she has an encounter with Mauro, an enterprising little street urchin, who becomes her unofficial guide. While sightseeing with him the next day, she meets Renato Di Rossi, the proprietor of an antique shop, and soon the pair are hopelessly in love and seemingly inseparable. One evening, while she is waiting for Renato in the Piazza St. Marco, a young man named Vito tells Jane that Renato will be late. She asks him to join her and learns that he is Renato's son. Even though she is hurt, Jane agrees to spend a few days with Renato on the lovely island of Burano and all is carefree and idyllic, until she is reminded of the futility of their relationship. She leaves Venice a little richer for what she has found there; a little sadder, because she couldn't take it with her.
Bosley Crowther - The New Yorker - June 22, 1955
"Miss Hepburn is clever and amusing as a spirited American old maid who turns up in Venice with her guide books and a romantic gleam in her eye. She makes a convincing summer tourist. And her breathlessly eager attitude is just right for the naive encounters and farcical mishaps that have been arranged. But a sense of her wistful frustration and her loneliness in this city where she has dreamed she will find 'a wonderful mystical magical miracle' does not take hold upon the mind until Mr. Lean has skillfully wrapped her in the haunting beauty of the place?until he has set her stringy figure against the impassive buildings, the moving crowds, and the great sweep of the Piazza St. Marco in the light of the setting sun. Nor does the excitement of her meeting with a handsome Venetian come home until Mr. Lean has walked her with him through the shadows of the whispering arcades and let them reach for a fallen gardenia in the dark waters of a canal. It is Venice itself that gives the flavor and the emotional stimulation to this film."
The New Yorker - 1955
"As the secretary, Katharine Hepburn has an air of stylized hysteria that is somewhat unsettling when we first meet her. After she quiets down, though, she is wonderfully effective, making the most of her opportunities for registering pathos and passion, and turning in a couple of first-rate slapstick sequences as well."
Lee Rogosin - The Saturday Review - 1955
"Miss Hepburn has labored long in the service of her art and, like many grand actress personalities, she has now created herself in her own image. Everything superfluous is gone, the elements are refined and complete - the sad mouth, the head-back laugh, the snap of chic in shirtmaker dresses, the dream of enchantment behind wistful eyes, the awakened puritan passion of the girl in love, the 'regular' way with children, the leggy stride, and always the bones - the magnificent, prominent, impossible bones which a visiting journalist, made somewhat exuberant by the deceptively mild local wine, described as the 'greatest calcium deposit since the white cliffs of Dover.'"
Dilys Powell - The Sunday Times - October 2, 1955
"Essentially, the film is a bit of autumn crocus-pocus. But it has two assets. It has Katharine Hepburn; and it has Venice. With love, with passion, Mr. Lean and his director of photography Jack Hildyard have observed the great square of St. Mark and the small canals with their face of exquisite corruption; the splendid panorama of the Grand Canal, the houses rising like cliffs over the narrow cracks of water, the gilded figures strikig the hours. The eye is endlessly ravished. Yet without Katharine Hepburn we should, I fancy, have been left watching a novelette within a documentary. Miss Hepburn adds human distinction to the scene, and she adds it not only by the nervous vitality of her playing, but by her own physical beauty. Throughout the film she insists that she is old and faded, and all the time we look at a woman with an austerity of profile, an elongated, wiry elegance of body which will make her worth looking at if she lives to be a hundred."
The New York Times Magazine
"A wondrous creature from a planet called Hollywood has descended on old Venice."
Dave Kehr - Chicago Reader
"Katharine Hepburn, a lonely spinster on a European vacation, is seduced by the charms of Venice in this expert 1955 melodrama by David Lean. Two years before the fateful Bridge on the River Kwai, Lean still shows some sense of subtlety, and Summertime contains some glowing moments. The film shifts to mechanical manipulation, though, shortly after Rossano Brazzi makes his appearance as Hepburn's swain. Recommended, with hesitations."
Adrian Turner - Time Out
"Hepburn is a spinster from Ohio making a lone trip to Venice, desperately in search of a 'miracle'. She gets more than she bargained for, though, when she falls for the distinctly continental charms of antique dealer Rossano Brazzi. Shirley Valentine later shamelessly milked all the exotic romance clich?s, but this (based on Arthur Laurents' play (The Time of the Cuckoo) is an infinitely more subtle, poignant piece, with a lovely performance from Hepburn at its centre. David Lean may well have identified with this 'fancy secretary', her cin? camera always primed, for the film marks a turning point in his career: this was his first movie shot on location abroad, an experience he obviously enjoyed."
Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian - 2004
"Not the greatest David Lean film perhaps, nor yet the greatest Katharine Hepburn vehicle. But Summer Madness grows on you, because of its artless innocence and because of Hepburn's performance as Jane, the spinster from Akron, Ohio, who comes to Venice in the 1950s. Her robust American frankness and moral rectitude hide a longing to be loved, and she's sent into a girlish flutter when handsome antiques dealer Renato (Rossano Brazzi) pays her attention. The dialogue can be stagey and Venice is evoked at a tourist level, but it's beautifully photographed and Hepburn's loneliness and sadness look disquietingly real. A very Leanesque brief encounter."
What Kate had to say
Katharine Hepburn - Me - 1991
"It was fascinating to work for David [Lean]. He was very basic - he was simple - he was true. He told a story. It's a slice of life you understand. In all its detail. He photographed what he saw in his mind's eye. It was a most extraordinary gift. He seemed to me to simply absorb Venice. It was his. He had a real photographic gift. He thought in a descriptive way. His shots tell the story. He was capable of a sort of superconcentration. It made a very deep and definite impression on me, and he was one of the most interesting directors I ever worked with."
What fellow actors, the director and friends had to say
"A lot of Summertime takes place in a pensione and Kate had a scene where she was walking across the terrace. She did a rehearsal and tripped over a loose tile. I thought, 'Oh, damn, what a nuisance. Let's do it once more.' She tripped again and I realized there was nothing wrong. I examined the spot and there was no loose tile at all. She used the tripping to show her nervousness of the situation. She was adept at sliding things in like that, things you would never dream were invented."
"She got on very well with David. They were great soul-mates because she was such a wonderful professional. She?d come in like an express train to Grand Central and she?d hit the mark. Not near it, but absolutely on it. You couldn?t put a razor blade between the chalk mark and her feet."
For David Lean, it was his favorite film starring his favorite actress. In her autobiography: Me - Katherine Hepburn remarked, 'they called me and said that David Lean was going to direct it. Would I be.....' they didn't need to finish that sentence. I would be interested in anything that David Lean was going to direct. We got to Venice - The Grand Hotel. The clothes to be brought there. I found a house on the same island as the studio - Murano. It had a tennis court and a pool and I thought it would be perfect. We moved in. It was hopeless. Poor Constance [Collier] and Phyllis [Wilbourn] were cut off from any life that they would have had in Venice proper. The beds all had the deep image of the former occupants. The stairway was steep, was narrow, and had a banister of loose rope. As Constance had very poor sight and was a bit unsteady on her feet, this was terrifying. To be brief it impossible. Constance and Phyllis knew everyone everywhere and were accustomed to a very social existence. When I moved them to this strange island, they had literally no life at all. It was just far enough away from Venice proper to be totally impractical. How could I have been dump enough not to realize this, I don't know. Anyway, after twenty-four hours I came to and quickly found an apartment as great as this one was lousy. The apartment was on the Grand Canal almost opposite the Gritti. It was beautiful furnished - two stories - three bedrooms - three baths. It was on the third and fourth floors and had a beautiful garden on the river an a great staff: cook, butler, maid. We had our own gondola. It was perfection.
More information about Summertime is to be found at David Lean as a Director. The site includes press book, stills, script, Video Clips and critic review.