The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales (Banner Books): Elizabeth Spencer, Robert Phillips: 9780878058372: Amazon.com: Books. In 1962 this book was made into a movie, but as usual the book has depths the film can’t touch. I reread the book recently before I had the pleasure of writing to the author, Elizabeth Spencer – Writer (now 92) about how significant and resonant her short, precise, novel was. Here’s the review of the movie, and you probably know of the recent Broadway version…
Discerningly cast and deftly executed under the imaginative guidance of director Guy Green, the Arthur Freed production, filmed in the intoxicatingly visual environments of Rome and Florence, is an interesting touching drama based on a highly unusual romantic circumstance created in prose by Elizabeth Spencer. The film has its flaws, but they are minor kinks in a satisfying whole.
Epstein’s concise and graceful screenplay examines with reasonable depth and sensible restraint the odd plight of a beautiful, wealthy 26-year-old American girl (Yvette Mimieux) who, as a result of a severe blow on the head in her youth, has been left with a permanent 10-year-old mentality.
It is, too, the story of her mother’s (Olivia de Havilland) dilemma – whether to commit the girl to an institution, as is the wish of her husband (Barry Sullivan), who superficially sees in the measure a solution to his marital instability, or pave the way for the girl’s marriage to a well-to-do young Florentine fellow (George Hamilton) by concealing knowledge of the child’s retarded intelligence.
It’s Mimieux’s picture. The role requires an aura of luminous naivete mixed with childish vacancy and a passion for furry things and kind, attractive people. That’s precisely what it gets. Hamilton acceptably manages the Italian flavor and displays more animation than he normally has. De Havilland’s performance is one of great consistency and subtle projection.