After an eye candy post, it’s time for an eye candy film. This is the sort of film that’s truly beautiful to look at (a prime example of the genre is the Deborah Kerr-Rossano Brazzi flick Count Your Blessings, otherwise avoidable but visually unbeatable). Come September’s like that too: much about it is very soothing to the eyes.
The hero, wealthy Robert Taylor (Rock Hudson) is, for instance, gloriously good-looking:
His picturesque Italian villa, which he visits only every September when he’s in Italy, has a fine view.
His Italian girlfriend, Lisa Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida), whom he also sees only every September, is equally easy on the eye.
But this year, Robert’s broken with tradition and landed up in Italy in July. And if that’s a surprise for the people in his life, they’ve got surprises in store for him too. Lisa has met a wishy-washy Englishman called Spencer (Ronald Howard) and is getting ready to marry him…
…And Robert’s major domo at the villa, Maurice Clavell (Walter Slezak) is on the sly running Robert’s villa as the Hotel La Dolce Vista. Right now, a bunch of teenaged American girls zealously chaperoned by a Margaret Allison (Brenda de Banzie) are staying at the ‘hotel’.
Robert’s arrival puts a spanner in everybody’s works. He talks to Lisa and, without discovering that she was getting married, persuades her to come to the villa…
…while he throws a fit when he hears Maurice’s story of the ‘poor girls’ who’ve been marooned in this place and to whom Maurice has kindly offered accommodation for the night.
To Margaret (whom he fancies), Maurice accounts for Robert’s high-handed behaviour in the ‘hotel’ by concocting a story of how the Talbots once owned this villa, but bankruptcy made them sell it to him, Maurice. Maurice’s story of Robert’s being concussed during the Second World War and believing that he still owns the villa, catches the attention of pretty Sandy (Sandra Dee). Sandy’s majoring in psychology, and decides this is a fine opportunity to do some psychoanalysis…
In the course of which it turns out that Maurice has been bamboozling all and sundry. Robert is furious and gives him the boot, but lets him stay on till Margaret and the girls have left the next morning.
The beautiful Lisa arrives and is immediately subjected to the scrutiny of the hawk-eyed Margaret, who is sceptical about Maurice’s explanation that Lisa’s a schoolteacher. That night, Margaret’s checking of each room (including the one Lisa has been made to share with Sandy) and Margaret’s prowling round the corridors means that Lisa isn’t able to sneak onto the terrace for a rendezvous with Robert.
Robert is understandably relieved to see the lot leaving the next morning—but they don’t, because Margaret slips and ends up in hospital. The girls now have to stay on until she’s back on her feet.
And guess what? A quartet of American freshmen, headed by arrogant medical student Tony (Bobby Darin) happens to come across the girls. And, red-blooded youths that they are, they immediately decide to set up their tent on a patch of grass below Talbot’s villa.
Poof! goes Robert and Lisa’s chance for some privacy. Suddenly the villa is crawling, inside and out, with adolescents with raging hormones. And to Lisa’s surprise, the person who takes on the role of chaperone is none other than—Robert!
That, believe me, is actually it. The rest of the film can fit into a couple of sentences.
What I liked about this film:
As I said, the beauty of it all. The villa, the countryside, the Mediterranean—and the lead pair. Yum.
The music. I had to include this. I grew up listening to the Come September theme (it was extremely popular with just about every Indian wedding band in the good old days), and I actually love it despite all those screechy and tuneless renditions I heard over the years. There’s also Bobby Darin’s Multiplication, that’s the name of the game. I heard it occasionally on radio when I was a kid, but never knew it was from Come September. Darin, by the way, composed the music for both Multiplication… and the theme.
The repartee between Slezak and Hudson: these guys are funny! They get the best lines, and there’s a funny scene involving the two of them and a smoke-belching truckful of geese.
What I didn’t like about this film:
It just didn’t work.
I see Rock Hudson and I think screwball comedy, but the comedy falls flat here. Gina Lollobrigida, though luscious, is screechy through much of the film. Bobby Darin and crew’s witless attempts to foil Hudson’s chaperoning are unfunny. About the only humorous bits I could find are Slezak’s on-his-feet thinking, and the (alas, short) interactions between him and Hudson.
The situations are trite, the lines usually not peppy enough, the humour pretty sexist in parts. Compare this to the hilarious Hudson starrer Man’s Favourite Sport, and Come September falls flatter than a pancake.
And the ‘message’ that begins to emerge towards the second half? It simply deals the death blow to this film.
All right if you want an eyeful and the occasional giggle. Do not expect anything beyond that.
Little bit of trivia:
Whatever it did or didn’t achieve, Come September sure inspired Bollywood. The plot element of a major domo converting a mansion into a hotel in the absence of its wealthy owner was used in at least two films: Mere Sanam (1965) and Kashmir ki Kali (1964) and the Come September theme was used in the songs Dole dole dil dole (Baazi, 1995) and Nazren mili dil dhadka (Raja, also 1995).