It Started in Naples
- Clark Gable as Michael Hamilton
- Sophia Loren as Lucia Curcio
- Vittorio De Sica as Mario Vitale
- Marietto as Nando
A somewhat mixed romantic comedy, It Started in Naples is thankfully enlivened by the star pairing of Clark Gable and Sophia Loren as well as an amiable enough story and the lovely scenery of Italy.
Michael Hamilton is a respected Philadelphia lawyer who travels to Naples after being informed of his estranged brother’s death in a boating accident. Michael is an upright man who has no time for any other culture and wants business to be taken care of quickly. Naturally this doesn’t happen for him on his arrival. What he also discovers thanks to Mario Vitale, an Italian lawyer who knew his brother, informs Michael that his brother had an illegitimate child named Nando who is currently being raised by his Aunt Lucia Curcio. Journeying to the beautiful nearby island of Capri, he finds that Lucia is an uninhibited and beautiful woman of modest means who gets by from dancing at a local nightclub. Young Nando is a charming ragamuffin who smokes, skips school and stays up late, much to the shock of Michael who doesn’t think this environment that Lucia provides is beneficial for the child. Michael finds himself growing fond of Nando and thinking that the young boy should be in a place of some opportunity instead of what he considers squalor, decides to fight for custody for the young boy, with the intention of bringing the boy back to America. But Lucia has other ideas and uses her considerable assets in an attempt to remain with custody of Nando. So while both Michael and Lucia play tug of war to gain custody of the impish Nando, they both find romantic feelings growing between them, due in no small part thanks to lawyer Vitale who meddles in their unspoken emotions and brings them out amusingly.
Melville Shavelson competently directs this light film with knowledge for both romance and comedy. He may take a little too long with exposition, but once the romance and comedy aspects are present his direction is free and easy, helped by a dose of irony. It Started in Naples mainly suffers somewhat from a by the numbers story and the fact that it runs too long. From the beginning, we can see where the plot is going and it makes the film both predictable yet somehow enjoyable. The film is essentially a one-joke movie of Michael experiencing a culture clash that leads to romance with Lucia, but at least the other spots of humour have a warm and pleasing quality. Overall with It Started in Naples, the positives outweigh the negatives as the energy of the film is sustained by the direction and glamorous romantic pairing of Loren and Gable. And deserving a special mention are the luscious visuals that fill the settings of Naples and Capri with shiny exuberance and colours of romance. It paints a breathtaking picture of these places that seriously have you wanting to book a flight there as soon as possible. A lively music score is utilized to great effect here, including a couple of songs. The highlight of these is a cheeky and sexy number performed by Lucia in a nightclub that represents one of the best and most energetic parts of the movie.
In one of his last roles before his death, Clark Gable still shows his considerable authority and charm that made him an iconic star. He brings out Michael’s cynical and intolerant attitudes that are eventually worm down by the surroundings. Despite the character being an uptight individual, Gable showcases that roguish charm that we all know and love. He wasn’t known as ‘The King’ for nothing. Providing a comical and sexy foil is Sophia Loren in a delightful performance as the earthy and voluptuous Lucia. Fun-loving, sensual and scheming on occasion, Loren displays her skills with comedy here and is stunning to watch, as well as boasting one of the most infectious laughs you’re ever likely to here. And despite the obvious age gap between the stars, they do have a wonderful chemistry with each other that can be felt. Vittorio De Sica emerges as a real scene-stealer here as the skirt-chasing lawyer who isn’t exactly the best person to be representing Michael but whose in turn leads to romantic feelings blossoming for them outside of court. The youthful presence of Marietto is charming when he’s playing Nando, who thinks he’s a lot older than he is but his childlike actions betray this sense of maturity he believes he has making him an engaging child.
It could have been a better film than how it turned out, but It Started in Naples has enough humour and chemistry( plus the beautiful backdrop of Italy) to make it a pleasantly light film to watch. It has its share of flaws, but a serene charm shines through the mixed proceedings that will surely leave with you with a smile on your face.