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Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn), a single, middle-aged elementary school secretary from Akron, Ohio finally ventures to Venice after years of saving and dreaming. While there she meets an American couple from the mid-west, an Italian widow running the hotel where she's staying and an American artist and his wife. Alone in an unfamiliar city she befriends a small boy who guides her around Venice until she meets a charming shop owner and for the first time begins to feel the pangs of love.
Director: David Lean
Producers: Alexander Korda, Ilya Lopert, Norman Spencer
Writers: H.E. Bates, David Lean, Donald Ogden Stewart; based on a play by Arthur Laurents
Original Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Film Editing: Peter Taylor
Production Design: Vincent Korda
Assistant Directors: Alberto Cardone, Adrian Pryce-Jones
Sound Editors: Winston Ryder, Jacqueline Thidot
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Jane Hudson), Rossano Brazzi (Renato de Rossi), Isa Miranda (Signora Fiorini), Darren McGavin (Eddie Yaeger), Mari Aldon (Phyl Yaeger), Jane Rose (Mrs. McIlhenny), MacDonald Parke (Mr. McIlhenny), Jeremy Spenser (Vito de Rossi), Gaetano Autiero (Mauro), Virginia Simeon (Giovanna)
Why SUMMERTIME is Essential
Summertime (aka Summer Madness, UK) began its life on the stage under the name The Time of the Cuckoo, written by Arthur Laurents for the great actress Shirley Booth. Booth won a Tony Award for her performance but two years later, when the time came to adapt it for the screen, she was considered too old and Katharine Hepburn, nine years her junior, got the part. David Lean was brought on to direct and everything was to be done on location.
Location shooting, though becoming more common, was still something less likely to happen than filming on a soundstage. However, with David Lean directing, Summertime's Venice would become a character in and of itself which no soundstage could possibly imitate. According to Michael Korda, nephew of Alexander Korda, in his biography, Charmed Lives, "David Lean was bent on filming Summertime entirely on location in Venice, where the story takes place. Alexander Korda, the executive producer, and Ilya Lopert, the producer, agreed with him. Furthermore, United Artists, with which Lopert's American distribution company, Lopert Films, was affiliated, had provided major funding for the production, and it too went along with the decision to film in Italy." The result is not just a beautiful film in story and character but on purely visual terms as well. The city is generously photographed and displayed throughout. Moviegoers in 1955 got to experience Venice as they never had before and many for the first time.
Lean himself fell in love with Venice and eventually set up a second home there. Despite the great successes of his later epics, both financially and critically, he remembered Summertime as his favorite film.
Summertime is also essential for its frank meditation on middle aged sexual relationships. Even in 1955, censorship boards carried weight and Summertime's plot of a single, middle-aged woman sleeping with a married man was groundbreaking. Not only are affairs (more than just one) the subject of the movie but no one is punished for their sexual indiscretions. In fact, happiness is found in the physical attraction between two lonely people. Lean had covered some of this territory before in his seminal work, Brief Encounter (1945, both films, coincidentally, begin and end in train stations), but in that one, almost ten years prior, the relationship was ended with the woman (Celia Johnson) suicidal and returning, repentant, to her husband. Summertime had no such concerns. Times had changed.
Summertime received Oscar® nominations for Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn and Best Director for David Lean. It also received BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominations for Best Film from any Source and Best Foreign Actress for Katharine Hepburn. It won the New York Film Critics Circle Award of 1955 for Best Director for David Lean.
by Greg Ferrara
The spot where Katharine Hepburn falls into the canal in Summertime is still shown to tourists by guides.
It's been said that the tourism to Venice more than doubled in the year following the release of Summertime. The story remained in the popular culture with remakes and revivals of the source play, The Time of the Cuckoo. It was even adapted into a musical, Do I Hear a Waltz, with the book by Arthur Laurents and the music by Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim.
Summertime was warmly accepted upon release by the governing authorities of Venice, who viewed it as a great travelogue for their city. One of the reasons the film often has that feel is because David Lean said he was trying to view the city through Jane Hudson's eyes and to her, Venice was picture perfect.
The fireworks display that occurs as Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi head to the bedroom was repeated by Alfred Hitchcock in To Catch a Thief (1955) and quickly became a clich in television and film for decades to come.
According to AFI notes on Summertime, "...before filming began, rumors circulated in Venice that the picture would be censored by the Patriarch of Venice due to its licentious story, and that the gondolieri would strike if shooting disrupted tourism. Allegedly, the problems were solved by a generous contribution to the restoration fund of the Basilica of San Marco, along with a promise that costumes showing bare arms or short skirts would not be worn in holy places and the hiring of a large number of gondolieri."
In 1971, The Carol Burnett Show did a spoof of Summertime.
In Terry Gilliam's 1991 movie, The Fisher King, one of the characters recommends Summertime as a good Katharine Hepburn movie to watch.
by Greg Ferrara
Summertime was one of the first British films to be shot entirely on location.
There were complaints from the local Catholic Church that Katharine Hepburn had appeared outside St. Mark's Basilica in a sleeveless dress. Lean reshot the scene with long-sleeves to appease the church.
Darren McGavin, beloved by millions for his roles in television's Kolchak: The Night Stalker and as the father in A Christmas Story (1983), was cast in his first major movie role as artist Eddie Yaeger in Summertime.
The boy who played Jane Hudson's tour guide, Mauro, was discovered by David Lean in Venice. The part was the only one that had not yet been cast. The child actor would only make two more movies before abandoning film work - Scandal in Sorrento (1955) and I girovaghi (1959).
David Lean stayed at the Grand Hotel in Venice to work on the script of Summertime. Staying there as well was Charles Chaplin, whom Lean greatly admired. Lean was excited to meet him and tell him how much of an inspiration he was.
In the final scene, David Lean was thrilled to see that Hepburn had no trouble tearing up as she waves goodbye to her lover. He didn't realize it was a result of the conjunctivitis she had contracted from backing into the Venetian waters at his insistence.
The film's producer Ilya Lopert submitted the play to the Production Code Administration, the American censor board, for approval and was told that it was "in violation of the Production Code, and a motion picture based upon it could not be approved by us." Joseph Breen, the head of the organization, objected to the play's "promotion and acceptance of adultery." As late as May 1955, the new censor Geoffrey Shurlock would not approve Summertime for release until certain scenes, including the consummation of the affair by Jane and Renato, were trimmed down, along with several lines about adultery. The film was finally approved for American audiences in June 1955.
Some of the taglines for Summertime included "It happens to Hepburn - It happens in Venice!", "She came to Venice as a tourist - and went home a woman!", "All the pent-up yearning of her life was finally fulfilled ... amid the splendor of the world's most fabulous city!" and "What 3 Coins in the Fountain did for Rome ... ... Summertime does for Venice!"
Memorable Quotes from SUMMERTIME
Man on train: "Is this your first visit to Venice?"
Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn): "Yes, is it yours?"
Man on train: "No, I've been here several times."
Jane Hudson: "Several times? You have?"
Man on train: "Yes, I hope you're going to like it."
Jane Hudson: "Like it? I've got to. I've come such a long way. I've saved up such a long time for this trip."
Jane Hudson: "I'm the independent type, always have been."
Signora Fiorini (Isa Miranda): "In Italy you sit down to eat and you eat a meal. In Paris you sit down to eat and what do you eat? A sauce."
Jane Hudson: [upon being pulled out of the canal] "You should have seen me in the Olympics."
Jane Hudson: "I don't know what your experience has been with American tourists."
Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi): "My experience has been that tourists have more experience than I."
Renato de Rossi: "I am a man and you are a woman. But you say, 'It's wrong...' You are like a hungry child who's been given ravioli to eat. 'No,' you say, 'I want beefsteak.' My dear girl, you are hungry. Eat the ravioli."
Jane Hudson: "I'm not that hungry."
Renato de Rossi: "You Americans get so disturbed about sex."
Jane Hudson: "We don't take it lightly."
Renato de Rossi: "Take it. Don't talk it."
Compiled by Greg Ferrara
The Time of the Cuckoo was written by Arthur Laurents for Shirley Booth but despite the lead character being a woman, was based on Laurents himself and his time in Venice. In his own words, from his memoir, Original Story, "the central character, a woman, is based on me. Not on what I did during those six days - except for the sightseeing - but on what was going on inside me. I realized that as I wrote the play."
Shirley Booth had been persuaded by Katharine Hepburn herself that a film version of the play would not work but later the actress asked Booth for her permission to do the film. Why Hepburn changed her mind about a movie version of the play was easy to answer in two words: David Lean. Hepburn later wrote, "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 certainly would be interested in anything that David Lean was going to direct." Despite winning an Oscar® for Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), Shirley Booth didn't carry the same box office clout as Katharine Hepburn and, besides, the producers felt she was too old for the part, a part she had originated only a year earlier and for which she was awarded a Tony. Nonetheless, Hepburn won the part and David Lean couldn't have been happier.
"David Lean was morose, cold, detached; much more interested in Katharine Hepburn than in The Time of the Cuckoo," wrote Arthur Laurents. Laurents went to London in December, 1954 to meet with Lean and producers Alexander Korda and Ilya Lopert about the screenplay for the filmed version. The first thing to go was the title. "What was that damn fool author thinking of? Not the public," Korda said, just as Laurents entered the room at the hotel where they were doing the prep work. Of course, what the author had been thinking was outlined on the first page of the play: "The cuckoo is a summer visitant to the whole of Europe. It proclaims its arrival by a cry heralding the season of love." Lean agreed with Korda that most people wouldn't know that and since movies don't have programs handed out to attending audience members, the title would be confusing and meaningless. Lopert suggested the title Summertime. It stuck, for American and European distribution, at least. In England, where John Woolf would be in charge of distribution, it was feared that the title would be confused for a production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, it's most popular song being titled Summertime. The decision was made to name it Summer Madness for British distribution.
The decision to film entirely in Venice was made early on as well. "I am not afraid of spending big money on big pictures," Korda said about the budget for Summertime. Director Lean and star Hepburn were given whatever it took to get the right look and feel and the latitude they took was too much for the original author to handle. His screenplay was almost entirely scrapped in favor of one written by H.E. Bates at the behest of Lean. Even that screenplay quickly saw itself diminished by the input of Lean and Hepburn. Laurents lamented many of the changes, including the names and appearances of the characters. "The name of a character is very important to me. I go through endless candidates, searching for the one name that is the character, that suggests the character to a stranger." Among many other changes, the lead character's name was changed from "Leona Samish" to "Jane Hudson." Very unhappy with the final product, Laurents wrote, "The screenplay was credited to H. E. Bates, a first-rate English novelist; it should have been credited to K. Hepburn and D. Lean, true believers that stars can do anything they want, even write. In this aspect of the movie business, they were unoriginal." The end result of Summertime, and its box-office and critical success, would suggest that Laurents' opinions were firmly in the minority.
By Greg Ferrara
Once the script of Summertime was in hand, the cast and crew made its way to Venice to begin prepping the locations. Lean had accepted the job of directing it in part because of a desire to no longer do soundstage work but work on locations outside. He remarked that working on a soundstage made it feel as though one was working in a "pitch-black mine... I prefer the sun." He set out about Venice, picking out locations and taking pictures. Lean would fall in love with Venice and later live there part of every year. Once location scouting was completed, Lean and his cast and crew were ready to begin work.
The filming of Summertime was one without any behind-the-scenes acrimony. Katharine Hepburn expressed how, early on, everything seemed right, "Constance Collier, my friend, and Phyllis Wilbourn, her secretary, were going to go with me. Spencer was going to do The Mountain  in the French Alps, so everything was perfect. He was busy - I was busy." After a brief mix-up, in which Hepburn put her two friends up in a house far from Venice, she got them an apartment on the Grand Canal and never had to suffer for loneliness while filming. That didn't mean she didn't have to suffer other things.
Shooting schedules for Hepburn often ran from morning to night, giving her, on average, twelve hours of shooting per day. The hot sun of Venice caused Hepburn to remark on more than one occasion that it was hotter than her shoots in Africa for John Huston's The African Queen (1951). And, of course, there was that little fall into the canal. In one of the movie's most famous shots, Hepburn's character sets up a camera shot for a home movie. In doing so, she backs up until she inadvertently falls off the edge and into one of Venice's notoriously polluted waterways. This was not something she wanted to do. In fact, she asked Lean to use a double but Lean believed a double would be far too obvious since the shot should include her face. Hepburn agreed and preparations were made for the shot.
David Lean had strong disinfectants poured into the water where the shot would take place. It created a foam that looked unnatural and had to be scooped away before filming. Of course, putting a disinfectant in a moving waterway probably had little to no effect. According to A. Scott Berg in his biography, Kate Remembered, "Hepburn took every precaution before shooting the scene, putting lotion all over her body and even antiseptic unguents on a small cut on one of her fingers, as soon as Lean got his shot, she immediately bathed and gargled with disinfectant. But it never occurred to her to wash out her eyes; and the next morning the whites had turned crimson. A staph infection plagued her for the rest of her life, causing her to tear. 'But it's a cute moment,' Kate said, 'fun,' as though that made it all worthwhile."
How many times Hepburn had to perform that "cute" moment is a matter of debate. Michael Korda reported that she had to do it several times. Peter Newbrook, one of the film's camera operators, said it happened only once but that she did have to get back into the water for certain reaction shots.
As for the production schedule, David Lean encountered problems with the locals and had to donate money for the restoration of a local church to break the deadlock. It was the height of tourist season and several merchants and gondoliers claimed that filming was disrupting their business. Lean paid for lost income as well as work on the church.
Another problem for Lean was Isa Miranda. Having been cast as the older widowed concierge of the hotel, Lean was upset to find she had recently had a facelift and looked too young for the part. Since recasting at that late stage was out of the question, Lean went with it. Aside from her appearance, Lean was also displeased with her performance. She was having trouble working up tears for her scene with Darren McGavin, which was frustrating Lean to no end. Hepburn said she would coach Miranda, took her aside and slapped her sharply across the face. Miranda was shocked and then began to tear up. Lean was impressed and told Hepburn she was a tougher director than he.
One person neither Lean nor Hepburn had problems with was Rosanno Brazzi. He was a favorite of Hepburn's and she, reportedly, was responsible for Brazzi receiving co-star billing. The two worked together splendidly on screen.
In the end, Katharine Hepburn was more than impressed with her experience working with Lean. She even asked to sit in on the editing sessions with him to watch him at work. In her autobiography, she wrote, "[Summertime] was told with great simplicity in the streets, in the Piazza San Marco. We would shoot in tiny streets only a few feet wide. The sun would come and go in a matter of minutes. It was a very emotional part, and I tell you I had to be on my toes to give David enough of what he wanted practically on call. But it was thrilling... 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 super concentration. It made a very deep and definite impression on me, and he was one of the most interesting directors I ever worked with. Wasn't I lucky to work with him?"
by Greg Ferrara
Summertime (1955, a.k.a. Summer Madness in the U.K.), a story of a middle-aged woman's three week trip to Venice and subsequent love affair with a married man, was a truly international film British director, American leading lady, Italian leading man and shot in Italy. For Lean, it was the first film he had shot outside of England and an opportunity he could not pass up. "Ilya Lopert, who was an art house distributor for a man called Robert Dowling, came to me with a play by Arthur Laurents called The Time of the Cuckoo. And I said, 'Look, I think we can turn this into a successful film, and I think we might be able to have Katharine Hepburn for it.' And sure enough, they produced Kate. I don't know how they did it, but Kate and I made this film together." The Time of the Cuckoo had been written by Laurents specifically for Shirley Booth, who starred in it on Broadway in 1952. Famed Hollywood producer Hal Wallis had been interested in purchasing the film rights but Booth would not work with him after he told her he felt she was too old for the film. Wallis wanted Katharine Hepburn, who, while approaching 50, was the bigger box-office draw. He envisioned the film as a starring vehicle for her and Ezio Pinza. Although Hepburn would play the role (opposite Rossano Brazzi), neither Wallis nor Pinza were involved. Ilya Lopert would produce with the legendary Alexander Korda.
Lopert submitted the play to the Production Code Administration, the American censor board, for approval and was told that it was "in violation of the Production Code, and a motion picture based upon it could not be approved by us." Production Code head Joseph Breen objected to the play's "promotion and acceptance of adultery." As late as May 1955, the new censor Geoffrey Shurlock would not approve the film for release until certain scenes, including the consummation of the affair by Jane (Hepburn) and Renato (Brazzi), were cut down, along with several lines about adultery. The film was finally approved for American audiences in June 1955.
Censors were not Lopert's only problem. He needed a director and a screenplay. David Lean was not Lopert's first choice; he had been in negotiations with Daniel Mann as early as April 1953. When that failed, Lean inherited the project. Laurents did an adaptation of his play for the screen, but Lean was unhappy with his version, opting to rewrite it himself with several different writers, including Donald Ogden Stewart and S. N. Behrman, with the novelist H.E. Bates co-writing the final draft with Lean, to Laurents' chagrin. Securing Hepburn was much easier. In her autobiography Me, she wrote, "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 certainly would be interested in anything that David Lean was going to direct. So I said yes and it was of course going to be done in Venice. [...] David was always very fussy about a script and removed everything that didn't interest him - so this movie is really David in Venice. Not necessarily knowing a great amount about the famous treasures, but a person reacting to the beauties and the atmosphere of this remarkable city on a three-week holiday and a love affair, and then leaving on the train. [...] We would shoot in tiny streets only a few feet wide. The sun would come and go in a matter of minutes. It was a very emotional part and I tell you I had to be on my toes to give David enough of what he wanted practically on call. But it was thrilling. And the music he picked was perfect. It was fascinating to work for David. 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."
Production on Summertime began in Venice in mid-July 1955. The press kit for the film states that ninety percent of it was filmed in and around Venice and the island of Burano. The rest were shot at the Scalera Studios in Venice with Jack Hildyard as Director of Photography. The most difficult shot of the film came when Katharine Hepburn falls backwards into the Venice canal; a shot that Hepburn later claimed caused the chronic eye infection that made her eyes water for the rest of her life. Michael Korda, nephew of producer Alexander Korda and son of his art director brother Vincent, was on the set that day. He wrote of it in his book Charmed Lives. "Nobody in his right mind would risk coming into contact with the water in Venice's canals, a heady blend of garbage, ordure, mud and putrefactions let alone plunging into it fully dressed several times. The health authorities of Venice were anxious to avoid the scandal that would be caused by Miss Hepburn's succumbing to typhoid, skin diseases or dysentery, and suggested that the scene should be shot in a swimming pool. Miss Hepburn herself, having taken a good look at the water in the canal, was anything but enthusiastic about the prospects, but neither Vincent nor David Lean was willing to compromise with realism." A barrier was created with plastic sheets and several different types of swimming pool chemicals were poured into the barriers to sanitize the water. With all the boats in the areas, the chemicals created a mountain of bubbles which had to be blown down the canal with gigantic fans. Hepburn fell into the canal, was rinsed, had her hair and make-up reset and then did it again, complaining, "It still tastes lousy. It's like a swimming pool in California, with all that chlorine. What a way to make a living!" As Michael Korda and his father left the set, a Monsignor worried that the Cardinal would be upset if all the bubbles floated up to the basilica. Vincent Korda shrugged, "Tell him it's a miracle."
With the taglines "It happens to Hepburn - It happens in Venice!", "She came to Venice as a tourist - and went home a woman!", "All the pent-up yearning of her life was finally fulfilled ... amid the splendor of the world's most fabulous city!" and "What 3 Coins in the Fountain did for Rome ... ... Summertime does for Venice!", the film had its world premiere in Venice on May 29, 1955, later released in the United States on June 22nd. Bosley Crowther, in his tepid review of the film for The New York Times, wrote that Venice itself was the star of Summertime more than Hepburn and Brazzi. "The explanation is simple. In adapting for the screen Arthur Laurents' stage play The Time of the Cuckoo, Mr. Lean and H. E. Bates discarded most of the individual shadings and psychological subtleties of that romance. They reduced the complicated pondering of an American woman's first go at love with a middle-aged merchant of Venice to pleasingly elemental terms. And they let the evident inspiration for their heroine's emotional release be little more than the spell cast by the city upon her fitful and lonely state of mind. [...] It is Venice itself that gives the flavor and the emotional stimulation to this film. [...] 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 nave encounters and farcical mishaps that have been arranged."
The film earned Hepburn and Lean Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Director, although neither won. Arthur Laurents was not pleased with the final result of the film, as David Lean later related, "[When] the film was finished, I said [to Laurents], 'Well, what did you think of it?" He hated it, of course. He said, 'Very pretty.' But it was quite a success at the time. In fact, I remember I got a cable from Kate Hepburn saying, 'You made a smash. Love, Kate.' Very sweet of her. I never did make another film with her, unfortunately."
Summertime was shown once more in Venice, nearly fifty years after its release in 2003 when a restored version premiered at the Venice Film Festival. For Arthur Laurents, the film was not the end of his play. He would later collaborate with Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim on a musical version of The Time of the Cuckoo which became Do I Hear a Waltz? which opened on Broadway in 1965.
Producer: Ilya Lopert
Director: David Lean
Screenplay: H.E. Bates, David Lean; Arthur Laurents (play "The Time of the Cuckoo"); Donald Ogden Stewart (uncredited)
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Film Editing: Peter Taylor
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Jane Hudson), Rossano Brazzi (Renato de Rossi), Isa Miranda (Signora Fiorini), Darren McGavin (Eddie Yaeger), Mari Aldon (Phyl Yaeger), Jane Rose (Mrs. McIlhenny), MacDonald Parke (Mr. McIlhenny), Jeremy Spenser (Vito de Rossi), Gaetano Autiero (Mauro), Virginia Simeon (Giovanna).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Crowther, Bosley "Screen: Venice Stars in Summertime" The New York Times 22 June 1955
Hepburn, Katharine Me: Stories of My Life
Korda, Michael Charmed Lives
Organ, Steven David Lean: Interviews
Awards and Honors:
Summertime received Oscar® nominations for Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn and Best Director for David Lean.
It also received BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominations for Best Film from any Source and Best Foreign Actress for Katharine Hepburn.
It won the New York Film Critics Circle Award of 1955 for Best Director for David Lean.
The Critics' Corner on SUMMERTIME"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." - The New Yorker, 1955
"With Katharine Hepburn in the role originated by Shirley Booth and with the scenic beauties of the canal city, the film stacks up as promising entertainment - with some reservations. There is a lack of cohesion and some abruptness in plot transition without a too-clear buildup. Lesser characterizations, too, are on the sketchy side. Covering these flaws is a rich topsoil of drama as the proud American secretary who hits Venice as a tourist falls for and is disillusioned by the middle-aged Italian charmer. Rossano Brazzi, as the attractive vis-a-vis, scores a triumph of charm and reserve. Hepburn turns in a feverish acting chore of proud loneliness." - Variety, 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.'" - Lee Rogosin, The Saturday Review, 1955
"Both Miss Hepburn and Brazzi are excellent in their roles, with the former making the most of her characterization as the shy and lonely dreamer and Brazzi scoring as the realistic charmer." - Rose Pelswick, The New York Journal-American, 1955
"In adapting for the screen Arthur Laurents' stage play "The Time of the Cuckoo," Mr. Lean and H. E. Bates discarded most of the individual shadings and psychological subtleties of that romance. They reduced the complicated pondering of an American woman's first go at love with a middle-aged merchant of Venice to pleasingly elemental terms. And they let the evident inspiration for their heroine's emotional release be little more than the spell cast by the city upon her fitful and lonely state of mind. The challenge thus set of making Venice the moving force in propelling the play has been met by Mr. Lean as the director with magnificent feeling and skill. Through the lens of his color camera, the wondrous city of spectacles and moods becomes a rich and exciting organism that fairly takes command of the screen. And the curious hypnotic fascination of that labyrinthine place beside the sea is brilliantly conveyed to the viewer as the impulse for the character's passing moods. 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 nave encounters and farcical mishaps that have been arranged..." - Bosley Crowther The New York Times, June, 1955
"Few actresses in films could equal Hepburn's evocation of aching loneliness on her first night in Venice as she wanders, forlorn and proud, like a primly starched ghost in a city of lovers .... The script has dropped overboard many of the plot gimmicks that playwright Arthur Laurents used as cogs for stage action. With them go some of the harsher truths about the career girl's character and therefore any possibility of comparing Hepburn's performance with that of Shirley Booth in the stage play. The Eastman Color and the camerawork by Jack Hildyard are superb." - Time, 1955
"It may be relevant that Hepburn rarely played a woman with a child; she was almost invariably the modern woman, the career girl, the bachelor girl. By 1955, in Summertime, she was at the end point of that tradition--as the aging virgin, an innocent abroad in corrupt, sensual Venice. Prim and gaunt, withering in her loneliness, she is the female Yankee, the archetype of a Henry James heroine grown old. There is an element of embarrassment in this kind of role, but she is so good at that she almost--though not quite--kills the embarrassment...." - Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 1968
"Lilting film....Hepburn's sensitive portrayal is one of her best...Beautifully filmed." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
Compiled by Greg Ferrara