Cast & Crew
When his millionaire father dies in an automobile accident, pompous American businessman Wendell Armbruster, Jr. must fly to Italy to claim the body. Arriving in Rome on a Saturday morning, Wendell immediately takes the train to Naples, followed by a boat trip to the resort island of Ischia, where his father died. On the way, plump Englishwoman Pamela Piggott approaches Wendell in a familiar way, something that he finds odd and annoying. Once on Ischia, Wendell is met at the dock by Carlo Carlucci, director of the Grand Hotel Excelsior, where Wendell's father had spent a month-long vacation each summer for the past ten years. Insisting that he must have his father's body back in Baltimore by Tuesday for a VIP-studded funeral, Wendell is disoriented by Italian customs and bureaucratic red tape and puzzled by the obvious fondness that Carlo and other hotel staff had for his father. The accommodating Carlo is amused by Wendell's American desire for quick results, and promises to take care of things, including acquiring a legally mandated lead-lined coffin. Just then Pamela comes to Wendell's suite looking for Carlo and holding a batch of Italian governmental paperwork. When Carlo relates that Pamela's mother, Katherine, was also killed in the car crash, Wendell expresses sympathy, thinking that Katherine and his father were merely casual acquaintances, but when Pamela lovingly takes her mother's silken nightgown and slippers from the bed, Wendell is shocked by the revelation that the pair had been lovers for ten years. Late that afternoon, Carlo drives Wendell to the town morgue, where he must identify Wendell, Sr.'s body and sign the first of many sets of legal documents. Pamela is also there, and Wendell is touched when she places a bouquet on Katherine's body and another Wendell, Sr.'s. She suggests to Wendell that the couple would be happy to be buried side-by-side in a lovely cemetery on the hill, but Wendell is adamant that his father will be buried in Baltimore on Tuesday. While Pamela remains at the morgue, Wendell returns to the hotel and is visited by Bruno, a valet who tells Wendell that he loves America and lived there for several years before being deported. Bruno talks about the great romantic love that Wendell, Sr. and Katherine shared and describes their early morning nude swims. When Bruno mentions that he had taken many Polaroid photographs of them, Wendell deduces that he is being blackmailed. Just then Carlo comes to the suite to inform Wendell that the bodies have been stolen from the morgue. Assuming that Pamela is responsible, he storms over to her room, where, in his anger, he refers to her "fat ass." She is incensed that he would accuse her of stealing the bodies and resents his insult, for which he apologizes, saying he actually prefers women with fuller shapes. As an apology, Wendell makes reservations for them to dine together in the hotel. That evening, the restaurant staff, who are delighted to see Wendell and Pamela, joyfully relate what their parents ate and drank and how much in love they were. Pamela also tells Wendell about their parents' affair, extolling the ten years of love the couple shared. During the evening, Armando Trotta summons Carlo, who relates to Wendell that Armando has the stolen bodies. Wendell and Carlo then drive with Armando to the Trotta family vineyard, the site of the car crash, where the family demands $3,000 to cover damages to their vineyard. Realizing that the family is taking advantage, Wendell tries to bargain but is bamboozled into paying the entire amount, which Armando's father insists cannot be in U.S. dollars because of the sagging American economy. Exhausted from being awake for forty hours, Wendell wants to sleep when he returns to the hotel but is attracted to the strains of the orchestra, which is playing a romantic tune for Pamela. Because it is almost dawn, Pamela wants to finish the evening as their parents did, by taking a nude swim, and runs down to the hotel pier, dropping her clothes along the way. At first mortified, Wendell finally strips down and jumps into the sea, following her to a rock where they bathe in the early morning sun. Unknown to them, Bruno has been awakened by their antics and secretly snaps Polaroid photographs of them. When Wendell and Pamela finally say goodnight, she thanks him for the loveliest night of her life. Late that morning, when Wendell awakens, Carlo reports that they now have three coffins, the two they need plus one thought lost in transit. The only problem is that his nephew, who had sneaked into a closed government office to get some necessary papers, has been arrested. Promising that things will be settled soon, Carlo leaves, after which Bruno arrives with the compromising pictures of Wendell's father. Wendell tries to give him $100, but Bruno refuses the money, relating that what he really wants is a visa to America. Wendell says that he cannot help, but Bruno insists that one of his influential friends, like Henry Kissinger, could do it. He then tells Wendell that he has similar pictures of him and Pamela and that he has to flee because Anna, his Sicilian girl friend, is pregnant and insists that Bruno marry her. While they are talking, Pamela comes into the room to weigh herself and is delighted that she has lost three pounds despite gorging herself the day before. Meanwhile, Anna, who is a hotel maid and has been listening at the doorway, goes to Bruno's room to steal his revolver. After Pamela leaves to go to town, Anna summons a valet to Pamela's room, and when Bruno opens the door, she shoots him to death. Because the murder is discovered while Pamela is sightseeing, Carlo has her things moved into Wendell's suite while the police investigate the crime scene. Carlo also gives Wendell Bruno's nude photos to destroy, but as Wendell is cutting them up, he glances at them and realizes that he likes what he sees. Later, when Pamela returns to the hotel to learn that her suitcases are in Wendell's suite, she assumes that he wants to have an affair and is both flattered and irritated by his presumptuousness. They argue over his American arrogance, but soon start to kiss. After spending Sunday evening making love, they awaken to breakfast in bed, which Pamela relishes. Wendell offers to buy things for Pamela but she refuses and reveals that, even though her mother was only a manicurist, she never let Wendell, Sr. know and never took gifts or money from him. Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy helicopter transporting diplomat Joseph "J. J." Blodgett arrives on the island. J. J., whom Wendell has always regarded as a bore, has been summoned by Wendell's wife to expedite the transport of Wendell, Sr.'s body. J. J. telephones Wendell from the hotel lobby, leading to frenetic attempts by Pamela and Wendell to clear her belongings from the suite. When J. J. arrives, Pamela pretends to be giving Wendell a manicure. J. J.'s suspicions are aroused, until Carlo says that Pamela is his niece and suggests that J. J. take one of the hotel's virility-enhancing mud baths. Sadly realizing that J. J.'s presence means that he will have to leave Ischia right away, Wendell comes up with a plan: secretly bury his father and Katherine in the cemetery on the hill and use the third coffin to transport Bruno, whose dream it was to return to America. After a brief ceremony at the cemetery, Wendell suggests that the gravestones list the names "Willie" and "Kate," the couple's pet names for each other, and the family name of Carlucci. A short time later, as Wendell is about to board the helicopter with Bruno's body in his father's coffin, Carlo cheerfully informs Wendell that his father's suite will be available next summer from July 15th through August 15th. When Pamela promises that next year she will be "so thin," Wendell smiles and says if she loses even one pound, they are through.
Antonino Faa'di Bruno
Maria Rosa Sclauzero
I. A. L. Diamond
Annalisa Nasalli Rocca
Alessandro Von Normann
Ralph E. Winters
This strange mixture of the poignant and the macabre is oddly appealing and even lyrical, and Avanti! is a movie that not only gets better as it goes along but which improves on successive viewings. Wilder never really saw it that way, telling Cameron Crowe in their book-length series of interviews: "Maybe we went a little overboard with some of the comic relief, because Avanti! is not a comedy. If this film had worked the way we wanted it to, it would have had more of the quality of The Apartment ."
There are indeed similarities to The Apartment here, with Lemmon's character functioning as something of a variation on his "C.C. Baxter" in the latter film. There are also shades of Gary Cooper from Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957). Cameron Crowe, for his part, described Avanti! as "a melancholy classic steeped in the feelings of a man a long way from home, entering the third act of his life."
Avanti! is based on a play by Samuel Taylor, whose earlier play Sabrina Fair Wilder had adapted into the movie Sabrina (1954). Unlike Sabrina Fair, however, Avanti! was not a Broadway success, closing after just 21 performances in 1968. When Wilder's regular writing partner I.A.L. Diamond was unavailable to work on the screenplay, Wilder turned to other collaborators: Julius Epstein, Norman Krasna and Italian writer Luciano Vincenzoni (Seduced and Abandoned ; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ) all took cracks at the script, but Wilder was unsatisfied. Finally Diamond became available, and the duo knocked out a script that worked. It was easy enough for them - they had already worked together eight times (and would do so again on three further films). Wilder recalled of his work with Diamond: "We changed the emphasis from a dialogue on American versus Italian values to a bittersweet love story, a little like Brief Encounter , which I always admired."
Wilder shot Avanti! entirely in Italy in the summer of 1972, working mainly on the Amalfi coast with some studio work in Rome. He used an Italian crew who were awed by Wilder's friendly atmosphere on the set and by his accomplishment in bringing the film in $100,000 under budget. They also admired his exacting approach. Charlotte Chandler, for instance, has written that production designer Alessandro von Normann "described how Wilder had the hotel sets designed to accommodate the dialogue, timing how long it would take to speak lines while moving from one spot to another. 'He was so precise. To ask a production designer about this was unusual. He wanted to be sure the lines covered the movement.'"
As for the cast, Avanti! marked the fifth time Wilder and Lemmon worked together. Two more films would follow (The Front Page  & Buddy Buddy ). Wilder said that playing romance was perhaps Lemmon's only weakness as an actor but that in Avanti!, "we made him as romantic as possible."
For the leading lady, Wilder recalled how he searched and searched for an appropriate overweight actress. She had to be fat, he said, "so that you don't feel sorry for him because he goes back to his wife... She had to have some defect. I did not want her to limp [but to] just [be] a girl that if she wanted to, she could lose twenty pounds." After not finding an overweight actress who was right for the role, Wilder hired Juliet Mills, "and though she tried to gain the weight, she ate and ate and mysteriously couldn't gain a pound." Other sources, however, claim that Mills actually did gain 25-30 pounds for the part. Even Mills herself told author Charlotte Chandler, "It was more fun gaining it than losing it."
Lemmon and Mills have a nude scene together, the first to appear in any Billy Wilder film. Mills later said, "If one must do a nude scene, Jack Lemmon is the perfect partner. I think he was more nervous than I, but he was acting funny to help me through it."
"Avanti" is Italian for "advance," as in saying "come in" when someone knocks on the door. In 1975, playwright Samuel Taylor revised Avanti! and changed the title to A Touch of Spring for a run on London's West End. That production fared much better than the original Broadway version.
Producer: Billy Wilder
Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder, based on the play by Samuel A. Taylor
Cinematography: Luigi Kuveiller
Art Direction: Ferdinando Scarfiotti
Music: Carlo Rustichelli, Gianfranco Plenizio
Film Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Cast: Jack Lemmon (Wendell Armbruster, Jr.), Juliet Mills (Pamela Piggott), Clive Revill (Carlo Carlucci), Edward Andrews (J. J. Blodgett), Gianfranco Barra (Bruno), Franco Angrisano (Arnold Trotta), Pippo Franco (Mattarazzo).
by Jeremy Arnold
Charlotte Chandler, Nobody's Perfect
Cameron Crowe, Conversations With Wilder
Bernard F. Dick, Billy Wilder
Don Widener, Lemmon
Maurice Zolotow, Billy Wilder in Hollywood
TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.
Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).
Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.
Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.
As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.
By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.
In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.
Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.
By Jeremy Geltzer
TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder
The film's Italian release title was Che cosa è successo tra mio padre e tua madre? (What Happened Between My Father and Your Mother?). The word "avanti," which is discussed in the film, signifies, among other things, "go ahead" in Italian. As noted in Hollywood Reporter charts and other contemporary sources, the picture was shot on location in Italy, in and around the island of Capri, in Sorrento and other areas along the Amalfi coast, with additional shooting in Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport and some interiors at the Rizzoli Film Gestione Palatino Studios in Rome. Some contemporary sources noted that, while the film was set almost entirely on the island of Ischia, the bulk of the film was actually filmed in and around Sorrento.
According to news items, Harry Ray, who was Jack Lemmon's frequent makeup man and also played "Dr. Fleischmann," the man with whom "Wendell Armbruster, Jr." changes clothes in an airplane lavatory, made his acting debut in Avanti! A news item in Hollywood Reporter on June 21, 1971 stated that director Billy Wilder was preparing the script for the film with screenwriter Norman Krasna, but that was likely an error as Wilder had collaborated with credited co-writer I. A. L. Diamond for many years and had never worked with Krasna. A August 4, 1971 Variety news item stated that popular Italian comedian Nino Manfredi would have a role in Avanti!, but he was not in the released film. A May 10, 1972 Daily Variety news item reproted that Walter Matthau was to have appeared in the film as "J. J. Blodgett," but because of a scheduling shift for Pete 'n' Tillie, in which Matthau co-starred with Carol Burnett (see below), the role of J. J. was taken over by Edward Andrews. Modern sources add Enzo Andronico and Bruno Pischiutta to the cast.
News items and reviews noted that Juliet Mills gained twenty-five pounds for her role as "Pamela Piggott" to accommodate the story's theme that she is overweight. A running joke in the film is derived from Wendell's namedropping of many well-known contemporary American dignitaries who were friends of his father, among them evangelist Billy Graham and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Polaroid cameras, which figured prominently in the film, produced rapid, inexpensive self-developing pictures.
Avanti! marked the fifth collaboration between Wilder and Lemmon, and their first film together since The Fortune Cookie (1966, see below). Avanti! was the second film adaptation that Wilder had made from a play by Samuel Taylor, who had written the play on which Wilder's 1953 film Sabrina was based (see below). Although trade reviews were generally positive about the film, newspaper critics dismissed the picture, with many reflecting the words of Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin, who wrote, "The good moments in it are the measure of its wasted competence."
In 1994, another adaptation of Taylor's play was made for French television. Entitled Avanti, the television film was directed by Jacques Besnard and starred Patrick Bouchitey and Laura Marinoni. According to items in trade publications in December 2004, a new adaptation of Taylor's play was being readied by Walter Mirisch at MGM, but that production has not come to fruition as of 2007.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972