Delmer Daves directed this romantic melodrama, adapted by him to the screen from the novel, “Lovers Must Learn,” which was the original title of the picture.
The film came out in 1962, featuring a young hot cast of appealing performers, especially heartthrob Troy Donahue, who previously made “A Summer Place” and “Parish” (both helmed by Daves)
A New England assistant librarian at a school, Prudence Bell (Suzanne Pleshette) has recommended a book to one of her students that has drawn the ire of the school board. She defends the book “Lovers Must Learn” and tells the prudish board that she’s going to Rome, a city whose people know the meaning of love. She meets on board Roberto Orlandi (Rossano Brazzi) is the archetypal Roman lover, a mature, romantic gentleman.
Once in Rome, Prudence checks into her boarding home and meets a self-centered American architect named Don Porter (Troy Donahue) who is running away from Lyda Kent (Angie Dickinson), a controlling, manipulative, unstable woman, but he is uninterested in Prudence (or so he says).
Prudence finds a job at The American Book Shop near one of Rome’s famous fountains, working for the bookstore owner Constance Ford, who’s always accompanied by her big and loud sheep dog. Don is a close friend of Roberto, confiding in him details about his relationship with Lyda, a sophisticated artist, staying in Italy, support by her wealthy father.
As melodrama plot goes, symmetry is at work. Lyda just happens to get on train to Switzerland on the same day that Prudence arrives in Italy. Don confronts Lyda, who explains that she was “frigid fridget,” a slur Don has used, and that she is “no good” for him.
While in Switzerland, Lyda meets the wealthy older man Barkley, who had been in trouble with the law and investigated by the U.S. Congress; he’s now in exile in Switzerland. Barkely asks Lyda to accompany him on his yacht, and “paint his portrait”. Lyda loses interest, and returns to Italy, but she is followed by one of Barkley’s spies.
With Lyda absent, Prudence becomes available to Don. The two remeet at an outdoor cafe, on the same day that Prudence had accepted her job at the American Bookshop. Don says he enjoys her company, and suggests they spend the afternoon sightseeing.
They take a trip around Rome in horse-drawn carriages, his red Vespa scooter, in what amounts to a great romantic travelogue. At dinner, Emilio Pericoli sings the song “Al Di Là”, his Italian version of the hit tune of 1962. Then they meet a musician that Don knows, and they are invited to a jazz club. A fight ensues when the musician sees his Italian girlfriend making out with another guy in the audience.
When the book store closes, Don and Prudence go out of town on a tour, and mistaken as “Mr. and Mrs,” they get a room together; of course, there are no other rooms available. A nice, virginal girl, she insists that Don sleep on a balcony—this is, after all, 1962. Don honors her request, but neither of them gets any sleep.
During their bus tour, we get lectures from Don about why the cathedrals have so many paintings and sculptures–to educate the people about Christ, because they no longer read the Bible. Prudence really feels comfortable with Don, now that she understands Don’s true passion to study architecture.
The bus tour ends and they continue on touring by themselves to Lago Maggiore in Northern Italy, the Italian Alps with “Al Di Là” playing on the soundtrack, a reminder that we are watching a romantic soap opera. Next comes Verona and its famous Romeo and Juliet balcony; obviously, Don sings a serenade to Prudence on the balcony of a mansion. At the market place, Prudence runs into a friend of her mother’s and she is concerned that this woman will gossip about her doings back in the U.S.
All along, they stay in separate rooms, but there is enough titillation and making out (picnics in the fields) to please the teenage audiences. Back in Rome, Lyda seeks the company of Don, who now wishes a complete break-up with her. Finally, Lyda and Prudence meet and exchange some nasty (but not witty) barbs.
Prudence decides to pursue an affair with Roberto. She packs an overnight bag, ready to “practice” love with him. When Prudence comes downstairs, ready for seduction “lessons,” Roberto plays along, but stops the action before anything serious happens.
Meanwhile, Don is summoned to a hotel where Lyda informs him that she has married the rich older man Barkley, and needs Don to “free” her. Don realizes that Lyda is just using him to bail her out, and that she does not care for him. Prudence is convinced that Don wants to be with Lyda and makes her plans to leave Rome and return to the U.S. She sails back to New, and while waiting at the ship’s rail, she sees her parents. While stepping down, she sees Don’s candelabra and roses in the crowd.
About Director Delmer Daves
Delmer Daves was born in San Francisco in 1904, and studied law at Stanford University. He began his film career in 1929, as assistant prop man for director James Cruze. His first film as a writer and director was the war drama “Destination Tokyo,” with Cary Grant, in 1944, which was a big success.
Most of his movies, between 1944 and 1949, were made for Warner, but he later worked for Fox and other studios. Among his better known films are: A Kiss in the Dark (1949), Broken Arrow (1950), Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), and the Westerns, 3.10 to Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree (1959), starring Gary Cooper. A versatile director, Daves also directed melodramas and film noir. Daves’s most popular feature was A Summer Place (1961), starring Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee.
1927: assistant prop man at the Metropolitan for James Cruze.
1928: to MGM as prop assistant to Cruze.
1929: first film as actor, Cruze’s The Duke Steps Out.
1931: first film as writer in collaboration
1932: to Warner as writer.
1936-42: freelance writer, 1943: first film as director.
1943-49: almost all films for Warner.
1954-59 Columbia, Warner, Fox. 1959-65: with Warner, usually as director, producer and writer.
Films as director:
1944: Destination Tokyo (co-s); The Very Thought of You (co-s). 1945: Hollywood Canteen; Pride of the Marines (co-s).
1947: The Red House; Dark Passage.
1949: Task Force.
1951: Bird of Paradise.
1953: Treasure of the Golden Condor.
1949: A Kiss in the Dark.
1950: Broken Arrow.
1952: Return of the Texan.
1953: Never Let Me Go.
1954: Demetrius and the Gladiators.
1954: Drum Beat.
1956: The Last Wagon
1957: 3.10 to Yuma.
1958: Cowboy; Kings Go Forth; The Badlanders.
1959: The Hanging Tree.
1960: A Summer Place.
1961: Parrish; Susan Slade.
1962: Rome Adventure (Lovers Must Learn).
1963: Spencer’s Mountain (d/p only).
1964: Youngblood Hawke.
1965: The Battle of the Villa Firota.
Troy Donahue as Don Porter
Angie Dickinson as Lyda Kent
Rossano Brazzi as Roberto Orlandi
Suzanne Pleshette as Prudence Bell
Constance Ford as Daisy Bronson
Al Hirt as Himself
Iphigenie Castiglioni as La Contessa
Chad Everett as Young man
Gertrude Flynn as Mrs. Riggs
Pamela Austin as Agnes Hutton
Lili Valenty as Angelina
The film’s song “Al Di Là,” performed by Emilio Pericoli, was originally recorded by Betty Curtis. It was the winner of the 1961 San Remo Festival, subsequently becoming Italy’s entry to the Erovision. The song became an international hit when sung by Connie Francis.