Oscar Movies: It Started in Naples–Gable and Sophia Loren


This lukewarm, rather predictable culture clash comedy, written by Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies, and directed by Michael Shavelson, was nominated for the Art Direction Oscar, but lost to the more deserving “Spartacus.”

In one of his very last roles, the aging Clark Gable plays Philadelphia lawyer Michael Hamilton, who arrives in Naples to settle the estate of his philandering brother.

In the process, Michael learns that his brother had taken a common-law wife, who died with him in a car accident, leaving a 10-year-old love-child, Nando (Marietto). The boy has been staying with his Aunt Lucia (Sophia Loren), a fun-loving, wine-drinking woman who dreams of becoming a movie star.

Predictably, Mike and Lucia clash over the boy’s upbringing.
She favors letting the boy live as he chooses, whereas Mike insists that he be given a more proper formal education.

Beaten at every turn, Mike finally has his Italian lawyer, Mario Vitale (Vittorio De Sica, better known as director) institute a custody suit.

But Vitale, taken with Lucia’s charm and tears (all fake), delivers such an impassioned speech on her behalf that even the judge is moved to applause.

Though Mike loses the case, he makes Lucia see that it is little Nando who is the real loser. In an effort to make the boy go with Mike, Lucia pretends she is leaving with a guitar player named Renzo (Paolo Carlini). Heartbroken, Nando gets drunk, goes to Mike and volunteers to become an American.

However, Mike, realizing that Nando belongs to Lucia and Naples and would never be happy away from them, decides to leave alone.

On the train, when he hears the departing tourists making deprecating remarks about the natives, Mike awakens to the fact that he too now belongs to Lucia and Naples. As a result, he leaps off the train to join his new family.

Agewise, Gable, old (59) and puffy-looking, could have been Sophia Loren’s father, and there is not strong chemistry between, the kind that previaled between Loren had with Cary Grant in “Houseboat.”

Oscar Nominations: 1
Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color): Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson; Sam Comer and Arrigo Bresch

Oscar Context

The Art Direction Oscar went to “Spartacus.”

Produced by Jack Rose.
Directed by Melville Shavelson.
Screenplay by Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose and Suso Cecchi d’Amico, based on the story by Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies.
Cinematographer: Robert L. Surtees.
Art Directors: Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson.
Musical score by Alessandro Cicognini and Carlo Savino.

Release date: August 7, 1960.

Running time: 100 minutes.

DVD: Jul 12, 2005