Rome Adventure (1962): Delmer Daves Romantic Melodrama, Starring Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette, Rossano Brazzi

Rome Adventure

Theatrical release poster

Delmer Daves directed Rome Adventure, a romantic melodrama, adapted by him to the screen from the 1932 novel, “Lovers Must Learn,” which was the picture’s original title.

The film came out in 1962, featuring a hot cast of appealing performers, especially heartthrob Troy Donahue, who had 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.

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.


Directed by Delmer Daves
Screenplay by Delmer Daves, based on “Lovers Must Learn,”
1932 novel by Irving Fineman
Produced by Delmer Daves
Cinematography Charles Lawton
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Music by Max Steiner
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: March 5, 1962

Running time: 119 minutes

Al Di La: Iconic Song

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.

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. 


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


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