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Film of the Week: Light in the Piazza, 1962

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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Meg Johnson—the wife of a wealthy American executive—has taken her twenty-six year old daughter, Clara, on holiday to Italy. Clara, a delicate blonde seems like any other young American girl, at first. She’s delighted by the sights and smells of Italy, has a love for dogs and babies and is attracted to the dark-haired gents who find her appealing. On closer inspection, there is something a little different about Clara. He mother seems overly protective of the young woman who does, in fact, seem a little more innocent than most, a little more naive.


Meg has good reason to be protective of Clara. As a child, Clara suffered severe injuries in an accident and, as a result, is severely brain-damaged. While quite functional, Clara has the mental age of a small child. So, when a handsome Italian man named Fabrizio takes a fancy to Clara, Meg is rightfully concerned. As much as Meg tries to avoid Fabrizio, he keeps showing up with small tokens of affection for Clara and offers to show them the beauty of Italy.

Despite Meg’s concerns, Fabrizio and Clara fall in love. Soon, Meg has a difficult choice to make. Should she put a stop to the romance? Should she tell Fabrizio and his well-meaning family that her daughter is “different”? Of course, Meg’s husband has a lot to say on the subject—as does Clara herself. Eventually, Meg makes a decision, but is her choice the right one?

Based on the 1960 novella of the same name by Elizabeth Spencer, Light in the Piazza stars Olivia de Havilland as Meg Johnson, Yvette Mimieux as Clara and a young, remarkably un-leathery George Hamilton as Fabrizio. Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Guy Green for MGM, this beautifully photographed film has long been a fan favorite as well as a source of inspiration for many people facing equally difficult romantic choices. In 2003, the novel and film were adapted into a musical which won a Tony Award in 2005.



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