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Cary Grant is Tom Winters, a man whose estranged wife has just died, and he finds himself having to look after their three children, who are not happy to be with him at all.  He hires Cinzia Zaccardi (Sophia Loren) as their maid – despite her having no life skills at all, due to being brought up by a rich and indulgent father – and starts to fall for her when they have to live temporarily on a houseboat.  But his former sister-in-law also has her sights set on Tom…who will he choose?

Although the plot reads almost as though this could be a drama, it is in fact a light-hearted romantic comedy.  Grant and Loren, despite the 30 year age gap between them, were at the tail end of an off-screen romance; I don’t imagine that it was much fun behind the scenes on this film, but that doesn’t come through on-screen at all.  The two stars actually have great chemistry, although Loren’s acting is not always entirely convincing (but the part requires her to look good, and she certainly achieves that!).  Grant displays some tenderness here, and is not the screwball comedian that he is in other films, but he is very funny, with just one look or gesture saying so much.

The three children are refreshingly un-nauseating.  That sounds cruel – I don’t find children nauseating, but some portrayals of children in Hollywood films can be exactly that.  Here though, there are two sons who neither know nor want to get to know their father, and one daughter who is more willing,  but still something of a stranger to him.  The youngest boy, Robert (played by Charles Herbert) is particularly good.  The difference in temperament and character between Tom and Cinzia is nicely played, with Cinzia being impulsive and dramatic, while Tom is more restrained and reserved.

It’s an entertaining film – not my favourite of either main star – but it made me smile, and I would recommend it, especially to fans of Cary Grant.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Melville Shavelson

Producer: Jack Rose

Writers: Betsy Blair, Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Main cast: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Harry Guardino, Mimi Gibson, Paul Petersen, Charles Herbert

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It Started in Naples is a 1960 romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable (it was his penultimate film, and the last of his films to be released during his lifetime) and a young Sophia Loren. Gable is Mike Hamilton, a lawyer from Philadelphia who has come to Naples to settle the estate of his deceased brother, who deserted his family ten years earlier. Upon arriving in Naples, Mike is stunned to discover that his brother had an eight year old son, who is currently being brought up by an aunt named Lucia (Loren). Mike dissaproves of Lucia’s bohemian upbringing of the boy Nando and thinks the boy would be better off brought up in America. However, he soon begins to fall for the beauty of the country, and the charms of Lucia…

I really enjoyed this film. Gable is terrific as Mike – some reviewers have said that the age difference between him and Loren spoiled the film, but as far as I could see, he definitely still had that twinkle in his eye, and I thought there was definite chemistry between them (although they did not get on terribly well off-screen).

Sophia Loren was – well! Talk about va-va-voom! She looked absolutely stunning, and played the part of Lucia brilliantly. Although she was flirty and fun-loving, it was easy to see that she genuinely cared about Nando.

The little boy himself was utterly charming – it’s no wonder that Mike also grows to love him.

The setting of the film is perfect – it was filmed on location in Italy, and is mainly set on the Isle of Capri, which looked beautiful, and definitely made me want to visit there (I wonder if it is as breath-taking over 50 years later?).

Plenty of humour is to be found in this film; the scenes that Gable played for laughs worked very well indeed, and it is really a perfect film to kick back and relax with. Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Melville Shavelson

Writers: Michael Pertwee, Jack Davies, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Main cast: Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Marietto

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