Avanti! (1972)

R | 140 or 143-44 mins | Romantic comedy | December 1972

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HISTORY

The film's Italian release title was Che cosa è successo tra mio padre e tua madre? ( What Happened Between My Father and Your Mother? ). The word "avanti," which is discussed in the film, signifies, among other things, "go ahead" in Italian. As noted in HR charts and other contemporary sources, the picture was shot on location in Italy, in and around the island of Capri, in Sorrento and other areas along the Amalfi coast, with additional shooting in Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport and some interiors at the Rizzoli Film Gestione Palatino Studios in Rome. Some contemporary sources noted that, while the film was set almost entirely on the island of Ischia, the bulk of the film was actually filmed in and around Sorrento.
       According to news items, Harry Ray, who was Jack Lemmon's frequent makeup man and also played "Dr. Fleischmann," the man with whom "Wendell Armbruster, Jr." changes clothes in an airplane lavatory, made his acting debut in Avanti! A news item in HR on 21 Jun 1971 stated that director Billy Wilder was preparing the script for the film with screenwriter Norman Krasna, but that was likely an error as Wilder had collaborated with credited co-writer I. A. L. Diamond for many years and had never worked with Krasna. A 4 Aug 1971 Var news item stated that popular Italian comedian Nino Manfredi would have a role in Avanti! , but he was not in the released film. A 10 May 1972 DV news item reproted that Walter Matthau was to have appeared in the film as ... More Less

The film's Italian release title was Che cosa è successo tra mio padre e tua madre? ( What Happened Between My Father and Your Mother? ). The word "avanti," which is discussed in the film, signifies, among other things, "go ahead" in Italian. As noted in HR charts and other contemporary sources, the picture was shot on location in Italy, in and around the island of Capri, in Sorrento and other areas along the Amalfi coast, with additional shooting in Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport and some interiors at the Rizzoli Film Gestione Palatino Studios in Rome. Some contemporary sources noted that, while the film was set almost entirely on the island of Ischia, the bulk of the film was actually filmed in and around Sorrento.
       According to news items, Harry Ray, who was Jack Lemmon's frequent makeup man and also played "Dr. Fleischmann," the man with whom "Wendell Armbruster, Jr." changes clothes in an airplane lavatory, made his acting debut in Avanti! A news item in HR on 21 Jun 1971 stated that director Billy Wilder was preparing the script for the film with screenwriter Norman Krasna, but that was likely an error as Wilder had collaborated with credited co-writer I. A. L. Diamond for many years and had never worked with Krasna. A 4 Aug 1971 Var news item stated that popular Italian comedian Nino Manfredi would have a role in Avanti! , but he was not in the released film. A 10 May 1972 DV news item reproted that Walter Matthau was to have appeared in the film as "J. J. Blodgett," but because of a scheduling shift for Pete 'n' Tillie , in which Matthau co-starred with Carol Burnett (see below), the role of J. J. was taken over by Edward Andrews. Modern sources add Enzo Andronico and Bruno Pischiutta to the cast.
       News items and reviews noted that Juliet Mills gained twenty-five pounds for her role as "Pamela Piggott" to accommodate the story's theme that she is overweight. A running joke in the film is derived from Wendell's namedropping of many well-known contemporary American dignitaries who were friends of his father, among them evangelist Billy Graham and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Polaroid cameras, which figured prominently in the film, produced rapid, inexpensive self-developing pictures.
       Avanti! marked the fifth collaboration between Wilder and Lemmon, and their first film together since The Fortune Cookie (1966, see below). Avanti! was the second film adaptation that Wilder had made from a play by Samuel Taylor, who had written the play on which Wilder's 1953 film Sabrina was based (see below). Although trade reviews were generally positive about the film, newspaper critics dismissed the picture, with many reflecting the words of LAT critic Charles Champlin, who wrote, "The good moments in it are the measure of its wasted competence."
       In 1994, another adaptation of Taylor's play was made for French television. Entitled Avanti , the television film was directed by Jacques Besnard and starred Patrick Bouchitey and Laura Marinoni. According to items in trade publications in Dec 2004, a new adaptation of Taylor's play was being readied by Walter Mirisch at MGM, but that production has not come to fruition as of 2007. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Dec 1972
p. 4550.
Daily Variety
10 May 1972.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 2004.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 661-63.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 1972
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1972.
---
New York Times
18 Dec 1972
p. 56.
Variety
4 Aug 1971.
---
Variety
24 Jan 1972.
---
Variety
27 Dec 1972
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Head grip
Head elec
Stillman
Aerial shots
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdressing
Makeup Mr. Lemmon
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Casting
Dial coach
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Avanti! by Samuel Taylor, produced on the New York stage by Morris Jacobs and Jerome Whyte, in association with Richard Rodgers (New York, 31 Jan 1968).
SONGS
"A Tazza é café," music and lyrics by G. Capaldo and V. Fassone, Casa Editrice la Canzonetta
"La luna," music and lyrics by Don Backy and Detto Mariano, Ritmi e Canzoni Edizioni Musicali
"Palcoscenico," music and lyrics by E. Bonagura, A. Giannini and S. Bruni, Edizioni Scugnizza-Campi Publisher
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SONGS
"A Tazza é café," music and lyrics by G. Capaldo and V. Fassone, Casa Editrice la Canzonetta
"La luna," music and lyrics by Don Backy and Detto Mariano, Ritmi e Canzoni Edizioni Musicali
"Palcoscenico," music and lyrics by E. Bonagura, A. Giannini and S. Bruni, Edizioni Scugnizza-Campi Publisher
"Senza fine," music and lyrics by Gino Paoli, Edizioni Musicali Fama
"Core 'ngrato," music and lyrics by Cordiferro and Cardillo, Edizioni Ricordi, sung by Sergio Bruni as himself and "Un'ora sola ti vorrei," music and lyrics by Bertini and Marchetti, Edizioni Nazionale, sung by Sergio Bruni as himself.
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PERFORMER
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Che cosa è successo tra mio padre e tua madre?
Release Date:
December 1972
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 December 1972
Los Angeles opening: 22 December 1972
Production Date:
late April--late July 1972 at Rizzoli Film Gestione Palatino, Rome and in Sorrento and Capri, Italy
Copyright Claimant:
Phalanx-Jalem Productions & Mirisch Corp. of California
Copyright Date:
19 December 1972
Copyright Number:
LP41430
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
140 or 143-44
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23331
SYNOPSIS

When his millionaire father dies in an automobile accident, pompous American businessman Wendell Armbruster, Jr. must fly to Italy to claim the body. Arriving in Rome on a Saturday morning, Wendell immediately takes the train to Naples, followed by a boat trip to the resort island of Ischia, where his father died. On the way, plump Englishwoman Pamela Piggott approaches Wendell in a familiar way, something that he finds odd and annoying. Once on Ischia, Wendell is met at the dock by Carlo Carlucci, director of the Grand Hotel Excelsior, where Wendell’s father had spent a month-long vacation each summer for the past ten years. Insisting that he must have his father's body back in Baltimore by Tuesday for a VIP-studded funeral, Wendell is disoriented by Italian customs and bureaucratic red tape and puzzled by the obvious fondness that Carlo and other hotel staff had for his father. The accommodating Carlo is amused by Wendell’s American desire for quick results, and promises to take care of things, including acquiring a legally mandated lead-lined coffin. Just then Pamela comes to Wendell’s suite looking for Carlo and holding a batch of Italian governmental paperwork. When Carlo relates that Pamela’s mother, Katherine, was also killed in the car crash, Wendell expresses sympathy, thinking that Katherine and his father were merely casual acquaintances, but when Pamela lovingly takes her mother's silken nightgown and slippers from the bed, Wendell is shocked by the revelation that the pair had been lovers for ten years. Late that afternoon, Carlo drives Wendell to the town morgue, where he must identify Wendell, Sr.’s body and sign the first of many sets of ... +


When his millionaire father dies in an automobile accident, pompous American businessman Wendell Armbruster, Jr. must fly to Italy to claim the body. Arriving in Rome on a Saturday morning, Wendell immediately takes the train to Naples, followed by a boat trip to the resort island of Ischia, where his father died. On the way, plump Englishwoman Pamela Piggott approaches Wendell in a familiar way, something that he finds odd and annoying. Once on Ischia, Wendell is met at the dock by Carlo Carlucci, director of the Grand Hotel Excelsior, where Wendell’s father had spent a month-long vacation each summer for the past ten years. Insisting that he must have his father's body back in Baltimore by Tuesday for a VIP-studded funeral, Wendell is disoriented by Italian customs and bureaucratic red tape and puzzled by the obvious fondness that Carlo and other hotel staff had for his father. The accommodating Carlo is amused by Wendell’s American desire for quick results, and promises to take care of things, including acquiring a legally mandated lead-lined coffin. Just then Pamela comes to Wendell’s suite looking for Carlo and holding a batch of Italian governmental paperwork. When Carlo relates that Pamela’s mother, Katherine, was also killed in the car crash, Wendell expresses sympathy, thinking that Katherine and his father were merely casual acquaintances, but when Pamela lovingly takes her mother's silken nightgown and slippers from the bed, Wendell is shocked by the revelation that the pair had been lovers for ten years. Late that afternoon, Carlo drives Wendell to the town morgue, where he must identify Wendell, Sr.’s body and sign the first of many sets of legal documents. Pamela is also there, and Wendell is touched when she places a bouquet on Katherine’s body and another Wendell, Sr.’s. She suggests to Wendell that the couple would be happy to be buried side-by-side in a lovely cemetery on the hill, but Wendell is adamant that his father will be buried in Baltimore on Tuesday. While Pamela remains at the morgue, Wendell returns to the hotel and is visited by Bruno, a valet who tells Wendell that he loves America and lived there for several years before being deported. Bruno talks about the great romantic love that Wendell, Sr. and Katherine shared and describes their early morning nude swims. When Bruno mentions that he had taken many Polaroid photographs of them, Wendell deduces that he is being blackmailed. Just then Carlo comes to the suite to inform Wendell that the bodies have been stolen from the morgue. Assuming that Pamela is responsible, he storms over to her room, where, in his anger, he refers to her “fat ass.” She is incensed that he would accuse her of stealing the bodies and resents his insult, for which he apologizes, saying he actually prefers women with fuller shapes. As an apology, Wendell makes reservations for them to dine together in the hotel. That evening, the restaurant staff, who are delighted to see Wendell and Pamela, joyfully relate what their parents ate and drank and how much in love they were. Pamela also tells Wendell about their parents' affair, extolling the ten years of love the couple shared. During the evening, Armando Trotta summons Carlo, who relates to Wendell that Armando has the stolen bodies. Wendell and Carlo then drive with Armando to the Trotta family vineyard, the site of the car crash, where the family demands $3,000 to cover damages to their vineyard. Realizing that the family is taking advantage, Wendell tries to bargain but is bamboozled into paying the entire amount, which Armando’s father insists cannot be in U.S. dollars because of the sagging American economy. Exhausted from being awake for forty hours, Wendell wants to sleep when he returns to the hotel but is attracted to the strains of the orchestra, which is playing a romantic tune for Pamela. Because it is almost dawn, Pamela wants to finish the evening as their parents did, by taking a nude swim, and runs down to the hotel pier, dropping her clothes along the way. At first mortified, Wendell finally strips down and jumps into the sea, following her to a rock where they bathe in the early morning sun. Unknown to them, Bruno has been awakened by their antics and secretly snaps Polaroid photographs of them. When Wendell and Pamela finally say goodnight, she thanks him for the loveliest night of her life. Late that morning, when Wendell awakens, Carlo reports that they now have three coffins, the two they need plus one thought lost in transit. The only problem is that his nephew, who had sneaked into a closed government office to get some necessary papers, has been arrested. Promising that things will be settled soon, Carlo leaves, after which Bruno arrives with the compromising pictures of Wendell's father. Wendell tries to give him $100, but Bruno refuses the money, relating that what he really wants is a visa to America. Wendell says that he cannot help, but Bruno insists that one of his influential friends, like Henry Kissinger, could do it. He then tells Wendell that he has similar pictures of him and Pamela and that he has to flee because Anna, his Sicilian girl friend, is pregnant and insists that Bruno marry her. While they are talking, Pamela comes into the room to weigh herself and is delighted that she has lost three pounds despite gorging herself the day before. Meanwhile, Anna, who is a hotel maid and has been listening at the doorway, goes to Bruno’s room to steal his revolver. After Pamela leaves to go to town, Anna summons a valet to Pamela's room, and when Bruno opens the door, she shoots him to death. Because the murder is discovered while Pamela is sightseeing, Carlo has her things moved into Wendell's suite while the police investigate the crime scene. Carlo also gives Wendell Bruno’s nude photos to destroy, but as Wendell is cutting them up, he glances at them and realizes that he likes what he sees. Later, when Pamela returns to the hotel to learn that her suitcases are in Wendell’s suite, she assumes that he wants to have an affair and is both flattered and irritated by his presumptuousness. They argue over his American arrogance, but soon start to kiss. After spending Sunday evening making love, they awaken to breakfast in bed, which Pamela relishes. Wendell offers to buy things for Pamela but she refuses and reveals that, even though her mother was only a manicurist, she never let Wendell, Sr. know and never took gifts or money from him. Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy helicopter transporting diplomat Joseph “J. J.” Blodgett arrives on the island. J. J., whom Wendell has always regarded as a bore, has been summoned by Wendell's wife to expedite the transport of Wendell, Sr.'s body. J. J. telephones Wendell from the hotel lobby, leading to frenetic attempts by Pamela and Wendell to clear her belongings from the suite. When J. J. arrives, Pamela pretends to be giving Wendell a manicure. J. J.'s suspicions are aroused, until Carlo says that Pamela is his niece and suggests that J. J. take one of the hotel's virility-enhancing mud baths. Sadly realizing that J. J.'s presence means that he will have to leave Ischia right away, Wendell comes up with a plan: secretly bury his father and Katherine in the cemetery on the hill and use the third coffin to transport Bruno, whose dream it was to return to America. After a brief ceremony at the cemetery, Wendell suggests that the gravestones list the names “Willie” and “Kate,” the couple’s pet names for each other, and the family name of Carlucci. A short time later, as Wendell is about to board the helicopter with Bruno’s body in his father’s coffin, Carlo cheerfully informs Wendell that his father's suite will be available next summer from July 15th through August 15th. When Pamela promises that next year she will be "so thin," Wendell smiles and says if she loses even one pound, they are through. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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