Come September (1961)
“A Quiet hideaway… A Secret rendezvous… then the teen-agers barged in!”
Director: Robert Mulligan
Cast: Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, Sandra Dee
Synopsis: Younger generation vs. “older” folks on vacation at an Italian villa.
In Come September, Rock Hudson (Seconds) plays Robert Talbot, a fabulously wealthy bachelor businessman who, each September, spends a month at his expansive villa on the Italian Riviera in the company of the voluptuous Lisa Helena Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida — Woman of Straw). This year, however, Talbot has a hankering to see his shapely bed buddy two months early. This is bad news for staid Englishman Spencer (Ronald Howard) whom Lisa has agreed to wed, and also for the rascally Maurice Clavell (Walter Slezak — Michael, The Pirate), Talbot’s major domo who, during the eleven months that his boss is usually absent secretly turns his villa into an up-market hotel.
When he learns from a local in the nearby village that Talbot is on his way to the villa, Clavell faces a race against time to hide all signs of his subterfuge. But while he’s able to hide all the objects bearing the name of the ‘hotel’, there’s nothing he can do about the paying guests which, at the time of Talbot’s arrival, amounts to a group of Californian college girls on a tour of Italy under the watchful eye of their teacher-cum-chaperone, Margaret Allison (Brenda de Banzie). Clavell’s efforts to pass them off as a group to whom he offered accommodation after their vehicle broke down just about works — until, that is, a riotous group of American lads, with whom Talbot has already had a run-in, let the cat out of the bag when they arrive to book in. Naturally, it’s only a matter of time before these boys get an eyeful of the young girls at the villa and decide to make camp outside the grounds in the hope of getting off with them.
The leader of these boys is 1960s pop singer Bobby Darin, making his big screen debut after a handful of TV appearances. He always looked older than his age, which is an issue that’s magnified here by the fact that he was already about five years too old for the part he was playing. He and Hudson’s character, who engage in a battle of wills when Talbot, perhaps improbably, adopts a protective attitude towards the girls, are supposed to represent different generations, but Hudson was only eleven years older than Darin and looked younger than his age so that this supposed generation gap never really works. Talbot’s hypocritical nature — conducting a part-time affair with Lisa and therefore showing little commitment towards her, and then going out of his way to prevent a romance developing between Darin’s character and that played by Sandra Dee (whom Darin would eventually marry in real life) — makes it difficult to like him, even though it’s Darin and his friends’ relentless attempts to woo the girls that eventually prompts his change of mind about his obligation towards Lisa.
Come September has a few funny moments — many of them provided by Slezak in the kind of role that can steal a picture if not contained — but, like all the so-called ‘sex comedies’ of the 1960s, it spends its entire running time skirting around the subject. And even for the 1960s, Lisa and Talbot’s thwarted attempts to spend a night together without incurring the wrath of Mrs Allison, feels more than a little outdated. You could believe Darin and Dee’s characters behaving that way, but a millionaire businessman and a sexually experienced woman?
(Reviewed 26th February 2014)