Light in the Piazza (film)

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Light in the Piazza
The Light in the Piazza poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Guy Green
Produced by Arthur Freed
Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein
Based on The Light in the Piazza 
by Elizabeth Spencer
Music by Mario Nascimbene
Cinematography Otto Heller
Edited by Frank Clarke
Distributed by MGM
Release dates
  • February 7, 1962 (1962-02-07) (USA)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,261,000[1]
Box office $2.2 million

Light in the Piazza is a 1962 American romantic drama film directed by Guy Green and starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, and Barry Sullivan. Based on the 1960 novel The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer, the film is about a beautiful but innocent young American woman traveling in Italy with her mother, and the Italian man they meet while on vacation.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Light in the Piazza is notable for its extensive location shooting in 1960s Florence and Rome by the award winning cinematographer Otto Heller.[2][3][4]


While taking a summer holiday in Florence with her mother Meg, 26-year-old Clara meets and falls in love with a young Italian named Fabrizio Naccarelli, played by George Hamilton. Fabrizio is blinded by his love for Clara and believes her mental disability to be simple naivety. Meg tries to explain her daughter's condition to Fabrizio's father but the opportunity never seems to be right. Fabrizio's family are taken with Clara and her simple remarks are taken as evidence of her innocence.[2]

Meg spends the trip trying to keep the two lovers apart and fearing that Fabrizio or his family will discover the truth about her daughter.[3]

She moves their holiday quickly on to Rome in the hope that Clara will soon forget Fabrizio. On discovering how unhappy this has made her she calls her advertising executive husband Noel to visit them by plane. The couple discuss their daughter's future and it is revealed that previous suitors have been repulsed as soon as they discover that Clara is mentally disabled. Noel also reveals that he has made plans for Clara to be placed in an expensive care home for the mentally disabled. Meg is set against what she sees as the incarceration of her daughter for the rest of her life. The couple row and Noel returns to America.[2][3]

Meg realizes that Clara will have a much better life as a wealthy Italian wife with servants and inane gossip to entertain her than in such a home. She returns to Florence and does everything she can to expedite the marriage without her husband's knowledge.[4] Fabrizio and Clara are overjoyed and plans are made for the wedding. Clara begins religious conversion to becoming a Roman Catholic and the priest in charge is impressed with her childlike devotion to the Madonna. This, together with the Naccarelli family's connections in the Catholic Church, allows the date of the wedding to be brought forward.[3]

When Fabrizio's father glances at Clara's passport as they settle the wedding arrangements, he is suddenly alarmed and flees the church without explanation, taking Fabrizio with him. Meg fears he has somehow deduced Clara's mental age and does not want his son to marry such a person. Eventually Signor Naccarelli approaches her at her hotel and says she should have told him that Clara is 26. In Italian culture a young man of 20 cannot marry an older woman without controversy.[4] He tells his son of the age difference but Fabrizio reminds his father that his age is actually 23 and that he so loves Clara that he cares nothing for this slight difference. The situation is quickly resolved in Signor Naccarelli's eyes when Clara's dowry is increased from $5,000 to $15,000.[2]

The wedding takes place in a church in Florence without Noel's presence. Another emerging plot thread is a possible developing love affair between Meg and Signor Naccarelli. This is left unresolved at the movie's end.[3]



The story first appeared as a novelette in New Yorker in June 1960. Film rights were bought by MGM in August who assigned it to Arthur Freed.[5] (The novel version of the story was published later that year.[6]) Julius Epstein was given the job of writing the script.

Guy Green was given the job as director on the strength of The Angry Silence.[7]


Actresses who tested for the female lead included Dolores Hart[8] before Yvette Mimieux was selected.

Tomas Milian was originally cast as the Italian groom. George Hamilton campaigned actively for the role even though it had been cast and eventually succeeded, in part by persuading Ben Thau he was suitable.[9]


Filming started 7 May 1961. The film was shot on location in Rome and Florence with interiors at

Italian locations include:


According to MGM records, the film earned $1.2 million in the US and Canada and $1 million elsewhere resulting in a loss of $472,000.[1]


  1. ^ a b The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles, California: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ a b c d Light in the Piazza at the Internet Movie Database At the Imdb article , accessed Jan 2012
  3. ^ a b c d e Light in the Piazza at AllMovie At the AllRovi movie database, accessed Jan 2012
  4. ^ a b c Light in the Piazza at the TCM Movie Database at the Turners Classic Movie Movie database, accessed Jan 2012
  5. ^ Trevor Howard to Be 'Capt. Bligh': Freed's Next to Be 'Piazza'; Siobhan McKenna to N.Y. Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 31 Aug 1960: B9.
  6. ^ For Better and Worse: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA. By Elizabeth Spencer. 110 pp. New York: McGraw-Hill Boot Company. $3. For Better By ELIZABETH JANEWAY. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Nov 1960: BR6.
  7. ^ Karl Boehm Picked as Grimm Brother: Casting Well Saves Director Headaches, Guy Green Says Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Apr 1961: A7.
  8. ^ FILMLAND EVENTS: 3 Story Purchases Announced by 20th Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Sep 1960: 24.
  9. ^ George Hamilton & William Stadiem, Don't Mind If I Do, Simon & Schuster 2008 p 150-153
  10. ^ Light in the Piazza profile,; accessed August 24, 2014.


  • Spencer, Elizabeth (1960). The Light in the Piazza (First edition ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 290337. 
  • The World of Entertainment: The Freed Unit at MGM by Hugh Fordin, Da Capo Press, 1996; ISBN 0-306-80730-0
  • The Films of Olivia de Havilland by Tony Thomas, Citadel Press; 1st edition 1983; ISBN 0-8065-0805-1

External links[edit]