The Light in the Piazza
OK, honestly, how do I find these potboilers? Here we are in Florence Italy with a mother daughter duo portrayed by Olivia de Haviland ( with some serious eyebrows) and the ingenue, Yvette Mimieux, before her almost famous career. They are touring Florence and while sipping orange Fanta one day at a cafe they meet Fabrizio, played by the inimitable George Hamilton (before he got tan).
Smitten with Clara, Fabrizio goes all out to woo Clara and win over her mother. But early on, it’s disclosed to the Italian tutor , that Clara had an accident as a child and so despite the fact that her passport ages her at 26 ( plot device) , she has the mind of a ten year old.
Stuffed animals, chocolates and acres of flowers are sent to the signora and signorina Johnson, and we even have an episode of meet the parents. Rossano Brazzi ( of course) is Fabrizio’s father, and like son, like father…
Unable to face Clara’s growing affection (ahem) for Fabrizio, Signora Johnson decamps Florence for Rome under the guise of her own illness. Clearly Clara is distraught and promises Fabrizio that she will return.
Once in Rome, Mr. Johnson arrives to Clara’s delight and Mrs. Johnson’s less than enthusiastic welcome. The three tour around for a while until Clara again throws a hissy about Fabrizio, and papa gives the missus an ultimatum about “a school” for Clara. Either She can be her daughter’s guardian or his wife is the choice he lobs over the transom as he exits the suite where his daughter is sleeping off her tranquilizer.
Taxi screeches to airport and la Signora gets two train tickets back to Florence, tout suite. Clara smiles the whole way. Enter Fabrizio and his papa…who does try to seduce the American mother while the two of them arrange for their children’s happiness thru the sacrament of matrimony. In the end, rice is thrown and there’s a “Steel Magnolias” moment just before the happy bride and groom zoom off in a Fiat. Mother and daughter realize they will always have each other, each needing the other to live fully.