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Sunday, November 13, 2011

STAZIONE TERMINI / TERMINAL STATION (aka INDISCRETIONS OF AN AMERICAN WIFE) (1953)

Producer David O Selznick must have been hoping for an Italian BRIEF ENCOUNTER/’45 when he ‘silently’ produced this small-scale end-of-the-affair story. He cast his wife, Jennifer Jones, as the married half, and Montgomery Clift, just off FROM HERE TO ETERNITY/’53, as illicit lovers trying to find a bit of privacy in the middle of Rome’s brand new, bustling, ultra-modern Stazione Termini which added prestige & size to a slender plot. When director Roberto Rossellini turned him down*, Selznick went with Vittorio De Sica & his collaborators who, no doubt, hoped for a Hollywood-sized payout between making the devastating UMBERTO D/’52 & the delightful GOLD OF NAPLES/’54. Selznick was even a De Sica fan, he had briefly considered a remake of BICYCLE THIEVES for Cary Grant. (Really!) But he rebuffed De Sica’s 90 min. cut which used the public spaces & open design of the station as a third main character while adding lively vignettes from passers-by to constantly interrupt the lovers. Selznick wanted to concentrate on the uncomfortably neurotic interplay between Jones & Clift, and slashed three reels of atmosphere out of the pic for the American release; adding an exceedingly odd musical short (with Patti Page) to bump up the shrunken running time. The original cut, which unfortunately has a technical problem with its music track on the Criterion DVD, is still a miss . . . but, it’s an interesting miss. And it lets you see what De Sica was aiming for.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: De Sica cast the train station’s Commissioner with a Selznick look–a-like. A subtle dig at the man who makes everybody wait for his say-so before anything can happen.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Selznick may have been on to something with Rossellini. The same year, Ingrid Bergman & George Sanders starred in his remarkable VOYAGE TO ITALY, playing just the sort of unhappily married couple Jennifer Jones and her unseen husband might have been in this film.

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