June 17, 2009

Summertime (1955)

While I love my parents' humble little abode in our sleepy seaside town where an entire day can be spent just playing with the dog and reading a book, this time last year and three summers before that, I was in Venice. So in honor of my previous sojourns to that glorious city on water, I'm going to write about one of my favorite movies (and not just movies set in Venice) - Summertime starring the legendary Katherine Hepburn.


I have an addiction to films about people (okay, mostly women) who undergo personal transformations due to a particular experience. In this movie, Katherine Hepburn plays an ordinary middle-class middle-aged woman from middle-America who cashes in her savings for a dream trip to Venice. As a lonely, repressed spinster, she has constructed in her head an unrealistic, fantasized vision of Venice and hopes that her vacation will result in some sort exciting adventure (and possible romantic tryst), the kind she has only ever encountered in books.

Props/wardrobe play a significant role in this particular film because they are used extensively, although sometimes subtly, to highlight Hepburn's character's gradual self-awakening. We start off with her character wearing generally drab and colorless ensembles. Notice that the heavily layered outfit in which she arrives is entirely inappropriate for the intense heat of summer. Notice how she likes to wear gloves and how her collars are buttoned up high, both to show how uptight and distant to contact she has been all her life.

Regardless of its symbolism, I still love this brown outfit. Just wear it when it's cold instead and it'll look perfect.

Loving the way the scarf is folded and held by the scarf ring.

Notice how the belt is wavy!

Ill-fitting and colorless dress, which is in line with her loneliness after being in Venice for a few days and still not having made any real friends.

Here she is in the large cafe area in San Marco square, where she notices and is noticed by a handsome Italian man played by the scrumptious Rossano Brazzi. This unnerves her greatly (being the naive, repressed spinster from middle America that she is) and she pretends to film the activity of the square instead of paying attention to him. Notice how one of her gloves is now off, to signify that this is the turning point where she starts to shed her old self. And I love her pearl bracelet!

Why, hello there, pretty lady...

She continues to explore Venice on her own, sometimes accompanied by a little street urchin.



She notices a gorgeous red goblet in an antique shop. Do you recognize yourself in those eyes? I know I have the same expression whenever I stumble across a fabulous find.

She enters the antique shop. It turns out that Brazzi's character is the owner. They talk about the goblet and he asks her out. She gets totally flustered like a young schoolgirl.

After she meets and befriends Brazzi, she begins to take more care in her appearance. And their relationship turns romantic.

Here she is out on a date with him. I never much cared for dotted print but I love this dress. I like the sheen to the fabric.

Now, notice the use of red in this film and what it represents - the red goblet, the red shoes she buys, the red/salmon colored dress she wears below, the small stripe of red in her white scarf with the black evening gown in the next image, and the red in the lapels of her coat, etc. Notice how this introduction of color contrasts with the the dull, colorless ensembles she wears before she meets her hot Italian lover. They all represent her awakening to sensual pleasures that she has never known before.




The red shoe, carefully placed in front of the door to the bedroom, signifies that the couple are now in the back, consummating their love. I love the use of shoes to show that sex is taking place...I just think shoes are so erotic and I, for one, don't particular enjoy having everything shown to me in graphic detail.

Overall, this is a wonderful film and Katherine Hepburn's acting was flawless. Even though I'm not middled aged yet, I can still relate deeply to her character and all the emotions that she goes through. See this if you can. It's totally worth it.

- - -
Oh, I almost forgot! I wanted to show you a couple of images of the other two minor female characters in the movie because I loved their outfits. Below, to the right is a woman whose is also staying at the pensione that Hepburn's character is staying at. She is fun and uninhibited and her personality shines through her choice of clothing.

Loving: her low-cut faux-wrap around white blouse, the billowing striped skirt, and the dangling rhinestone earrings.

And below is an image of the owner of the pensione. Here she is saying, "In Italy, age is an asset" and sitting the way she does and looking the way she does, I am completely convinced she's right!

Loving: the confidence, the chic black dress, the red lipstick, and the simple but stand-out gold pendant necklace.


Thank you so much for doing this one! I have always loved this film though I've only seen it once a long time ago. Strangely, just a few years ago I became enamored of a red-orange glass technique called Amberina glass that I now collect. I totally forgot about Kate and the red goblet in this film until today. I wonder if that had anything to do with my sudden attraction to Amberina in a thrift store? Thanks.

Oooh, I love Amberina glass too and I always used to associate it with those two-tone lily vases...that is, until I discovered that they come in all different glass forms. :)

Very pretty and I thought you did a great job pointing out the use of costume here to tell the story. I just watched Three Coins in a Fountain, (3 girls in Rome) and the sets and clothes are really striking, and tell a story as well (maybe not as eloquently). Stunning 50s shapes and colors for the dresses and you have midcentury modern offices and apartments intermixed with palatial looks.

Thanks, Norine! And thanks for the recommendation. I haven't seen 3 Coins in a Fountain so I'll have to add that to my list!

Who did the costumes for Ms. Hepburn in this film? I would love to know who did the black dress/jacket ensemble but can find nothing in any of the credits even in the film.
Anyone help on this?
Thank you,

I love, love, love this movie so much, I seen many years ago but recently bought it as I rememberd just how much I enjoyed it, the colors just awakened my spirits
and remined me of love again,,,,,I am a middles age girl so I can relate to Miss Hudson ! everything you've said I agree with....I have to get to Venice one day before I start to look old, as of now I look around 35, and I do have a friend in Venice, I would love to visit Venice and meet up with the Italian singer Massimo Ranieri and go to Burano for a romantic interlude ! so "Summertime " is my favorite move now. Grazie, Francy. write to me at beatnick60@aol.com

My dear girl, you are hungry. Eata the ravioli! Luv it! Wonderful job on this post and the snaps - any chance you could post a full length picture of her in the black dress and red shoes? (Maybe from just before she leaves for the evening?) Are those prada shoes? I would also love to know who does the costumes........

Does anyone else see a strong connection between this film and Moonstruck?

I don't remember if there was a full length shot of her dress but I'll go back and see...might take me a while. Awfully busy these days. :(

I'm watching the movie now! First time in years and i have to tell you that I'm enjoying it so much after reading your blog! Thank you.

Anyone know why Hepburn only has one red shoe at the end of the evening? She has 2 when they go dancing but walking back to Renato's apartment she is barefoot and only carrying one shoe. In the morning she returns back to the Pensione still barefoot and still carrying only one shoe. How she lost the other one is never shown.

Jeffrey - things get misplaced during the heat of passion...? haha.

Who was the costume designer for this film?

I found this lovely site as I "googled" wardrobe Summertime Hepburn and found this...blog..nice..

The entire backdrop of the dresses worn by the women in the crowds as they pass in the squares and all over the film are BEAUTIFUL..!!! the women's V shaped tops and flared bottoms, patterns and fabrics are all wonderful... outfits worn by almost all of the au' current women in the background of this beautiful film...

beautiful... no wonder directed by David Lean. Really Love the women's dresses, slacks, etc ..outfits in this movie, 50's at it's most beautiful....

can see this being the inspiration of a spring collection from a big name...

" Stunning 50s shapes and colors for the dresses and you have midcentury modern offices and apartments intermixed with palatial looks."

beautifully said, words I was struggling to put together....true and that what makes this a beautiful film, saw on TMC tonight first time.

These places are all different, now the lakes, the plazas, the countrysides have changed forever since this movie captured a lost time...beautifully..will watch it again...

i came across this site while watching a law and order suv episode with a friend; one of the characters in this particular episode had a shoe fetish so i wanted to find a photo of katherine hepburn's shoe in this particular film to show my friend the only time i had ever been tempted by a shoe lol.

oh fudge! i meant Law and Order SVU--not SUV; when i made this same error once before i told the person who corrected me that i was referring to another law and order series--one which entailed the struggles of a soccer mom who had to chauffeur a bunch of unruly kids around to all their school and after school activities lol.

Oh my. I LOVE your blog! I also found it while trying to find the name of the costume designer. I guess nobody knows. Too bad. This kind of style should not go uncredited.

Love your blog and thoughtful comments on the movie! Couldn't help but notice the beautiful outfits all throughout the movie. Gorgeous shoes! Wonder why the costume designer never got credited? She/he did a fantastic job. The femininity of the dresses, ahhh.....
I believe Givenchy was the fave of Audrey Hepburn, and not a secret.
One dress that also caught my eye in this movie was the turquoise beaded one worn by one of Miss Hudson's acquaintances at the pensione.
Watched this movie primarily because it seems such a lovely dream to go to Italy and enjoy life there for awhile. Recently saw Under the Tuscan Sun, and want to read the real story, so off to buy the book tomorrow. Liked A Year in Provence,too. (yes, i know that is france). Wouldn't it be neat to do such things? My sister has, but in Central America.
Hope someone someday finds the name of the costume designer. Thanks for your blogspot.

I did some more checking and found out this, re: costume designer. On IMDB, someone responded:Arthur Laurents says it was Adrian.
So, Adrian has a Wikipedia page; it was worth reading, tho not definite that he did work on Summertime.
You can do Google images for Costume Designer Adrian + Summertime.
I, for two, don't enjoy graphic sex. What's wrong with imagination? Don't characters deserve some privacy, too? Movie makers now burst into their bedrooms with millions of viewers tagging along - pathetic.

Thank You so much for this review - Very well done !!! one of my all time faves.

I beleive I've almost worn out my DVD.
I can still remember the very first time I watched this and gasped out loud when Mr Brazzi first comes on screen. So Sexy :)

Love your blog :)

She leaves it on the balcony as the fireworks end and tge couple retreats inside. There is a shot of it alone on the grate floor of the balcony.

Just leaving this here for the record. I reached out to Gaetano Autiero, who played the little boy Mauro in the film, and he said he doesn't recall who did the costumes. His exact words were "non ricordo i nomi dei costumisti." Sad.

Post a Comment

Twitter Facebook Email GooglePlus Stumbleupon Digg More