Come September (1961): An Overlooked Treat

One of the best things about being a cinephile is finding forgotten gems. There is nothing like starting a movie and realizing that not only do you love it, but you need to tell everybody about it because it deserves better attention. Robert Mulligan's Come September is one of those movies.

Every September, wealthy businessman Robert Talbot (Rock Hudson) goes to his gorgeous Italian villa and spends the month in romantic bliss with his Roman paramour, Lisa (Gina Lollobrigida). This year, however, Robert can't wait for September to come and arrives in July, surprising Lisa -- who was all set to be married to a stuffy Englishman -- and his major domo, Maurice (Walter Slezak) -- who turns Robert's massive house into a hotel for the eleven months that he is away!

Normally, that would be plot enough for most comedies. Maurice would spend the whole film trying to hide the truth; Lisa would likely do the same; Robert would become increasingly frustrated until it all explodes in some madcap way. Come September wisely doesn't do this. After just one phone call from Robert, Lisa breaks off her engagement. As for Maurice, he covers most of his tracks, even explaining that the
hotel's current guests, a group of 18-year-old girls and their chaperone Ms. Allison (Brenda De Banzie), are just staying one night because all of the local hotels were booked. After speaking to one of the girls, Sandy (Sandra Dee), Robert catches on to Maurice's scheme.

The film's real conflict comes in the form of four rambunctious 20-year-old boys. When Ms.
Allison has a minor accident that puts her in the hospital, the girls are forced to stay at Robert's one more day. The boys, led by the swaggering Tony (Bobby Darin), catch sight of the girls and put up a tent outside of Robert's villa to be near them. Being a wolf himself, Robert knows exactly what these young men are after -- so he decides to appoint himself the girls' new chaperone!

Come September is a film that never fails to make me giggle. Not just laugh, but full-on giggle. Part of that is thanks to the terrific script, written by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin, who won the Oscar for writing another one of my favorites, Pillow Talk (1959). Similar to that earlier film, Come September lets its leading man, Rock Hudson, shine. It cannot be said enough how brilliant Hudson was as a comedic performer. His line readings are impeccable, such as when he seethes to Maurice about the boys setting up camp and the girls assisting them. "They're like spiders! And they've got the flies helping put up their web!" he exclaims.

Fortunately, the script points the complete hypocrisy of Robert's actions. For a good chunk of the movie, he schemes against the boys to keep them from, um, getting too far with the girls. One of the funniest examples of the back-and-forth between Robert and the young men takes place at a nightclub. As Tony performs "Multiplication," a song that is most definitely about sex (think about it), Robert silently fumes. But
then he gets the idea to dance with each girl and talk to her about how respect is the most important thing between a man and a woman. Another choice quote is "If the girl gives in too easy, the boy will never take her seriously" and "The bedroom is like a wedding gown. It's bad luck to let the boy see it before you're married."

It's all good and well for Robert to say this, but he wouldn't dream of following these ideas himself. It never occurs to him that at the same time he is trying to "protect" Sandy and her friends, he is also attempting to have his romantic holiday with Lisa. Robert's double standards are soon noticed by Lisa, triggering a monumental fight between the two of them. It's an interesting moment, one that makes Robert reconsider how he feels about Lisa and what their relationship really is. I don't want to spoil exactly how the film ends, but there is one sidesplitting scene where Robert chases after Lisa in a poultry truck and insists "I've never been happier! Look, dammit, I'm smiling!" The deranged grin Hudson offers is priceless:

Come September wouldn't be the same without its absolutely perfect cast. In my opinion, Gina Lollobrigida was the only woman who could play Lisa, but I was surprised to learn that Marilyn Monroe was considered for the part first. Honestly, I would have loved the pairing of Hudson and Monroe, but Lollobrigida is Lisa. Apparently she didn't feel the same way as it took her a while to accept the role. When she
did, she explained that it was because she was excited by the prospect of working of Hudson and she felt the film was "a comedy that can only be made in Italy," her native country.

It is clear from watching the film that Lollobrigida and Hudson loved working together. They share an electric chemistry, making their scenes both fun and sensual. They also have to be one of the most beautiful couples I've ever seen in my life. The twosome would collaborate again in 1965 for the comedy Strange Bedfellows, a film I'm dying to see although it was less successful than Come September.

One scene that thoroughly illustrates what a wonderful team Hudson and Lollobrigida made is when they share a delightful, carefree dance at the nightclub. You can watch the joyous routine here.

While Lollobrigida and Hudson were only portraying a couple onscreen, their co-stars Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee found their characters' romance becoming reality. Their first encounter even sounds like it came from a movie! According to their son Dodd Darin, "He was standing on the shore wearing a yellow suit, and she was in a boat just pulling in to dock. 'Will you marry me?' he called out to her. 'Not today,' she said." Just
like Tony pursues Sandy, Darin pursued Dee, cleverly befriending her mother in the process. Within weeks, the couple was married. Although the marriage only lasted for seven years and two more films, the two remained close until Darin's premature death in 1973.

Come September was Dee's 13th film in four years. Although she isn't exactly given much to do, the actress makes the most of her role and she is positively adorable. Her rapport with Lollobrigida is great and her scenes with Darin are sweet rather than cloying. Come September was Darin's second film and he certainly made the most of it. Not only does he act and sing a little, he also composed the film's fantastic Mancini-like theme and "Multiplication." While the man was definitely talented, his acting is a little rough, at least in this film. (Later he would go on to do very good work, such as in Captain Newman, M.D.)

That being said, I do love the dynamic between Darin and Hudson's characters. Tony and Robert are enemies from the second they meet. A lot of the film's hilarity comes from Tony and his friends foolishly thinking that Robert is just a fragile old man they can easily outmaneuver. The audience already knows that this is silly -- after all, this is Rock Hudson we're talking about! Still, it's cute to see the boys try to outsmart Robert, such as when everyone goes for a Vespa ride and a picnic. As they eat, Robert makes it clear to Tony that he has his eye on him:

Later, the boys are convinced they gave Robert and Lisa the runaround and proceed to push their Vespas up a steep hill, huffing and puffing with every step. The sight of Robert and Lisa smiling at the top of the hill makes their climb even more exhausting.

While Lollobrigida, Hudson, Dee, and Darin are touted as the film's stars, there is another major player at work here: Walter Slezak. Maurice is quite the character. Even after Robert has found out about the hotel business and fired him, he still sticks around and manages to worm his way back into Robert's good graces. Nothing fazes this guy. There are also many scenes where Slezak speaks in Italian, including one
where he purposely gets Robert arrested. It's pretty darn impressive! Fun fact: Come September was the first movie to be shown on transcontinental and intercontinental flights. It was Slezak who hand-delivered the film to the plane for the inaugural flight.

By the way, you may recognize the actor playing Tony's right-hand man, Beagle. It's Joel Grey! This was his third film; he actually wouldn't make another until Cabaret in 1972, which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

As you can tell, there is a lot to love about this movie. One aspect is Morton Haack's superb costumes for Lollobrigida. (Poor Dee gets the short end of the stick here. Her clothes are cute enough, but surprisingly bland.) For almost every scene, Lollobrigida has a new, stunning ensemble.

Rivaling Lollobrigida for beauty are the sets. They're all so ridiculously chic and elegant, yet they still have this cool '60s vibe. Take Lisa's apartment in Rome, for instance. Her bedroom:

Her living room:

The nightclub Robert, Lisa, and the others go to almost looks like something from centuries ago:

The most mindblowing set, though, is definitely Robert's villa. We're never given a full shot of the outside of the house, but we can still tell it looks incredible:

And just look at that view!

The foyer:

The sitting room:

The kitchen:

I would be satisfied just living in Maurice's quarters:

The bar downstairs:

One of the hallways upstairs:

Robert's room:

Sandy and Lisa's shared room:

Their bathroom:

Part of the bedroom Lisa moves into after Ms. Allison gets laid up:

And then there are the Italian locations. The film was shot in places like Rome and Portofino, making the whole film feel authentic. What actually impressed me the most was all of the driving scenes because the camera is right there alongside the vehicles, making it clear that no rear projection was used.

Come September is like a slice of sunshine. It's such a bubbly, entertaining film. Everything about it is designed to make you smile. If you're ever in need of a pick-me-up, look no further!


 This is my contribution to the 1961 Blogathon, hosted by Steve over at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Check out the other cool entries (and wish Steve a happy birthday!) here.


  1. This sounds like a charming movie. Thanks so much for contributing this to the blogathon!

    1. Very happy to have participated! I've been wanting to cover this film for a long time, so it worked out beautifully.

  2. "It cannot be said enough how brilliant Hudson was as a comedic performer." I so agree. That point becomes more apparent the more I watch Rock's comedies.

    This is one of those 1960s comedies that used to pop up regularly on TV, but I haven't seen it in ages. Your screencaps are wonderful. Lollobrigida is gorgeous! And that scenery to die for!

    The next year Bobby Darin would be in Pressure Point with Sidney Poitier. Have you seen it? A most intriguing film and performance.

    1. Thanks! Lollobrigida and Italy definitely compete for the most eye-catching thing about this film. Honestly, I think the actress wins!

      I've heard good things about Pressure Point, so I'm curious to see it. I saw Captain Newman, M.D. many years ago, but I still think about Darin's performance from time to time. He was an interesting guy, that's for sure.

  3. This is probably one of the most beautiful-looking films ever made, and your images certainly do it justice.

    I tried watching this film a few years ago, and I just couldn't get into it. But now that I've read your charming review, I'll give it another chance. I think I'll enjoy it more this time. :)

    1. Thanks! I got pretty carried away with the screenshots. I told myself I was only getting what was necessary...and ended up with almost 90 images. Oops.

      I hope you do give it another chance! It's the perfect film to prepare you for the summer.

  4. I didn't even know about this movie. It sure looks and sounds incredible. Thanks for the great intro!

    1. It was my pleasure! It's a film that deserves more attention, if only because it contains one of Hudson's funniest performances.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Okay, putting this on my watch list, thanks to your fabulous review.

  6. The article doesn't say that the film was mostly shot in Santa Margherita Ligure, which is close to Portofino

  7. One of my favourite movies! Amazing photography, beautiful actors for a charming comedy. I even went in front of the Villa in Santa Margherita Ligure. Thank you for this wonderful article and all the pictures!! I dream to know who is responsable for the interior design of the Villa, I am in love with the sets. Xx

    1. That's so cool! I'd love to go to Santa Margherita Ligure someday.

      I'm not sure if this helps, but TCM lists Henry Bumstead as the art director and John P. Austin as the set decorator:

      Thanks so much for reading!


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