Indiscretion of An American Wife
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An American housewife (Jennifer Jones) vacationing in Italy reluctantly decides to put an end to her brief affair with an Italian academic (Montgomery Clift). She flees to Romes Stazione Termini, where she bids him farewell, but he begs her to stay. The films plot is simple; its production was not. The troubled collaboration between director Vittorio De Sica and producer David O. Selznick resulted in two cuts of the same film. De Sicas version, Terminal Station, was screened at a length of one-and-a-half hours, but after disappointing previews, Selznick severely re-edited it and changed the title to Indiscretion of an American Wife without De Sicas permission. The Criterion Collection is proud to present both versions of this controversial release.
Just as David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock had clashed while filming Rebecca, the meddlesome producer left his Hollywood imprint on the troubled production of Vittorio De Sica's Terminal Station. Selznick's career was fading fast, and while self-exiled in Europe he seized on the notion of melding De Sica's masterful neorealism with a daring but otherwise conventional studio romance, casting big stars in a turgid melodrama about a Philadelphia housewife traveling in Rome (Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife) who must choose between marital fidelity or illicit passion with a lovestruck Italian (Montgomery Clift) as she prepares to depart from Rome's coldly modern Stazione Termini. After De Sica's 89-minute Terminal Station tested poorly with audiences, Selznick cut the film to 64 minutes (excising most of De Sica's neorealistic atmosphere), added an 8-minute prologue of Patti Page singing two moody ballads to pad the truncated running time, and still failed to attract audiences with his gauchely retitled Indiscretion of an American Wife.
Both versions are included on Criterion's magnificent DVD, allowing latter-day viewers a revealing comparison/contrast between Selznick's commercial taste (glossy and sentimental) and De Sica's artistic vision. Indiscretion turns Jones's overwrought character into a dimensionless focus of guilt and shame, lacking the moral depth of Terminal Station, in which her dilemma is more compellingly explored. Inevitably, only De Sica's version achieves Selznick's original goal: It's a remarkable hybrid of neorealism (with its authentic setting populated by people of all classes, subtly affecting the story) and Selznick's heavy-handed moralizing (with a partial dialogue polish by Truman Capote). Commentary by film scholar Leonard Leff and liner notes by critic Dave Kehr further illuminate this clash of formidable talents, illustrating how both films, gloriously restored, serve the divergent purposes of their creators. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
Jennifer Jones is an American Wife from Philadelphia who has an affair with an Italian academic (Montgomery Clift) while visiting her sister's family in Rome. She decides to end the affair and flees to Rome's Terminal Station to board a train for Paris and then fly home from Paris. The guy caught up with her at the train station and tried to convince her to stay. Will she stay (and give up her daughter and boring husband at home) or will she leave? If you are thinking of buying this movie, be warned that the Italian academic portrayed by Montgomery Clift in this movie is a physically abusive guy. After she skipped her first train, they sat down and talked. Their talk offers us a glimpse into how they met (he bought her a few cups of coffee). She told him that the reason she started the affair with him was because she thought it would be an adventure which she could tell her friends about. At one point of this talk, he mentioned that his Italian father used to beat up his mother. When Jennifer Jones (Mary) asked him if he would beat her up, too, he said he would because he's Italian, just like his father. And you know what happened a few minutes later when Mary tried to end the relationship and said goodbye? He slapped her in the face right there and then, in the train station.Read more ›
De Sica was one of Italy's pioneers of the "neo-realism" style of filmmaking which emphasized a gritty realism utilizing small budgets, hand-held cameras and actors with "characteristic" faces. David O. Selznick, on the other hand, was one of Hollywood's most successful producers who name was behind a roster of impressive films, notably "Gone With The Wind." His style was more reserved, romantic and "high-gloss." In 1942, Selznick had discovered a young girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma named Phylis Isley whom he groomed for stardom and changed her name to Jennifer Jones.
Jennifer Jones was a unique and talented actress who earned an Academy Award for her first major role in "The Song of Bernadette." She followed that film with an impressive list of roles that wisely emphasized her versatility and she avoided being type-cast. Indeed, only three years after winning the Oscar for her "saintliness" in "Song of Bernadette," she shocked film goers with a brazen display of sensuality as a half-breed half caste girl in "Duel In The Sun." She earned Oscar nominations four years in a row in the mid 40s.
Selznick married Jones in 1949 and took on her career full time. For her, this proved to be more detrimental than helpful. Selznick was a control freak who tried to dictate every aspect concerning her appearance and choice of roles. Her best films would be done by other directors and producers who would wisely turn a deaf ear to Selznick's intrusions.
The De Sica/Selznick project began in 1952.Read more ›
Frankly, I didn't think Selznick's version, "Indiscretion of an American Wife," was that bad, but of course, De Sica's cut is better. I really like films set in confined areas, and the lovely architecture of Rome's Stazione Termine functions as another character in the film. Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones are wonderful, as is the cinematography -- you lose yourself in this soft-focus black and white world -- and De Sica's attention to small characters and atmosphere.
Although I do not think this is a masterpiece by any means, it is truly a beautiful film, and worthy for collectors who like De Sica's other work ("Bicycle Thief," "Shoeshine," "Umberto D" etc.), Rossellini's work with Ingrid Bergman (specifically "Voyage to Italy," which also blends Hollywood stars and a Italian Neorealist director to explore hard truths about adult relationships) and Douglas Sirk melodramas.
As an aside, the mid-20th century European train setting made me pop in my Criterion disc of "Brief Encounter," and that made for a great double feature.
As far as the DVD itself goes, I thought it was excellent in terms of the restoration and digital transfer; you get 2 versions of the same film (plus the short starring Patti Page that was included with the theatrical release of "Indiscretion"); and an informative, good though not incredible commentary from the guy (Leonard Leff) who did the excellent Hitchcock/Selznick book (Hitchcock and Selznick: The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick). Enjoy.
Most recent customer reviews
As a fan of both Jones and Clift I was hoping for a hidden treasure here. This short [63 minutes] Italian production seems more like a movie missing its first hour. Read morePublished on Nov. 19 2003
It seems that the deities who preside over the fate of the movie lovers have heard my prayer of last year. Read morePublished on June 4 2003 by Daniel S.
Jennifer Jones and Mongomery Cliff, are a very romantic couple in this films, about a married woman with a child, who has an affair an dis in love with a man in whom she meets when... Read morePublished on May 4 2003 by Rosella Ann Myles
Well, firstly I think people should be aware that the european version of Vittorio de Sica's INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE is 120 minutes long and that the U.S. Read morePublished on March 13 2002 by Daniel S.
The running time on this film is only 63 minutes which is really quite enough time considering that it is basically plotless and is mainly a one hour farewell between an American... Read morePublished on July 15 2001 by Phillip O.
Slightly turgid and tepid programmer, INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE stars Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift as adulterous lovers in Rome. Read morePublished on May 14 2001 by Byron Kolln
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