MARIO LANZA could count among his devoted fans an unexpected ally: the Papacy. The American tenor was a favourite of the Vatican City, which displayed its support by allowing The Seven Hills of Rome to become the first feature film to shoot within their walls.
Lanza’s charm, built on a golden voice and good looks, swept the world when he played The Great Caruso (1951). After four middling movies, the singer returned to form with this escapist romantic musical which Variety labelled “a vocal tour-de-force”.
In Seven Hills of Rome Lanza plays Marc Revere, a singer who leaves America to get away from his fiancée Carol (PEGGIE CASTLE) after a bitter argument. Arriving in Europe, he is determined to resume his career but first intervenes to rescue Raffaella (MARISA ALLASIO), an Italian girl left penniless. The pair finds refuge with Marc’s cousin (RENATO RASCEL), and Marc finds a job at a local Music Hall. The fortunes of the trio prosper until the sudden arrival of Carol, who has tracked Marc down and is determined to get him back, regardless of the consequences, and unaware that he has fallen for Rafaella, and must make a decision which will change all their lives.
The film remains a testament to diversity: Rascel has some of the best comic moments and also wrote the song Arrivederci Roma (which became the film’s American title) while Lanza adds a human angle to his vocal skills in the role of the unlucky in love crooner. Cinematographer Tonino Delli Coli, who brings the Eternal City to life and makes the most of those exclusive locations, continues to work and at the age of 74 shot the Oscar-winning Life Is Beautiful (1998) for Roberto Benigni.
Cast and crew wrapped the English version before making a second version, shot entirely in Italian dialogue, back-to-back.
USA – Italy / MGM – Titanus / 104 minutes / 1957 Filmed in Technirama
Writers: Art Cohn, Giorgio Prosperi (from a story by Guiseppe Amato) / Musical Director: George Stoll / Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli / Producer: Lester Welch / Director: Roy Rowland
Cast: Mario Lanza, Renato Rascel, Marisa Allasio, Peggie Castle, Clelia Matania, Carlo Rizzo, Rossella Corno, Guido Celano