I’ve never yet made a picture with any object in view other than to translate into moving pictures a story, a character, a love affair or a place which appeals to me and I would like to show to others. In a sense it’s a child’s desire, for like a child who finds a new toy, a strange animal or a brightly coloured flower, I want to show my discovery to others. I suppose that quality is what has made me become a film director.
What appealed to me in the idea of Summertime? Loneliness. Why? Because I think that loneliness is in all of us, it is a more common emotion than love, but we speak less about it. We are ashamed of it. We think perhaps that it shows a deficiency in ourselves. That if we were more attractive, more entertaining and less ordinary we would not be lonely.
The film is about a lonely woman who falls in love, and as I know no better remedy for the complaint I hope you will find it sympathetic.
David Lean: A Biography | Kevin Brownlow
All my life, I’ve stayed at parties too long because I didn’t know when to go.
All my life I stayed at parties too long because I didn’t know when to go.
The Truth About How Kate Hepburn Permanently Janked Her Eyes.
Shooting Summertime’s most famous scene, in which she takes a Chaplinesque fall into a canal, Hepburn developed medical symptoms of her own, although Lean refuses to take the full share of the blame that she continues to ascribe him.
“When David said, ‘You have to fall into the canal,’” says Hepburn, “I said, ‘Then, what the hell, I’ll fall into the goddamn canal.’ Anything to please David.”
“Nobody in his right mind would risk coming into contact with the water in Venice’s canals,” wrote Michael Korda, the son of Vincent, in his 1979 family saga, Charmed Lives. Telling of his boyhood visit to the set of Summertime, Korda reported, “The health authorities of Venice were anxious to avoid the scandal that would be caused by Miss Hepburn’s succumbing to typhoid, skin diseases, or dysnetery, and suggested that the scene be shot in a swimming pool. Miss Hepburn herself, having taken a good look at the water in the canal, was anything but enthusiastic about the prospects, but neither Vincent nor David Lean was willing to compromise with realism.”
When chlorine chemicals were poured into the water, Korda said, bubbles erupted, sending suds everywhere within camera range. Just when it appeared the day’s shooting would have been abandoned, Vincent Korda suggested that a wind machine blow clear the area. Michael Korda remembered Lean’s framing the scene with his hands.
Came time to walk the quay backward into the water, Hepburn was already smeared in Vaseline in order to protect her skin.
“I thought of everything except putting drops in my eyes,” she says, “and I’ve had one of those terrible eye infections ever since. Staphylococcus. And when you’ve got rusty hair and freckles as I do, the eyelids are weak.”
How many times did Hepburn have to take the plunge?
She flashes Churchill’s victory sign. “Twice,” she says. “The first time, somebody rushed in and tried to rescue me. Ruined the take. Can you imagine?” The would-be hero was a passing gondolier.
“I know Kate blames me for her eyes,” says Lean, “but it’s just not true. She was absolutely mad. Every day when we broke for lunch, she would make some remark about the terrible way she thought I was going to spend the hour, and then off she’d go with members of the crew rowing ahead of her in a boat to clear a path. She’d be swimming the canals.”
When Lean’s claim is repeated to Hepburn, she goes silent, then take both hands and clasps them firmly under her chin, and declares sotto voce:
“I am a fool.”
—excerpt from David Lean, by Stephen M. Silverman
Katharine Hepburn in David Lean’s Summertime