Baltimore industrialist Wendell Armbruster crosses paths with London shop girl Pamela Piggott when they come to Ischia to pick up the bodies of her mother and his father, who have been killed in an automobile accident after a ten-year summertime affair. Straitlaced Wendell tries to avoid a scandal while free-spirited Pamela is impressed by the romantic setting. After some confusion with the bodies and a blackmail attempt by unscrupulous locals, Wendell and Pamela extend their parent’s affair into the next generation. —IMDb
Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city’s largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Wilder immediately realized his Jewish ancestry would cause problems, so he emigrated to Paris, then the US. Although he spoke no English when he arrived in Hollywood, Wilder was a fast learner, and thanks to contacts such as Peter Lorre (with whom he shared an apartment), he was able to break into American films. His partnership with Charles Brackett started in 1938 and the team was responsible for writing some of Hollywood’s classic comedies, including Ninotchka (1939) and Ball of Fire (1941). The partnership expanded into a producer-director one in 1942, with Brackett producing, and the two turned out such classics… read more
In the 1970s Wilder made two incredible films that almost no one seems to know about. This is one of them. His late 60s comedies became so dyspeptically nasty that they had stopped being funny. With Avanti and Sherlock Holmes, Wilder rediscovered his lyrical side. The character of Miss Piggot is one of Wilder/Diamond's best creations and Juliet Mills is absolutely delightful. It is perhaps better than The Apartment.
Oddly enough I've always seemed to gravitate towards Wilder's lesser known films. Avanti! may be a little overlong but the strongest portions are among his best and maybe his best synthesis of trademark cynicism and his knack for love stories(well along with The Apartment). You could even say that it's one of the few films to acknowledge that cynicism is in arguably a form of sentimentality. A must see.