Avanti! (1972) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoop's notes in white:

When you think of screen nudity, the names "Jack Lemmon" and "Juliet Mills" probably don't pop into your head. Perhaps they should, just based on this film. They went skinny dipping, Lemmon took a bath onscreen, and they had an apres-sex scene. By the time the film was over, everything had been exposed except Lemmon's willie.

I'm sure you all know who Jack Lemmon is. For you younger people, Juliet Mills was the sister of Hayley Mills. They were a couple of English actresses who started their careers as child stars, and had syrupy sweet Disneyesque images. I guess you might compare them to the Olsens today, sorta. As an adult, Juliet had starred in a sappy North American TV series called Nanny and the Professor. After that fizzled, she wanted to give her career more depth and to demonstrate she could handle a mature role, so Avanti! was the role that was to change her career around, breaking her away from her lily-white image.

The petite, diminutive Mills even gained 25 pounds in six weeks (under orders from Billy Wilder) in order to play the plump Pamela Piggott.

I can't say that it really helped her career. Two years later, she was offered the lead in an insane Eurocrap movie in which she played the mother of Satan's child, ala Rosemary's Baby, and then she basically headed back to television for the rest of her life, except for occasional bit parts in obscure movies.


  • Juliet Mills shows everything.
  • Jack Lemmon shows his buns.
  • Giselda Castrini shows her breasts

Mr. Lemmon did fine after the film, as you probably know. People promptly forgot the sight of his wrinkly butt, and his popularity continued unabated.

Avanti! is a Billy Wilder comedy. Billy Wilder is one of the greatest writers and directors in Hollywood history. There are six films in the IMDb Top 250 which were directed by Wilder in which he also receives a writing credit. That includes three of the Top 50!

  1. (8.59) - Double Indemnity (1944)
  2. (8.59) - Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  3. (8.50) - Some Like It Hot (1959)
  4. (8.39) - Apartment, The (1960)
  5. (8.29) - Stalag 17 (1953)
  6. (8.28) - Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Most of the great Wilder movies were made in the 50's and early 60's. Wilder and his favorite star, Jack Lemmon, still had some energy in the 1972 anti-establishment era, but they were still making the same kind of 50s movies, and the world had passed them by. By then this style really seemed quaint compared to Robert Altman's M.A.S.H. and some of the other new filmmakers of the time. Given the passage of thirty more years, the humor is badly dated now. You may not find it very funny at all, unless you are trapped in a time-warp and still like the style of comedies written by people like Neil Simon.

You know what? That didn't bother me much at all.

Even though I didn't think it was very funny, I still liked the movie. Even though it was old-fashioned even in its own time, and is therefore quite dated now, it is a sweeter comedy than Wilder's usual fare, and the characters are real and vulnerable enough to make the film retain its charm. To tell you the truth, it is an old-fashioned style of moviemaking that I miss. Wilder took a spectacular locale, placed three essentially nice human beings in that locale with a story conflict, and really explored those three characters in depth, spicing the stew with colorful local characters and customs. While Avanti! is not up to the level of Wilder's Jack Lemmon comedy classics, "Some Like it Hot" and "Irma La Douce", it isn't so bad either.

Lemmon plays a harried American businessman who is in Italy to arrange for his father's body to be transported back to the states. Mills is there for a virtually identical reason, except that in her case the deceased is her mother. It turns out that Lemmon's father and Mills's mother were lovers who had spent 10 years visiting the remote Italian resort for exactly one month each year. Mills was aware of her mother's fling, but Lemmon is now in shock because he thought his father, a powerful CEO, was a devoted husband and a pillar of abstemious puritan virtues. The dramatic/romantic arc of the film is for Lemmon to accept what his father was, then to lose some of his own pompous moral rectitude. It is the duty of Ms Mills to loosen up Lemmon's uptight corporate ass.

The sub-plots generate most of the humor in the film, and basically involve the buttoned-down and efficient corporate American trying to get the laid-back and bureaucratic Italians to snap to attention as if they were his employees back in Maryland. He wants his father's body back in Baltimore for a magnificent funeral which will be attended by every important person in America, including Henry Kissinger, and he wants everything processed within a time frame that is ludicrous by Italian standards. The locals resist his bullying, and go about their normal process of filling out meaningless paperwork, taking all-day lunches, doing nothing on weekends, and scamming off every dollar they can scam from him. The director of the local hotel, who is the third main character in the film, uses his local knowledge and personal contacts to navigate the Italian culture and bribe the right judges.

DVD info from Amazon

  • 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic

  • there are no meaningful features, but this is a perfect transfer except for the credit sequence, which looks time-worn.

Avanti! is not one of Wilder's best (he was 66 at the time it was made), but mediocre Wilder is still a pretty easy watch. I found it a very pleasant way to pass two hours.

And it must hold Wilder's personal record for the most nudity in one of his films.

It's a must-own for film buffs, and it is a must-watch for film nudity buffs, since it is the only screen flesh from Mills.


I only have a few things to add.

The moral attitude expressed in the film was post sexual liberation, but pre feminism - very much early 70's, and far more sexually open than today's climate. Juliet Mill's character had nothing against being a sex object, or having an affair, Lemmon's character considered extramarital sex perfectly OK, and the film praises their decision to meet for a month of frolic every year.

Scoop mentioned Juliet's more famous sister, Hayley, but didn't mention that they were daughters of John Mills, beloved actor who is  ranked #88 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]. Vivian Leigh, Godmother of Juliet said, "Of the two, it is Hayley who inherited John's acting talent."  The girls' mother is the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell.

The Critics Vote

  • It was nominated for the Golden Globe for best Musical or Comedy, and five other Globes. Jack Lemmon was the only winner, for best actor in a musical or comedy.

The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a B-. Big sentimental mass audience kind of feel-good movie with rich characterizations, lots of sexy nudity from Ms Mills. Tuna says, "I also enjoyed this film immensely, and found Juliet absolutely charming. This is a B-."

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