19 March 2023

If you are convinced, that is quite enough for me

Enticed by today's letter, I recently watched David Lean's Summertime (1955), a film I liked much more than anticipated. Based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents, Summertime is the story of a lonely, middle-aged American woman who takes a holiday to Venice, where she falls in love with an Italian antiques dealer. The film was entirely shot on location in Venice during the peak tourist season in the summer of 1954, containing beautiful images of the city (shot in glorious Technicolor).

The lovely images of Venice aside, the main draw of the film is its leading lady, the inimitable Katharine Hepburn, who gives one of her finest performances as the insecure and vulnerable Jane Hudson. Following the completion of her MGM contract in 1952, Hepburn had spent two years relaxing and travelling before accepting the role in David Lean's film (being free now to choose her own projects). In the letter below to Lean, written on 11 January 1954, Katharine shows her excitement about the film and especially her excitement about working with Lean, of whom she was "a wild fan". Hepburn's sensitive performance eventually earned her an Oscar nomination but she lost to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo. 

While David Lean directed such well-known classics as Brief Encounter (1945), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), of all the films he had made Summertime was his personal favourite. Katharine Hepburn was Lean's favourite actor to work with, and he once said about her: "She’s a joy. She’s a wonderful technician and she has I think a great, great gift. On top of that, I happen to like her very much personally. She’s a great human being." 

Above: A scene from Summertime with Katharine Hepburn as Jane Hudson and Rossano Brazzi as Renato de Rossi, the man she falls in love with. Below: Hepburn is dripping wet after doing the scene where she falls into the canal; here she is pictured with director David Lean. Hepburn performed her own stunt and ended up with a chronic eye infection.

Source: liveauctioneers


 I - 11 - 54

Dear David Lean - 

I finally got your letter a week ago - It all sounds thrilling + I'm certain that it will be wonderful - If you are convinced - that is quite enough for me - I am a wild fan of yours - I think that you are absolutely great - I told your wife [Ann Todd] this once when I went backstage to see her after Seventh Veil - You have never disillusioned me - In fact Sound Barrier was to me the most shattering of all - You are a sensitive intelligent + imaginative creature - + if you are enthusiastic about me - I am thrilled - wasn't mad about the play but certainly see what you intend - + see it all now in a lovely rosy glow - am intoxicated at the prospect - have read since I heard how you felt - I hope it pleases you to hear all these nice things - for it is so lovely to feel them - 

Kate Hepburn

Seriously or with all effort at constructive thought - I believe showing what she comes from is very important - + please know that when I talked to [art director Vincent] Korda + [producer Ilya] Lopert - I had only seen the play - + should have kept my mouth shut - I thought I was to see [playwright] Arthur L[aurents]- before he left - Give him our best + you both have my enthusiastic thoughts.

David Lean and Katharine Hepburn on the set of Summertime. Like Hepburn, Lean had received an Oscar nomination for Summertime but he lost to Delbert Mann for Marty.


  1. Wow, what an amazing letter! Miss Hepburn certainly didn't hold back! I wasn't wild about Summertime when I saw it, but I think I will give it another try after reading this.

    1. I really liked the film and thought Hepburn was great in it. Thanks for dropping by!