Beth is a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors.
Mark Steven Johnson
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In order to celebrate the "Holy Year" of 1950, Pennsylvania priest Van Johnson (as John X. Halligan) decides to sail on a sabbatical to Italy. Aboard ship, Mr. Johnson befriends likable, gruff bunkmate Paul Douglas (as Joe Brewster). Johnson doesn't know it (yet), but Mr. Douglas is a swindler who just escaped from San Quentin. Douglas correctly realizes authorities will be looking to arrest him after the ship docks. He dons Johnson's priestly clothing and makes a quick getaway. Johnson is left to wear Douglas checkered green jacket and hat. Johnson is falsely arrested. Douglas is accepted by other priests in Rome. After the polizia sort things out, they want Johnson to assist in Douglas' capture...
However, Johnson becomes more interested in Douglas' soul...
One of MGM's most winning teams, director Clarence Brown and cinematographer William Daniels, make "When in Rome" very attractive. After arriving on location, the picture approaches art. A highlight in storytelling occurs when Douglas looks at cold, stark church-like walls and realizes they look very much like his former prison. The picture morphs into a prison, then fades back to a monastery look. This calls later events into question, but Douglas ends in a more tranquil setting; possibly, it shows the character "questioning" a transformation. Although he is billed second, the story is clearly about Douglas's character. The bigger "box office" name, Johnson is commendable and supportive in the less stellar role.
******* When in Rome (1952-05-11) Clarence Brown ~ Paul Douglas, Van Johnson, Joseph Calleia, Carlo Rizzo
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