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Tea with Mussolini (1999)

PG | | Drama, Comedy, War | 14 May 1999 (USA)
An orphaned Italian boy is raised among a circle of British and American women living in Mussolini's Italy before and during the Second World War.

Director:

Franco Zeffirelli

Writers:

John Mortimer, Franco Zeffirelli (autobiography)

On Disc

at Amazon

Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cher ... Elsa Morganthal Strauss-Armistan
Judi Dench ... Arabella
Joan Plowright ... Mary Wallace
Maggie Smith ... Lady Hester Random
Lily Tomlin ... Georgie Rockwell
Baird Wallace Baird Wallace ... Luca
Charlie Lucas Charlie Lucas ... Luca (Child)
Massimo Ghini ... Paolo Guarnieri
Paolo Seganti ... Vittorio Fanfanni
Claudio Spadaro ... Mussolini
Mino Bellei Mino Bellei ... Cesare
Paul Chequer ... Wilfred Random, aka Miss Lucy
Tessa Pritchard Tessa Pritchard ... Connie Raynor
Michael Williams ... British Consul
Paula Jacobs Paula Jacobs ... Molly
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Storyline

In 1935 a group of elderly British women, whom the Italians have named the Scorpioni, have chosen Italy, specifically Florence, as a place to live to blend their proper British sensibilities with their love of Italian art and culture. One of those Scorpioni, Mary Walsh, works as the English secretary for Paolo Innocente, who, in part because of his own wife's adamant refusal, largely neglects his illegitimate adolescent son, Luca, despite Paolo's want for Luca to grow up to be a proper young man, much like the English. Luca has lived in an orphanage since his dressmaker mother's death, death a concept that Luca does not yet understand. As such, he often runs away looking for his mother. On a mutual agreement between Paolo and Mary, Mary becomes Luca's guardian, she who will receive help in raising Luca by her fellow Scorpioni and financial help from Paolo as needed. Associated with the Scorpioni is a brash younger nouveau riche Jewish-American woman named Elsa Morgenthal, who, because... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of civilized disobedience

Genres:

Drama | Comedy | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements, language, brief nudity and some mild violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

Italy | UK

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

14 May 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Chá com Mussolini See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£123,788 (United Kingdom), 4 April 1999, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,633,183, 16 May 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$14,348,123, 24 October 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Vanessa Redgrave and Angela Lansbury were first considered for the roles of Lady Hester and Mary, but due their schedule problems they were replaced by Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. See more »

Goofs

The breaking news radio announcement reporting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor also included information about President Roosevelt's speech the next day and the subsequent US declaration of war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. In effect it was a summary of two days' events and wouldn't be a breaking news announcement. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Title Card: Florence 1935.
Title Card: The love affair between the artistically-inclined English community and Florence was soon to be overshadowed by the clouds of war.
Title Card: But at the moment the sun is still shining on the squares and statues, and the dictator Mussolini is the gentleman who makes the trains run on time.
Connie Raynor: Excuse me, are you the Consul?
British Consul: Yes.
Connie Raynor: Connie Raynor of the Morning Post. I'm fascinated to know what His Majesty's Consul in Florence makes of it all?
British Consul: I can't believe your readers would be ...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

The MGM DVD, ISBN 0-7928-4300-2, is missing least one shot: The original tea with Mussolini scene ends with Mussolini forcing himself upon the reporter, forcing her onto his desk (i.e., he rapes her.) This DVD omits that ending and leaves the reporter's change in behavior unexplained. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Last Man Standing: Mother Fracker (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Mattinata Fiorentina
Written by D'Anzi, Galdieri
Performed by Alberto Rabagliati
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Zeffirelli Gets Nostalgic About How He Learned to Love Shakespeare
7 October 2005 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

It's certainly not clear how fictionalized a version of Zeffirelli's autobiography "Tea With Mussolini" is, what with the usual disclaimers at the end. Even presuming this is just a riff off an incident in his life, that he had some contact with memorable English ladies, it's clearly his tribute to where his love of English literature comes from, particularly Shakespeare. He's done several Shakespeare interpretations-- movies, opera and play directing. The film has a lovely scene of him being first introduced to acting out "Romeo & Juliet" with puppets, as well as constant quotes from Shakespeare throughout about war and his situation.

I was surprised how good the movie was - I was in tears several times, especially with visuals that bring up the same comparisons as "The Train" did, with art vs. war, humanity's heights of creativity vs. its lows of prejudice and violence.

These Oscar-winning ladies are absolutely terrific, yes including Cher. One elderly gentleman behind me complained that Maggie Smith basically always plays the same character but I thought her character does change towards the end. The others were certainly not their usual on-screen personas, Judi Dench as a free-spirited artist, Joan Plowright as a quite warm-hearted grandmotherly type, and Lily Tomlin a hoot as a butch archaeologist.

But why choose bland Italian actors for them to play off of? To make the Scorpioni, as they are called, stand out more? The Italians seemed stereotyped to me, Latin lover, ignorant peasants not appreciating their ancient artistic heritage.

What the movie also brought to mind is how few Italian movies have dealt with their fascist past as much as the French have been exploring their consciences of collaboration in film. Sure "Garden of Finzi Continis," "Two Women" and "Life Is Beautiful" show arrests, etc. but I don't get the sense of soul searching as to how did this happen here and could it again? Just because they didn't have Shakespeare and appreciate the treasures of the Uffizi as this film implies? (originally written 5/15/1999)


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