And now, all of a sudden, we are out of 1953 and into 1954 and the second number two song that is from a movie - The Caddy, a Martin and Lewis golfing comedy that was (presumably) a hit, though that movie was set in the green country clubs of the US and not in 'old Napoli' where the heart of the song resides. By now it might seem a little cloying, clichéd, cheesy even - mandolins, a small chorus of men and women, and Martin himself gliding along the words like a bird riding a thermal, effortlessly cool and winking along.
At first I thought this was a traditional song, but in fact it was written for the movie and its references to 'pizza pie' and 'pastafazool' show several things - the food of Italy was known well enough in the US and the UK to be understood (perhaps more so in the US, but the flood of Italian immigrants to the UK in the 50s cannot be forgotten) and also considered hip and fashionable. As Italy recovered from the war, the world embraced its culture and that includes transport (Vespa scooters), food (pizza, cappuccino bars, the now-UK-ubiquitous spaghetti bolognaise) and above all cinema - from what I can tell, the movies came first, and then the rest followed.
So how appropriate, then, for this romantic near-waltz to be from a movie? And sung by an Italian-American (one who understands the absent-minded daze of amore – not that say, Sinatra couldn’t sing this, but there is a smile in Martin’s voice that is warming and understanding in a way that is just right for this song) as well? What more could be asked for! As someone in love I can well vouch for the clouds at the feet, the moon hitting my eye, the oddly drunken streets and glowing faces...so if this song seems like a relatively old-fashioned one, it still stands for a condition that existed long before it was written, and not just in Naples (still the home of the best pizza in the world), either. (I would like to note that my Italian mother-in law immigrated to Glasgow during this time and brought some vita bella with her and I bless her for it.)