Friday, June 3, 2011

1. The Thirties: The Age of the "White Telephones" part four


by Ernesto G. LauraCompiled by A.N.I.C.A. (National Association of Motion Pictures and Affiliated Industries) Rome, ItalyEdited by CIES Soc. Coop. r.1 (Institute for the Promotion of Italian Motion Pictures Abroad) Rome, Italy under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment

One Italian city in particular had long occupied a conspicuous place in the theater, with a repertoire, actors and authors all its own. That city was Naples, a place of unrivaled magnificence and age-old culture and history, but also the emblem of a timeless poverty, capable of enclosing within itself the entire social and human drama of Southern Italy. From the escapades of Punchinello to the modern plays of Eduardo De Filippo runs an unbroken chain of characters, full of wit and "flavor", amusingly portrayed, in which high drama and personal tragedy are covered with gibes, mockery and derision. Ever since the days of silent films, in the 1910s and '20, Naples had carried its theatrical tradition to the screen, almost never, however, reducing it to mere "photographed theater". So that during the '30s, along with the "white telephones" and the popular, rose-colored comedies of Camerini, the Neapolitan comedy made its appearance.

In 1932, the same year of GLI UOMINI CHE MASCALZONI... (MEN, WHAT SCOUNDRELS...), a young Italian director, Alessandro Blasetti (born in 1900 in Rome), bought to the screen one of the most amusing and humane plays by the actor-playwright Raffaele Viviani: LA TAVOLA DEI POVERI (THE TABLE OF THE POOR). It's the story of an aristocrat, interpreted with an aloof
detachment tinged with irony by Viviani himself, whom, reduced to poverty, tells no one and acts as if he were still rich, even succeeding in collecting donations for a spectacular banquet for the poor people of the city. At this point, while not abandoning the light comical touch that distinguishes it, the play sinks its teeth into the social fabric with an earnestness unknown to films of the period. In films of this kind it is best to speak of "regional" comedy, linked to particular customs and traditions and stemming from dramatic works that use dialects instead of the Italian language. Among the Neapolitans, the De Flippos make their first appearances in films: Eduardo (born in 1900 also a director), Peppino (1905-1979) and Titina (1898-1963). Their films of the '30s are, however, generally unimportant, over-conditioned as they are their theatrical origins. From Sicily an important actor, Angelo Musco, reaches the screen with his repretoire of plays already tested on stage. And in the '40s the most distinguished Genoese dialectal actor, Gilberto Govi, would appear in films. But "regional" comedy was not encouraged by Fascism, which tended to root out the use of dialects and the local cultures identified with

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