Scen.: Romolo Marcellini, Niccolò Ferrari, Fede Arnaud, Giorgio Cecchi; Pre-Scen.: Gualtiero Zanetti, Sergio Valentini, Donato Martucci, Mario Craveri, Luigi Filippo D’Amico, Romolo Marcellini, Niccolò Ferrari; impostazione tecnica della scen.: Daniele G. Luisi; Commento: Donato Martucci, Corrado Sofia, Sergio Valentini; F.: Aldo Alessandri, Francesco Attenni, Libio Bartoli, Cesare Colò, Mario Damicelli, Renato Del Frate, Giovanni Della Valle, Angelo Filippini, Rino Filippini, Mario Fioretti, Angelo Jannarelli, Luigi Kuweiller, Emanuele Lomiry, Angelo Lotti, Erico Menczer, Ugo Nudi, Emanuele Piccirilli, Marco Scarpelli, Toni Secchi, Renato Sinistri, Giovanni Ventimiglia, Fausto Zuccoli; F. aerea: Mario Damicelli. M.: Mario Serandrei, Jolanda Benvenuti, Alberto Verdejo; Mu.: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, Armando Trovajoli; Voce narrante: Donato Martucci, Corrado Sofia, Sergio Valentini; Int.: Re Constantine II, Regina Frederika Louise Thyra, Rafer Johnson, Wilma Rudolph, Chris Von Saltza; Prod.: Istituto Nazionale Luce per C.O.N.I.; 35mm. D.: 124’.
The film was supposed to be called “Roma”. Four letters so definitive that only Fellini could have fired them eleven years later, at the height of his fame and his titles. Certainly though, at least in the subconscious of the Olympic Committee (the Italian National Olympic Committee headed by Andreotti ally Giulio Onesti) who co-produced the film with Istituto Luce, the footage of San Pietro, the Colosseum, and Castel S. Angelo from above were intended to compensate the Eternal City for the sort of joke, affront, or blasphemy of the helicopter carrying Christ and Marcello together in the opening sequences of La Dolce Vita. With La Grande Olimpiade, the postwar period, the reconstruction, and moderate cinema come to a close. The center-left would turn the documentary into its own chosen ground and hunting territory. Abebe Bikala, the barefoot Ethiopian, incarnated the last utopia of an Edenic and virginal sport, without shoes, labels, or business sponsors. With this soldier from Hailè Selassiè’s Imperial Guard, Nike would never have even been founded, or business would at least have been slow. Bikila was the last shred of dirt and poverty. Neorealism. Naturally so to speak, because filming the entire marathon, by night, on Via Appia Antica cost a fortune. But the idea of this two-thousand-year-old street by night, as it had never been seen before, even in the race of the chariots in Mervin Leroy’s Quo vadis?, or in the pomp of Hollywood on the Tevere (which took new breath and new incentives from these pagan exteriors, from the dawn of the world), proved to be one of the brightest ideas in the film. Marcellini’s film is more about the winners than the participants. He sacrifices moments of waiting, practices, qualifications, and eliminations, going straight to one on ones, final rounds, victories. However, the final result of this ultra-grandiose and ultra-nationalist work manages to appear balanced, or at least not brazenly homemade. Only the cycling was considered chauvinist. But those were excellent times for Italian track cyclists. While the space dedicated to Livio Berruti, who burned American sprinters with the release of a flock of doves, caused no scandal. La Grande Olimpiade is the last old style and the first modern film on the Games. Because the heroes were many (where Jessie Owens, who we see here as a spectator among Maria Gabriella of Savoia, Bing Crosby, Georgia Moll, and Lea Padovani, was an awkward show-stealer for Ms. Riefenstahl). Because the international versions were many. And at least two were ready immediately: an Anglo-American and a Japanese version. Moments to remember are Adolfo Consolini, Rafer Johnson, Igor Ter Ovanesian, Wilma Rudolph, the Kapitonov- Trappè duel, the Greek flashback, Rossellini’s Pompeii, the two Germanies united in a single delegation, just two years before the Wall, and director in the field Andreotti who gave the go ahead to President of the Republic Gronchi to declare the Games open. And above all, the music by Orson Welles’ favorite composer, Francesco Maria Lavagnino, who used a musical background of jingles, point and counterpoint that he had sold ten years earlier to Sandro Pallavicini’s Incom. Where all news, of all kinds and contents, was accompanied by his interludes and cheery notes.