Sog.: Federico Fellini. Scen.: Federico Fellini, Alberto Lattuada, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano. F.: Otello Martelli. M.: Mario Bonotti. Scgf.: Aldo Buzzi. Mus.: Felice Lattuada. Int.: Peppino De Filippo (Checco Dal Monte), Carla Del Poggio (Liliana Antonelli), Giulietta Masina (Melina Amour), John Kitzmiller (Johnny), Folco Lulli (Adelmo Conti), Carlo Romano (Enzo La Rosa), Franca Valeri (Mitzy). Prod.: Mario Ingrami per Film Capitolium. DCP. Bn.
His screenwriting was so successful (for Rossellini, Germi and Lattuada, among others), that the young Fellini had never even considered trying his hand at directing. The man who encouraged him to cross the Rubicon was the experienced director Alberto Lattuada. I remember the Milanese filmmaker telling me: “In the period from 1947 to 1949, Federico did some excellent screenwriting work on three of my films (Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo, Senza pietà and Il mulino del Po); therefore, while we were writing the fourth, about the bitter life of a group of third-rate variety show performers, it came quite naturally to me to propose that he should co-direct it. And it turned out to be a wonderful experience, one of the happiest times of my life. I took care of the technical aspects, remaining behind the camera; however, by way of nods and glances I was continually in touch with my co-director, who was always by my side; whereas Federico, for his part, mainly directed the actors”. […] “I recognise it as mine,” said Fellini, “for it contains many personal memories, some true, others invented, and a smalltown atmosphere that I knew well… But maestro Alberto Lattuada always supported me, with his decision-making ability and wealth of experience. Alberto was the director, the one who said ‘action’, ‘silence’, ‘cut’; I stayed by his side, marvellously content with my lack of responsibilities”.
Aldo Tassone, Fellini 23½. Tutti i film, Edizioni Cineteca di Bologna 2020
There is a tradition based on the life of variety-show comedians set up around a few formulas: the career crowned by sudden success (the protagonist replaces the star); the renunciation of love for the sake of career (the audience as one vast object of love); the harsh necessity of having to put the show before personal affairs (Ridi, pagliaccio!, as in the famous aria by Leoncavallo). Many films have been made along these lines […]. The world of the variety show belongs to the picaresque tradition, full of unexpected events and sexual escapades, as carefree as childhood […]. One of the qualities of Lattuada and Fellini’s film seems to be its indifference towards old, worn-out dramatic solutions. Near the end there is a short scene where the female protagonist, finally half-naked on stage (as she has always dreamed), displays her gratitude for the audience’s applause with tears in her eyes: it is a cruel apotheosis, crowning a whole series of observations on the nature of the performers, on their idea of success and art, which makes this a unique film (although not without its faults) and places it above the ‘pleasant’ side of the genre.
Ennio Flaiano, “Il Mondo”, May 1951