Sog.: dalla novella omonima di Giovanni Verga (1873). F.: Giovanni Tomatis, Segundo de Chomón. Int.: Pina Menichelli (la contessa Natka), Alberto Nepoti (Giorgio La Ferita), Febo Mari (Dolski), Gabriele Moreau (il conte), Ernesto Vaser (ricco droghiere), Valentina Frascaroli (Erminia). Prod.: Itala Film · 35mm. L.: 1592 m. D.: 79’ a 18 f/s.
In the copy of Tigre reale we know of today, after her life as a diva sowing passion and death, Countess Natka (Pina Menichelli) redeems herself with a hurried happy ending: the great fire in the hotel where she went to die at her lover’s side offers her a symbolic rebirth from the flames of sin and providentially frees her from her husband. Not only does the faithless dark lady escape being punished by fate, but she also recovers from her misdeed and can bask in the joy of mutual love.
This ending may surprise those familiar with the Italian mentality of the time, which usually celebrated the sacrificial role of women, whether bride or a ‘woman led astray’. A mystery of a seemingly different nature is Valentina Frascaroli’s role in the film. Announced by the opening credits and praised in reviews, there is no trace of her in the copy we have today. Is something not right?
Study of production documents and period reviews confirm that this is the case. The surviving ending is from a special English version, apparently adapted to a public with a more open mind. Originally, the characters’ fate was quite different: like Verga’s novel on which the film is based, when Natka returns to Giorgio, he is not engaged to an expendable girlfriend but married to Erminia and the father of a baby. The alternation between passion and family is translated into alternating scenes of the lovers’ nocturnal tryst and the wife/mother’s desperation as she keeps watch over her son suddenly ill with diphtheria. Pastrone called on Valentina Frascaroli to play the difficult part of Erminia, the counterpart to Menichelli’s magnetic presence. A trace of her performance lives on in the frames stitched on to the ‘color sample’, a production document used as an aid by lab technicians who edited and dyed the film.