For the Lombardo family (and so also for Italian cinema) I figli di nessuno was a kind of recurring obsession. A kind of family affair, that ended up involving millions of people. Ruggero Rindi’s novel, the first known edition of which dates back to 1908, was made into three films. In two instances, we are talking about two epic films (which were also immensely popular). The first version is this film from 1921, produced by Gustavo Lombardo’s Lombardo Film and starring Giselda Lombardi (better known by her screen name Leda Gys). At the time, Lombardo and Lombardi were not yet married, but they already had a son named Goffredo. Thirty years later, Gustavo died, and his son took over the reins of the company, which had changed its name to Titanus. The first production entirely overseen by Goffredo was another I figli di nessuno, the third chapter of a tearjerker series hatched with devilish efficacy by Raffaello Matarazzo (with the complicity of the irreplaceable couple Nazzari-Sanson). To be precise, between the two was another version, too bogged down with mysticism to be compared with the other two: another Titanus production, directed by Giulio Antamoro and Federico Sinibaldi, that came out in 1943 titled L’angelo bianco (The White Angel). At this point the overlapping between films gets a bit maddening, considering that The White Angel is also the title of the sequel to I figli di nessuno, which Titanus-Matarazzo-Nazzari-Sanson masterfully brought to the screen in 1955… The story of the various I figli di nessuno is as intricate as a serial novel.
Going back to the 1921 film, we can find some food for thought in an old article: “Characters who suffer because they are victims of social injustice or engulfed by human and eternal passions or crushed by a cruel, blind fate. Stories rooted in the truth of everyday life, truth that is not sought in external facts but in the tangibility of each person’s existence.” Those are words written by Matarazzo in 1955 in the Italian newspaper “L’Unità”. But he is not writing about the silent movie that he (probably) ©never saw. He is talking about his own cinema and his own aesthetic idea of melodrama.
I figli di nessuno (both versions!) is a pulsating experience, dreamlike and realistic, comforting and cruel.
Cast and Credits
T. int.: Nobody’s Children. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1908) di Ruggero Rindi. Scen.: Ubaldo Maria Del Colle. F.: Vito Armenise. Int.: Leda Gys (Luisa), Ubaldo Maria Del Colle (Poldo), Ermanno Roveri (Gualberto ‘Balilla’), Alberto Nepoti (Arnaldo Carani), Léonie Laporte (contessa Carani), Ignazio Lupi (il curato), Giulio Berenzone (il padre di Luisa), Rita Almanova (Edvige). Prod.: Lombardo Film. DCP. Col. (from a tinted nitrate print).
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Pauline Saint-Hilaire (StudioCanal), Roy Menarini (Università di Bologna) and Anna Masecchia (Università di Napoli)
Pauline Saint-Hilaire (StudioCanal) and Roy Menarini (Università di Bologna)
Music composed and directed by Maud Nelissen, performed by The Sprockets:
Daphne Balvers (soprano saxophone), Frido ter Beek (alto saxophone), Peter Keijsers (trombone), Marco Ludemann (banjo, jazz guitar, mandolin), Alexander Vocking (contrabass), Rombout Stoffers (drums, effects, accordion) and Maud Nelissen (piano)