Luci del varietà

Curated by Tatti Sanguineti

The «rivista» (revue) is an utterly Italian show that came after the war and before the television. Some of them were magnificent, while most were disjointed. Running after gigs and cash which were nowhere to be found, the heroes of the reviews lived a dog’s life, jumping about like fleas as they crossed the mountains and the Apennines week after week. During the final parade around the forestage, front row and gallery seats, rich and poor alike – all equally starved – devoured for the first time, from two, three, or four meters, six, eight, twelve pairs of female legs. By filming their own ladies’ legs, Fellini and Lattuada earned only debts and bills (Luci del varietà), while by simply packaging three separate reviews onto a single reel (I pompieri di Viggiù), a former failure of an actor became Dino De Laurentiis.


My father, who was a business, not a literary man, hated all theater, except for variety and the revue. At most he would allow an operetta. When my mother, who was a cultured and truly intellectual woman, tried to drag him to see Pirandello or to the Tristano, he would desperately resist, repeating every time a verse from Gozzano, without knowing of course that it was a verse or that it was by Gozzano: Oh, mi a teatro i vad për divertime! (Oh, I go to the theater to have a good time!) I felt the same way. A good comedy, a good tragedy, even a piece of music, if you know how to read music or if you have a gramophone, they can all be enjoyed from the comfort of your arm chair, at home. When I go out, I want something different. Indeed, I want to have a good time; and as freely as possible.

Mario Soldati


Vita da cani shows the life of the variety show: the actor exits the hotel, leaving a suitcase full of paper: «I’ll be back to pay later, I left my suitcase in the room», never to return… It was to the point where we would buy cloth suitcases at the Standa department store, which cost one lire at that time. Once I had Mario Carotenuto as my straight man – great guy – who pretended to be my secretary. He would go downstairs half an hour earlier, leaving the suitcase full of paper in the room, and say «My fees go on the commander’s bill», and then he’d leave. The desire to work kept us together. We would steal each other’s jokes, which we couldn’t help but notice, and sometimes we’d even get into fist fights over it. The stars of today have never experienced what we’re talking about. Let’s just say it – living on bread and water.

Tino Scotti