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The working title of this film was After the Storm. It was released in Italy as Stromboli, terra di Dio. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was initially titled Stromboli, but was changed to After the Storm during the early part of filming, and was then changed back to Stromboli. Italian producer Ferruccio Caramello, who was making a picture with director William Dieterle at the same time, also titled Stromboli, protested the switch, but eventually released his film as Vulcano. The English-language version of Stromboli includes an offscreen narrator, who introduces the characters and comments intermittently on the story's action. In the viewed print, the Italian production company is listed as both "Bero Films" and "Berit Films." The picture was copyrighted as a "Bero Film" production, but according to Screen Achievements Bulletin, the official title of the company was Societ per Azioni Berit. (Modern sources note that Berit Films was formed by Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman specifically for the production of this film.) Although most of the film's sparse dialogue is spoken in English, some scenes are played in Italian.
According to a news item, Rossellini was originally scheduled to make the film with Samuel Goldwyn. Modern sources claim that Bergman approached Goldwyn personally about making a picture with Rossellini, who had earned international acclaim with his post-war film Roma, citt aperta (Open City), but Goldwyn backed out of the deal after viewing another Rossellini picture, Germania anno zero (Germany, Year Zero). The entire picture was shot in Italy, including Stromboli, Messina, Rome and at a concentration camp in Farfa, near Rome, according to news items. Modern sources note that because of the extreme temperatures on the island, filming was very difficult. Rossellini was forced to shoot scenes over many times, and Bergman had to do her own makeup and worked without a double, even during the volcano climbing scenes. The volcano erupted during filming, and a director's assistant suffered a fatal heart attack after he was overcome by the its fumes, according to modern sources. Modern sources add that Rossellini cast fisherman he had met on the way to the island in the roles of "Antonio" and the lighthouse keeper.
News items reported that, according to the terms of Rossellini's contract with RKO, the director was required to turn over all of his unedited footage to the studio. Modern sources claim that RKO, which put up most of the film's budget, initially agreed to allow Rossellini to edit an Italian version of the film in exchange for surrendering the film to the studio and putting Berit's stock, which Rossellini and Bergman controlled, in escrow. Rossellini's Italian version would then serve as a guide for the American version. However, when Rossellini withheld the Berit stock, modern sources note, an RKO executive hid the shot footage in Italy, and it was eventually shipped to Hollywood, where it was edited without the director's input. According to Hollywood Reporter, Rossellini protested the studio's editing of the film, claiming that RKO's version was radically different from his original vision. Ned Depinet, the president of RKO, defended the studio's version in the press, saying that "no major changes in the picture" were made and insisting that if RKO had not "put the picture together it would not have been understood" in the U.S.
Modern sources note that the significant difference between the 81 minute American version and the 105 minute Italian version was in the ending. In a telegram included in the MPAA files at the AMPAS Library, Father Flix Morlion beseeched PCA director Joseph I. Breen to compare the film's original script with RKO's cut version, as he was concerned that the "religious theme" he wrote into the screenplay had been lost. Morlion, who did not receive an onscreen credit, added that Stromboli marked the first time that a Roman Catholic priest had been given permission to write a screenplay, and worried that his "superiors" would see the RKO version. In the Italian version, according to modern sources, the religious theme is more strongly emphasized. According to Daily Variety, the running time of the preview print was 87 minutes, suggesting that approximately six minutes was cut for the general release.
During the film's production, Bergman and Rossellini, both of whom were married at the time, began an affair, news of which was broken in the press by Louella Parsons and later was reported worldwide. According to Bergman's autobiography, filming shut down for three days so that her then-husband, Dr. Petter Lindstrom, could meet with her and beg for a reconciliation. Hollywood Reporter reported that RKO owner Howard Hughes denied that he had sanctioned the shut-down. Although Bergman soon became pregnant and eventually divorced her husband and married Rossellini, the resulting scandal not only affected the release of this film, but led to Bergman's long-term ostracism from Hollywood. She did not again appear in an American production until the 1956 film Anastasia, after her divorce from Rossellini.
The Variety review noted that "probably no film in history has received as much publicity as Stromboli." In its review of a January 26, 1950 preview screening, Daily Variety commented that, because the "making of the picture was attendant with an international scandal," it was suspending its usual practice of reviewing only the final release print. According to Daily Variety, after a Long Beach preview, news services flashed "the opinions of unnamed executives and exhibitors as to the merits of the film." RKO expressed concern that audiences would be inappropriately amused or distracted by scenes in which "Karin" discusses her pregnancy, and suggested they be cut. Rossellini protested the proposal, claiming that the pregnancy was crucial to the story's ending, as it supplies the reason why "Karin" chooses to return to the island, "redemption through motherhood."
Because of the scandal, Stromboli was banned in several cities. Contemporary items report the following about the film's distribution: The chief of censorship in Memphis, who banned Stromboli and all future Bergman films, described the actress as a "disgrace not only to her profession but to all American women." In February 1950, U.S. Congressman Ed Gossett of Texas condemned a screening of the picture in Washington, D.C., noting that "support for such a film is a dangerous indication of the slackening of the moral code." Other Congressmen attacked the film, and in October 1950, Rossellini filed a libel action against Senator Edwin C. Johnson for calling him a "scoundrel" in the Italian press.
Despite the publicity surrounding the bans, the total number of theaters that actually refused to screen the picture was relatively low. In response to threatened bans, RKO announced that it would pursue legal action against any theater that refused to show the film, stating that bans could not be issued based solely on the personal lives of the actors. RKO's position was strengthened by the fact that Bergman and Rossellini's newborn son was baptized in Rome, and the powerful Catholic Church refused to condemn the picture. In addition, the National Council on Freedom of Censorship, an affiliate of the ACLU, undertook action to prevent the boycotts. According to the MPAA files, Breen was concerned about the film's advertising, especially print ads that included the words "This is it!" an obvious allusion to the scandal. Breen conceded, however, that he was powerless to stop the ads.
In November 1950, RKO sued Bergman and Rossellini in an attempt to gain sole ownership of the film's foreign rights, which had been challenged by Rossellini. Rossellini then instigated legal proceedings in Italy and France to prevent Stromboli from being shown there. The dispositions of these lawsuits is not known. Variety reported in October 1950 that, for unknown reasons, the film was doing much better business in drive-ins than in regular theaters. The exact date of the Italian opening of the picture has not been determined; modern sources list the release year as both 1949 or 1950. Modern sources list Roberto Gerardi and Ajace Parolin as cameramen along with Luciano Trasatti, and Jolanda Benvenuti as editor of the Italian version of the picture.