Cast & Crew
Aldo De Benedetti
The tragic love story between Guido, the owner of a marble quarry and Luisa, the humble daughter of one of his employees, ends up in her giving birth to a baby boy. Giulio's mother is against them: at first she takes her son abroad with an excuse and then has her grandson kidnapped making Luisa think the boy died in a fire.
Nobody's Children (1951)
With over forty features to his credit, Matarazzo began in the early days of Italian cinema's sound era with The Telephone Operator in 1932, a comedy that marked a career change for him after working as a film critic for the Italian newspaper Il Tevere and a part-time script editor. He was already a popular (though not always critically respected) name when he embarked on this film, entitled I figli di nessuno in its native country and the third to feature the Nazzari / Sanso pairing (after 1949's popular Chains and 1950's Tormento). As with his prior films, this was released by Titanus in Italy and proved to a success with audiences swept up in its torrential dramatics involving a romance between marble quarry owner Guido Canali (Nazari) and the younger Luisa (Sanson), daughter of one of his night watchman, who conceive a child much to the consternation of his mother (Françoise Rosay).
The influence of Chains was still felt when this film opened three years later; in fact, its status as one of postwar Italy's biggest successes (and a notable contrast to the more famous neorealist films being made at the time) ensured its depiction as a milestone in Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso in 1988. The visual style has aged well, influencing not only Italian directors but other international ones like Pedro Almodóvar. "For all the defiantly old-fashioned, pre-Method acting (the actors "indicate" their emotions with stylized, silent film gestures), the visuals are remarkably clean, clear and modern," noted Dave Kehr in a 2011 piece for The New York Times, "with an emphasis on extended, uncluttered two-shots... And while the plots may be full of extravagant coincidences and wild implausibilities, they are presented with an impeccable sense of proportion and balance, of forms fulfilled with Mozartian grace."
In a unique break from their usual pattern, the leads played the same roles (well, sort of) in Matarazzo's sequel, The White Angel, which was made four years later. (In the interim he made the splashy 1953 adventure The Ship of Condemned Women, which was one of his rare titles to achieve an official theatrical release in the United States.) Though they are best viewing in sequence, you can leap into either story and enjoy the whiplash succession of plot twists and tragedies that unspool on the way to their intense climaxes. That approach has led to new generations of devotees with the home video era, such as a Slant overview from Glenn Heath Jr. in 2001 noting that "Matarazzo's cinema may be immersed in massive amounts of suffering, but his films also provide a sense of resiliency that is both hopeful and sturdy." Perhaps it is that ultimately positive outlook and unabashed sense of romantic excess that has made films like this not only age gracefully but become even more appealing over the advancing years.