Cast & Crew
Vittorio De Sica
At a track near Rome, shoeshine boys are watching horses run. Two of the boys Pasquale, an orphan, and Giuseppe, his younger friend are riding. The pair have been saving to buy a horse of their own to ride... The boys meet Attilio, Giuse's much older brother, and his shady friend at a boat on the Tiber. In return for a commission, the boys agree to deliver black market goods to a fortune-teller. Once the woman has paid, Attilio's gang suddenly arrives. Pretending to be cops, they shake the woman down. With a payoff from Attilio, the boys are able to make the final payment and stable their horse in Trastevere over the river... The fortune-teller identifies Pasqua and Giuse. Held at an overcrowded boys' prison, they are separated. Giuse falls under the influence of an older lad in his cell, Arcangeli. During interrogation, Pasqua is tricked into betraying Giuse's brother to the police. With their trial still in the future, the two friends are driven further apart...
Vittorio De Sica
Best Writing, Screenplay
The story follows two boys, Pasquale and Giuseppe, as they scrape together enough money to buy a beloved horse for 50,000 lire. But their desperate financial situation soon leads them into petty crime and black market dealings. Eventually, the two wind up in prison where they are separated and pressured to inform on each other. In the tragic finale, one of the boys is driven to a violent act which completes this devastating portrait of innocence corrupted.
Following the advice of American-born producer Paolo William Tamburella, De Sica and Zavattini decided to make Shoeshine after observing the homeless street waifs who chased after American soldiers in Rome, calling out, "Sciuscia, Gio?" (which roughly translates as "Shoeshine, Joe?"). The director and screenwriter spent over a year researching their film, wandering the streets of Rome and studying the daily routines and behavior of the shoeshine boys. The two protagonists, Pasquale and Giuseppe, were actually inspired by two street hustlers De Sica had known. One, an orphan boy who slept in elevators, was named Scimietta ("Little Monkey"); the other, Cappelone ("Big Hat"), suffered from rickets and had an unusually large head. Together this unlikely duo earned enough money to rent a horse, which they would ride through the Villa Borghese park after a hard day's work. De Sica even considered Scimietta and Cappelone briefly for the key roles but then decided they were too unattractive to generate the necessary sympathy for their characters.
Shoeshine was shot under the most primitive conditions during a three month shooting schedule. De Sica was particularly distressed about the final scene at the bridge involving the two boys and the horse. He wanted to shoot it outdoors but later admitted that "the producer didn't have the money to wait for good weather...so the scene had to be shot indoors on a set." In spite of the difficult production conditions, Shoeshine became a major critical success upon its release, winning international acclaim except in Italy where critics felt De Sica and Zavattini were exploiting the misfortunes of the poor. Italian moviegoers, who had experienced the brutal effects of war first hand, had little interest in the subject matter as well, preferring escapist entertainments from Hollywood. Shoeshine went on to win a "Special Award" from the Academy of Motion Picture in 1947 (The Oscar for Best Foreign Film didn't exist at this time) and earn the admiration of such esteemed artists as Orson Welles and James Agee who called it "as beautiful, moving, and heartening a film as you are ever likely to see." Another enduring aspect of the film is the music score by Alessandro Cicognini; the famous main theme is based on "Girogirotondo," a well-known Italian children's song.
The Image DVD of Shoeshine contains no extras except for optional, easy-to-read English subtitles. The pictorial quality is perfectly acceptable and certainly an improvement over previous VHS copies though there is some noticeable frame weave and minor damage (dirt, scratches, speckling) throughout the movie. Until some company like Criterion undertakes a major restoration of Shoeshine, the Image DVD is the best version available. For more information about Shoeshine, visit Image Entertainment. To order Shoeshine, visit TCM Shopping.
by Jeff Stafford
The title is a Sicilian corruption of the English word "shoe-shiner."
Released in United States 1946
Released in United States November 1972
Released in United States 1946
Released in United States November 1972 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A Tribute to International Cinema) November 9-19, 1972.)