lovers of chiaroscuro, had been reincarnated in these businessmen who wanted to give Germany a new art, and who succeeded in doing so for a few years.
THE Italian film went gradually downhill from the time of the war until 1923. After the Armistice there had seemed, however, considerable hopes for its commercial development. The lawyer Mecheri had just gained control of the Itala Films with its enormous resources and hordes of actors. A combine had been effected under the management of Mecheri's rival Barattolo, the Italian Cinema Union, which gradually bought up all the remaining studios and actors. Actually this was the beginning of the end.
At first by sacrificing everything for prestige, Barattolo gradually brought the Union to the verge of ruin. Then the actors and directors, under the strange dictatorship of this businessman, lost interest and pride in their work and worked simply to make money. The Union also invented the horrible system of block booking which other firms all over the world were to imitate, beginning with Paramount and Pathé-Natan. It is familiar enough now: films were grouped into lots of ten and were supposed to consist of three featuring stars and seven second-class productions. The whole block was rented for 100,000 lira a district, exclusively. Often a man who found one good film to nine duds was lucky, but it was impossible to obtain that one without also taking the others. It was this system which ruined the Union and endangered the foreign firms which adopted it--if it ruined them, it served them right.
To fight the Union another firm was organized, the F.E.R.T. This firm gave a great deal of liberty to its directors, but one can hardly say that they used it to much purpose: Ghione's films ( The Golden Quadrant, The Blue Countess) were about the same as those of Righelli ( The Rose Queen, Scarlet Love) or those of