nation-wide audiences. 'A santanotte ('Holy Night') and E'piccerella ('The little girl', Film Dora, 1922), both directed by Elvira Notari, are two of the most important films in a genre which has its roots in the Neapolitan popular theatre form, the sceneggiata (a simple, powerful drama interspersed with popular songs), which was directed and acted by non-professionals, with no artistic or technical training, and yet which managed to strike a chord with the audiences' feelings.
Still in Naples, Gustavo Lombardo had set up his own production company in 1918 which emerged unscathed from the collapse of UCI. Hence, in the second half of the 1920s, when directors, actors, and technicians were leaving in droves for France and Germany, Lombardo Film continued to produce a steady stream of relatively goodquality films, including a number starring the talented actress Leda Gys. Gys had performed with outstanding results alongside Francesca Bertini in the pantomime Histoire d'un pierrot ('A pierrot's story', Italica Ars/Celio Film, 1914) by Baldassarre Negroni. For Lombardo, she made a trilogy entitled Ifigli di nessuno ('Children of nobody', 1921), directed by Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, which combined populist drama with a significant degree of polemical social critique. Lombardo Film changed its name to Titanus, and some years later moved to Rome to join forces with a new organization founded by the Genoese producer Stefano Pittaluga in a move which radically transformed the distribution system throughout Italy.
In the desolate panorama of the national film industry at the end of the 1920s, there are some signs of renewal. The influence of the Fascist regime was still only marginal: it had set up the Istituto Nazionale LUCE (acronym of L'Unione Cinematografica Educativa -- the Union of Cinema and Education) in 1924 with the aim of exploiting cinema for propagandist and didactic ends, but it generally refrained from direct intervention in the affairs of the industry. Aldo De Benedetti demonstrated in La grazia ('Grace', Attori e Direttori Italiani Associati, 1929) how even a traditional story-line could give rise to a style of filming of extraordinary purity.
The first Italian sound film to be released was a sentimental comedy by Gennaro Righelli, La canzone dell'amore ('The love song', Cines, 1930), which came out also in French and German versions. It was shortly followed by Sole ('Sun', Società Anonima Augustus, 1929) by Alessandro Blasetti, a film about the draining of the Pontine marshes which showed the influence of German and Soviet cinema. Another young director, Mario Camerini, who had already shown himself capable of injecting new energy into the worn formulas of adventure films and bourgeois comedies through a more smooth and technically sophisticated style -- as in Voglio tradire mio marito! ('I want to betray my husband!', Fert Film, 1925) and Kif tebby (Attori e Direttori Italiani Associati, 1928) -- now took a further step forwards with Rotaie ('Rails', SACIA, 1929), which was shot as a silent film, but came out two years later in a sound version. The Sole and Rotaie are marked by clearly differing intentions, but both are inclined towards experimentation with new forms which refashion with vision and authority the Italian vocation for realism.
Bernardini, Aldo ( 1980-82), Cinema muto italiano, 1896-1914.
--- (ed.) ( 1991), Archivo del cinema italiano, Vol. i: Il cinema muto, 19051931.
--- and Gili, Jean A. (eds.) ( 1986), Le Cinéma italien.
--- and Martinelli, Vittorio ( 1979), Il cinema italiano degli anni Venti.
Brunetta, Gian Piero ( 1980), Stotia del cinema italiano, Vol. i: 1905- 1945.
Dall'Asta, Monica ( 1992), Un Cinéma musclé: le surhomme dans le cinéma muet italien (1913-1926).
Leprohon, Pierre ( 1972), The Italian Cinema.
Martinelli, Vittorio ( 1980-91), "Il cinema muto italiano, 1915- 1931".
Masi, Stefano, and Franco, Mario ( 1988), Il mare, la luna, i coltelli: per una storia del cinema muto napoletano.
Redi, Riccardo ( 1986), Ti parlerb . . . d'amor: cinema italiano fra muto e sonoro.
The tendency among film historians has always been to represent the British cinema as having had influential and innovative beginnings-the so-called British pioneers-but then to have fallen into decline and stagnation. From this perspective, as expressed for example by Georges Sadoul ( 1951), Rescued by Rover (Cecil Hepworth, 1905) is the high point. Films produced after that date, particularly in the period ( 1908-13) when one-reel dramatic narrative was dominant, have been neglected. Even writers like Barry Salt ( 1992), who has done a careful formal analysis of films from the early years, have focused perhaps unduly on fictional dramatic narrative, at the expense of the comic film and -- even more important -- the various forms of actuality film.