Synopsis by Hal Erickson
A remarkably naturalistic and sophisticated film for its time, The Italian stars George Beban as a dirt-poor Italian farmer. He heads to America to "make good," armed with the knowledge that he will lose the girl of his dreams if he doesn't succeed within a year. Once in New York, Beban gets a job as a bootblack. With the additional funds paid him by an opportunistic politician (who hopes that immigrants will secure the "Wop vote" in his district), Beban is able to marry his fiancee. After the birth of their child, things go downhill for the young couple. Beban is robbed of the funds he needs to buy food for his ailing baby, and is then arrested as an indigent when he tries to report the crime. While he languishes in prison, Beban's baby dies. The final portion of the film is a redressing of a famous vaudeville dramatic sketch, in which a grieving Italian father goes to a fancy florist's shop in hopes of purchasing a few shrivelled roses for his child's grave. Unnecessarily hampered by a prologue and epilogue depicting an immaculately attired George Beban reading the film's script, The Italian is nonetheless for the most part a successful melding of realism and melodrama. Reportedly, the film was used by director Francis Ford Coppola as the model for the Robert de Niro "flashback" sequences in Godfather II (1974). Producer Thomas Ince, exercising his usual droit de seignior was credited as director on the original prints of The Italian, but reconstructed prints give belated recognition to actual director Reginald Barker.
against-all-odds, immigrant, poverty, Italy
High Historical Importance