WITHOUT PITY ( 1948 )

Despair. Devastating.

That’s it! I’m done!

WITHOUT PITY
John Kitzmiller and Carla Del Poggio

No more Italian neo-realism for this girl. The story of Jerry and Angela put me over the edge of my emotional endurance. My dealbreaker is 1948’s “Without Pity” or “Senza Pietà” ( in Italian ) directed by Alberto Lattuada. He’s directed a slew of Italian films I’ve never heard of. But me never hearing of them means absolutely nothing. Seeing this one shows me he has command of storytelling. He has 40/41 credits to his name as writer and director and knows how to tear you apart in the most un-treacly of ways.

JOHN KITZMILLER ( WITHOUT PITY )In “Without Pity”-before life intervenes, Jerry and Angela have a nice moment without a care in the world. Jerry’s a U.S. soldier stationed in Italy. Angela is a girl with no money or resources and searching for her brother. Circumstances put them in each other’s lives, in a “meet cute” NOT way, and when they meet again, Jerry takes Angela to a carnival. They go on rides, have coffee and pastry. He shares the wealth with street urchins.  By date’s end they laugh and relax and are happily exhausted as he walks her home.

This story takes place during the war…or near the end of the war where life is hard. Every one is on the take. Black marketing bad guys get rich, poor girls sell themselves, MPs

CARLA DEL POGGIO JOHN KITZMILLER ( WITHOUT PITY-I )

boss everyone around. Angela gets caught up in a situation beyond her control. Jerry, through mishaps and misunderstandings, gets caught by MPs. Life is very unfair and doesn’t end well for them. “Without Pity” is a compelling story of a man and woman each, in their own, way trapped by circumstances. It’s almost what I would call War Noir because even under conditions of war, the fates just won’t give these two kids a break. This couple’s lives swirls in a dark, downward spiral.

WITHOUT PITY

My heart was broken by the end of this. I’m done. No more bitter rice even with the mighty Mangano. No more Magnani or stolen bikes or notti bianches or cabirias…or little dogs and old men. Give me Sophia and Marcello or Laura Antonelli. I need a 60’s Italian comedy…STAT!!! I don’t mind sad endings, but hopeless ones…my achin’ heart can’t take it.

See…this…movie. I dare you.

                                    * * * * * * * * * * *

JOHN KITZMILLER JOHN KITZMILLER ( DR. NO )

Life imitates art a bit when American Kitzmiller stays in Europe after the war to avoid American racism and makes a career for himself in films. Yeah, you know him. If you’ve ever seen the 1962 James Bond “Dr. No.” you know the raspy-voiced actor.

 

(  H O M E  )

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13 thoughts on “WITHOUT PITY ( 1948 )

  1. A beautiful, sensitive reading of this beautiful and sensitive film, Theresa. But don’t give up on the Italian movies of the forties and the fifties. There’s a lot of treasure there and not all grim. After all, Italians also like to have a good time, and they sure wanted it after all the years of war and fascism.

    Some other Lattuadas that I would recommend are “Il Bandito” with Carla DelPoggio (la Signora Lattuada), and Anna Magnani supporting Amadeo Nazzari, a very big star know for a resemblance to Errol Flynn; “Tempest“, a big fifties international color epic with Mangano, Gassman, Heflin, Moorehead, and Homolka!; and of course my very first “foreign” movie, “Anna“, reuniting Mangano, Gassman, and Vallone from Bitter Rice. You’ve got to love a movie where a novitiate is given a furlough from the convent before she takes her vows and immediately gets a job singing and dancing in a nightclub!

    After winning Best Actor at Cannes for Senza Pieta, Kitzmiller’s career was not spectacular, but he worked pretty steadily for thirty years. He was in a lot of genre films like “Son of Captain Blood” with Sean Flynn, and he had a better than average role in “The Naked Earth” with Richard Todd and Juliette Greco. We Americans might be dismayed to see that in his two last films he played Uncle Tom.

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    • Hi there my friend. Again, thank you for reading and for the compliment! Okay okay…so I won’t give up on Italian movies. This one was just a rough go for my heart. I really will jot down the films you suggest here. Yes, Kitzmiller’s career didn’t go great guns, but I’m glad he didn’t spend the bulk of his life here in the States. ( Ugh! ) So I’m making a list, and to be honest, must be in the mood to read sub-titles. Thanks for the suggestions. Or should I say: “Grazie!”

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  2. First off, thanks for the alert to this film, which I’d never heard of before. It’s a pretty wild melodramatic tale that illuminates an experience of postwar Italy and black American G.I.’s that you just weren’t going to find in a Hollywood film. I knew that John Kitzmiller had had a long career in Italy before doing DR. NO, but I hadn’t seen any of those films. He dubs his own voice here and speaks in both English and Italian, often in the same sentence. The lead actress, Carla del Poggio, bears a strong resemblance to Rita Hayworth. Another actor, Pierre Claudé, who plays Pier Luigi, the town’s crime boss, looks like a cross between Franchot Tone and Steve Buscemi with Peter Lorre’s eyes thrown in. Yikes! Giulietta Masina plays Angela’s friend, Marcella, and was already married by this point to Federico Fellini, who co-wrote the film and would, of course, cast Masina in many of his own films, including LA STRADA, which played right before WITHOUT PITY on TCM last night. The star, Ms. Del Poggio, was married to the director, Alberto Lattuada. Both marriages lasted until death—50 years in both cases! I’ve seen only one other film by Lattuada, a 1967 spy spoof called MATCHLESS, partially shot in New York City, starring Patrick O’Neal as a secret agent who discovers the power of invisibility. I remember liking it.

    There are a lot of Americans in this film, including a lot of black Americans, presumably former G.I.s who were still stationed there or had decided to stay there after finishing their wartime service. The film is pretty honest about racial tensions between black and white G.I.’s, particularly in the stockade where the black prisoners are kept segregated. No Hollywood film at the time, or for many years hence, would treat racism in the military this frankly. I wonder how much this film got shown in the U.S. Because of the interracial romance, it’s a safe bet that southern theater owners would never have booked it. It was reviewed in The New York Times in 1950, so at least it showed in New York. I wonder what the reaction was. (I can’t find the review on-line.) Also, there’s a credit for the music score by Nino Rota being an “elaboration on Negro spirituals.” Well, one of the “spirituals” is Jerome Kern’s melody for “Old Man River.”

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    • You’re one up on me with Lattuada.

      Hey Brian ~ I’m glad you saw and enjoyed the film. No, you didn’t specifically say “Hey, I liked this movie,” but you didn’t say you hated it, so I’ll take that as a —> 🙂 . Del Poggio was quite attractive and definitely played the desperation of a woman trapped with ( almost ) no means of escape. ( Couldn’t work in a bakery? Be a waitress? ) I felt her plight. You’re right on point re: Pierre Claudé’s resemblance to the Tone-Buscemi-Lorre trifecta. If a girl’s future depends on him, jumping in the river seems preferable.

      I noticed and liked Masina in this. She was slight comic relief with her embellishments, and I was happy to see her in a role as a more forceful mature woman than the times I’ve seen her play this victimized waif. ( The lesson I gathered is: Italian directors marry good actresses…or actresses marry directors who’ll give them good parts ). Fitzmiller did a fine job as the American G.I. Very natural and played well being caught up in circumstances. The film shows him as a hero in the beginning…chasing down bad guys, but things get away from him when he tries to help this girl. He and Del Poggio have great chemistry. Even though their physical contact was limited, I sensed their connection with each other. I believe them. Not only was Hollywood NOT able to make this movie in our racially divided country, but my 21st century self shudders thinking about how buffoonish they might’ve made our American G.I. play the part.

      I also shudder ( but with delight ) mulling over the prospect ( and fantasy ) of some forward-thinking producer picking JAMES EDWARDS to play the soldier back in 1948 Hollywood, though his intensity and attractiveness might’ve caused panic and anxiety among the silly narrow-minded masses.

      Thanx for telling me the stockades were segregated ( I should’ve known that though I saw a smattering of white soldiers in that stockade scene ). The scene made me wonder, “were only Black soldiers miscreants?” Thank Goodness Truman changed things; lumped everyone together.

      A friend told me the film was banned in the United States; but if you saw a review of the film in the NY Times, that lets me know that New Yorkers were always on the cutting edge of receiving sophisticated ideas. ( ‘Scuse me for ego-tripping ). I’m glad you saw this film.

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  3. I found the New York Times review by Bosley Crowther. It’s somewhat negative, but he does give high marks to John Kitzmiller and the film’s portrayal of racial issues. That counts for something. The review comes on the page after his review of FRANCIS, the one about the talking mule, and I should warn readers who haven’t seen WITHOUT PITY that Crowther’s review is full of spoilers. Here’s the link: WITHOUT PITY

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