Saturday, May 8, 2021

Roberto Rossellini, 1906-1977

From left to right: Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman, and Vittorio da Sica

Today marks the birth anniversary of Italian director Roberto Rossellini, whose neo-realist films are eminently worth watching and led to one of cinema's more famous scandals.

Rossellini got his start in Fascist Italy, but once the Allies defeated Italy in World War II, Rossellini turned to making what would become Rome, Open City, the first film in a trilogy also including Paisan and Germania Anno Zero. Over in Hollywood, Ingrid Bergman was taken with these movies, and so wrote to him offering herself for a potential future project of his.

That project turned out to be Stromboli, in which Bergman plays a war refugee who marries and resettles on an isolated Italian volcanic island. However, that movie also resulted in Bergman and Rossellini falling in love, which would be quite romantic if it weren't for the fact that both of them were already married to other people at the time, which makes things rather more complicated. Public opinion turned against both, especially after Bergman got pregnant by Rossellini. Stromboli was a box office bomb in the US, although that might be because of RKO's editing of the movie. (I saw the movie many years back, although I don't recall what edit it was.)

Rossellini would eventually divorce Bergman after falling in love with another woman while on a film project in India; I suppose Ingrid should have seen it coming although by this time she was back in Hollywood's good graces. Criterion has a box set of three of Rossellini and Bergman's movies together.

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