Rediscovering Italy: Neorealism in Postwar America: 1945-1960 – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Rediscovering Italy: Neorealism in Postwar America: 1945-1960

Lily Anderson


Pronouns: she/her

Research Mentor(s): Giorgio Bertellini, Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Film, Television, and Media, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 2 (11am – 11:50am)
Breakout Room: Room 4
Presenter: 6

Event Link


Global politics and economics no doubt shifted and changed significantly in the early and mid 20th century as the world battled through two world wars and the American Great Depression, wreaking havoc on the international economy. There also began a change culturally as well. One thing to come out of the Great Depression was a collection of photographs detailing poverty, pain, and death. This collection of photographs was one of the first times that poverty had been so widely broadcasted in America. The American government used these photographs in an attempt to show the success of the New Deal, but these photos were not receiving attention just in America. Overseas in Italy, these photos were enthusiastically received in Italian cities such as Milan and Rome, centers of Italian film and publishing. What came after this was a movement of Italian film that sought to represent the lifestyle that so many lived: poverty, low socioeconomic status, and hardship. These films, referred to as neorealist films, became an international sensation, driving the Hollywood film industry to transition their films away from plots of glamor and wealth to plots that were more believable and relatable. This study covers American film newspaper and magazine publications between the years of 1945-1970 that refer to specific Italian neorealist directors and films. These publications were retrieved and analyzed digitally through ProQuest. Findings from this study conclude that Italian neorealist films had a hard and long-lasting effect on the American film industry as well the audiences who gushed over Italian actors and actresses and who begged for more films. For so long Americans had been fed movies that romanticized life in the United States during a time in which the large majority of Americans were living in poverty and experiencing economic hardship after World War II. The introduction of Italian neorealist films, that portrayed people in poverty, used unprofessional actors and actresses, and used on-location filming made Americans depart from the traditional Hollywood films, pressuring Hollywood to follow in the footsteps of Italy. There then began major collaborations between Italian directors and American film producers to create films for American audiences and dub Italian films. These findings have larger implications when it comes to analyzing the transatlantic relationship between Italy (and much of Europe) and the United States through a cultural and cinematic lens.

Authors: Lily Anderson
Research Method: Library/Archival/Internet Research

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