Although having a slight plot, film gets top-drawer handling in production, thesping and direction. Anna Magnani has rarely been better.
Story was suggested to writer Cesare Zavattini (Miracle in Milan) during the casting of recent Italian films. In telling about the attempts by a Rome worker’s wife to get her little girl a film role, it launches some sharp barbs at the Roman film milieu. A screen test is finally engineered via bribes, after the unknowing child has been coached, primped, and ‘beautified.’
In one of the cruellest scenes ever filmed, mother and child secretly watch a screening of the test, in which all present double with laughter at the girl’s ugliness and ineptitude. The mother interrupts the show and tells them off, leaves with her dream shattered, dragging the girl along.
Magnani runs the thespian gamut in this one, in her colorful portrayal of the mother’s role, with splendid support from comedian Walter Chiari. Latter here plays a straight part as a likeable studio profiteer. The scene In which he tries and fails to seduce her on an excursion is one of pic’s highlights. Remainder of colorful cast of professionals and non-pros is given a perfect blending under Luchino Visconti’s sensitive direction.
Production was shot in direct sound, an Italian rarity, and resulting realism and depth are outstanding.