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Misery is the True Script for Comedy: A Study of Italian Film Comedy in the 1950s


This dissertation fills a lacuna in the history of Italian cinema, formally analyzes a selection of significant film comedies from the 1950s, and challenges many of the assumptions that have been made about postwar Italian cinema. The conservative atmosphere of the fifties, the detrimental effects of censorship on Italian cinema, and the return of popular genres after the end of the widely-acclaimed neorealist period have led to assumptions about a limited engagement with contemporary Italian society in the motion pictures produced in Italy during the 1950s. While most critics and film historians view these years in Italian cinema as the disappointing aftermath of neorealism, a decade in which conservative elements in Italian society pushed national cinema in the direction of facile optimism and escapism, this dissertation demonstrates that many comedies in fact engaged with Italian society, offering incisive critiques of contemporary Italy that pinpoint and satirize hypocrisy, inequality, and a host of other ills of the Italian republic in the 1950s. This study considers existing scholarship on Italian cinema and reevaluates films starring the popular Neapolitan actor Antonio De Curtis (Totò), Renato Castellani's Due soldi di speranza (Two Cents Worth of Hope, 1952) and other examples of neorealismo rosa (rosy or pink neorealism), and the movies directed by Federico Fellini featuring Alberto Sordi, both in terms of aesthetics as well as subject matter. This dissertation asserts that the thematic and stylistic innovations of these comedies directly influence the commedia all'italiana, the bitter comedies produced during Italy's economic boom, and the future works of renowned Italian auteurs in the 1960s.

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