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20 June 2015

Il ponte dei sospiri (1921)

A pre-announcement. From 3 till 10 October, the 34th edition of the silent film festival Le Giornate del Cinema Muto will take place in Pordenone, Italy. We will be there. One of the sections is about the forzuti, the strong men of the silent Italian cinema, like Luciano Albertini. Although this section will focus on the films Albertini made in Germany, today EFSP has a film special about one of Albertini's earlier Italian films, the four part serial Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921), produced by his own production company, Albertini Film.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia,the most beautiful Roman courtesan, will select the bandit Scalabrino for one night of love, causing the hate and jealousy of Sandrigo.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: In the cave of the bandits Imperia becomes the lover of Scalabrino.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia, the empress of the courtesans, is dressed in ball attire, for her famous dances.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia tries to seduce Rolando, but she is rejected, and will vilely take revenge.

Falsely accused


The plot of Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921) reminds of Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Christo.

Luciano Albertini plays Rolando Candiano, son of the Doge of Venice. Rolando is falsely accused of murder by his enemies.

One enemy, the Inquisitor Foscari (Armand Pouget) plots to become Doge himself, another (Altieri - Luigi Stinchi ) wants to steal the daughter of Dandolo (Bonaventura Ibanez), the beautiful Leonora (Carolina White), Rolando's fiancee, a third (Imperia - Antonietta Calderari) is a courtesan rejected by Rolando, and the fourth is Bembo (Agostino Borgato).

Imperia has killed a suitor, the men use her rejection by Rolando to push her to revenge herself and accuse Rolando. On the day of his marriage Rolando is arrested, trialled and passes the Bridge of Sighs before entering lifetime imprisonment.

His father is dethroned as Doge, blinded and reduced to a wandering beggar. His mother is mocked by the mob but saved by the courageous and good-hearted bandit Scalabrino (Onorato Garaveo), with whom Imperia had one night of love, resulting in her daughter Bianca.

There is also Sandrigo who hates Scalabrino who humiliated him in the past. Years after, Rolando manages to escape with the help of Scalabrino and take revenge.

The false Doge Foscari is dethroned but escapes the same fate of Doge Candiano, being blinded, as Candiano prevents the horrific act to happen twice. Foscari goes mad instead.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: The wrath of the torturer will fall upon the generous Rolando, who is innocently accused of having killed Giovanni Davila, who actually has been struck by Imperia's dagger (Imperia while signing the accusation).

Luciano Albertini in Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still of Luciano Albertini as Rolando Candiano in Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). From left to right Agostino Borgato (Bembo), Luigi Stinchi (Altieri), sig. Pieri (the Doge Candiano), an unknown actor as a soldier, Armand Pouget (the Inquisitor Foscari), Luciano Albertini (Rolando Candiano), Carolina White (Leonora) and Bonaventura Ibanez (her father Dandolo). Caption: On the auspicious eve of the wedding Rolando is arrested, and not the white bridal room and the kiss of his most beautiful bride await him but the Bridge of Sighs.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: The young and very brave son of Doge Candiano, Rolando (Luciano Albertini), is pushed into prison by halberds.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Misfortune is lurking for Dandolo (Bonaventura Ibanez) (Altieri follows Dandolo to challenge him to death).

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Inana, prays for the soul of the unfortunate Dogaressa, Rolando's mother - saved from the mad ire of the populace by the bandit Scalabrino.

Acrobatic and daredevil acting


Muscular Italian actor Luciano Albertini (1882-1945) is best remembered for his acrobatic and daredevil acting in Italian and German silent cinema.

The serial Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921) was his last and most prestigious film in Italy, before pursing a very successful career in Germany with his own company Albertini Film, with Phoebus and finally with Aafa Film.

In 2002 the Roman Cineteca Nazionale restored the film in colour, in collaboration with Cineteca Italiana of Milan, Museo Nazionale del Cinema of Turin and Cinémathéque Suisse of Lausanne.

The restored film was presented at the 2004 Giornate del Cinema Muto. Film scholar Vittorio Martinelli considered it his best film.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Bembo tries to cheat Imperia and take her daughter from her, in whom he is madly in love with, but Rolando (Luciano Albertini) watches over her and will prevent the deceit which might strike the very sweet Bianca.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia's only true love: the little Bianca, daughter of Scalabrino.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Bianca flees from the party to escape her husband Sandrigo.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: In order to revenge himself, Rolando orders to steal her daughter Bianca.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia smiles perfidiously with her mysterious, deep eyes, satisfied about her atrocious revenge, unsuspecting that her penalty is awaiting her.

Opera Singer


One of the leading ladies of Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921) is the American opera singer Carolina White.

White was born in 1885 in Grafton, Mass., and had a short-lived film career. She played opposite the famous opera singer Enrico Caruso in My Cousin (Edward José, 1918).

In 1921 she played the love interest of Luciano Albertini in Il ponte dei sospiri (Domenico Gaido, 1921) which was partly shot on location in Venice.

After that Carolina White didn't act in film anymore. She died in Rome in 1961.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Altieri longs for the moment in which he can finally kiss his wife on her lips. But Leonora heroically remains faithful to her old and unforgotten love. Only Rolando may enjoy the divine kiss from her lips.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Leonora chases her husband, about whom she has discovered the infamy and complicity with Imperia to Rolando's detriment.

Carolina White in Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 56. Photo: La Fotominio. Carolina White in Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921).

Sources: E Muto Fu (Italian), sempre in penombra (Italian) and IMDb.

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