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21 April 2016

La piccola vedetta lombarda (1915)

La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy is one of the stories from Edmondo De Amicis's 1886 book Cuore (Heart), which were adapted to film by the Italian production company Film Artistica Gloria in 1915 and 1916. Director was Vittorio Rossi-Pianelli who was more famous as an actor. The main actors in the film were Luigino (Luigi) Petrungaro as the boy, and Antonio Monti as the officer.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy (1915). Caption: What are you doing here? the officer asked. Why didn't you flee with your family? I don't have family, the boy answered.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy (1915). Caption: The house was very low; from the roof you could only see a little part of the countryside.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy (1915).  Caption: And can you tell me what you can see from above there, if there are Austrian soldiers there, clouds of dust, rifles that light up, horses? Sure I can.

The Little Lookout


The story of La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy takes place during the Risorgimento, after the battle of Solferino in 1859. Italian soldiers ask an orphan boy from Lombardy (Luigino Petrangaro) to spy on the Austrian enemy troops. First he climbs on a roof and when that is too low, he spies from a high tree.

Despite the officer (Antonio Monti) asking him to come down, the boy stays too long in the tree and he is shot down by enemy fire. The soldiers pay their respects to his patriotic death, each passing his corps draped in the flag to honor him. And there he slept in the grass, draped in his flag, his face white, smiling, as if he was happy to have given his life for Lombardy, reads the caption of the postcard below.

A year after his role in this film, little Luigino Petrangaro starred in another Gloria production based on a story from Cuore (Heart), Sangue Romagnolo/Blood from the Romagna (Leopoldo Carlucci, 1916).

Gloria adapted several stories from Edmondo De Amicis' popular book Cuore about the life of nine boys in a school class in the city of Turin. Earlier, we did also a post on Dagli Appennini alle Ande/From the Apennines to the Andes (Umberto Paradisi, 1916).

For a long time the story of La piccola vedetta lombarda was considered as fiction. But author Edmondo de Amicis based in 1886 his story on a historical incident with the orphan Giovanni Minoli (1947-1859). In 2009 historians Fabrizio Bernini and Daniele Salerno have completed and published a meticulous reconstruction of the facts, based on archival documents of the time, which confirms the real existence of Giovanni Minoli and his tragic end.

There are some variations between fact and fiction. In the novel and the film, the boy dies almost immediately while in reality he died after a few months suffering in a hospital. The tree in which he climbed is in the story an ash tree while in reality it was a poplar. This poplar still exists.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy (1915). Caption:  A rabid, third whistle passed high up, and almost instantly one saw the boy falling down, holding on to the branches and the stem.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Look-out from Lombardy (1915). Caption: But while he told him to be brave and pressed a handkerchief on the wound, the boy's eyes broke and he bent his head: he was dead.

La piccola vedetta lombarda
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still for La piccola vedetta lombarda/The Little Lookout from Lombardy (1915). Caption: And there he slept in the grass, draped in his flag, his face white, smiling, as if he was happy to have given his life for Lombardy.

For the full film, see Vimeo. Sources: Vimeo, Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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