1948’s Neapolitan Drama: A Closer Look at Proibito rubare.
“Proibito rubare” (Forbidden to Steal) is a 1948 film directed by Luigi Comencini.
The movie serves as an Italian rendition of “Boys Town” (1938), set in post-war Naples. Featuring a young Adolfo Celi (as the priest) and the seasoned Tina Pica (the cook), the film also showcases a group of young boys cast directly from the streets. Notably, Mario Russo (“Peppinello”) stands out as the only one in the group who would later be offered further opportunities in front of the camera.
Don Pietro Tassinari arrives in Naples planning to embark on a journey to Kenya to work as a missionary. However, at the train station, his suitcase is stolen. While attempting to retrieve his belongings, he becomes acquainted with the stark reality of the city’s impoverished neighborhoods—a stark contrast to his native Sondrio. He becomes particularly concerned with the plight of the “scugnizzi,” parentless and unruly street children. Don Pietro decides to postpone his African mission to establish “La Città dei ragazzi” (The City of Boys) in Naples, a sanctuary for homeless youths. Initially, the children are wary, but a group opts to stay with the priest, primarily to hide valuable watches stolen for Totonno, an adult criminal. The City of Boys seems to be on the right track, with the wise cook Maddalena’s spontaneous help, but the donations which are meant to sustain it are insufficient. One of the children, Peppinello, decides to sell the stolen watches gradually and contribute the proceeds to the donation box, ensuring that Don Pietro’s initiative can continue smoothly. Gradually, the other children grow fond of the priest and, when faced with the choice of staying in the City of Boys or becoming Totonno’s henchmen, they choose to stay with Don Pietro. When it is discovered that the watches have been sold, Don Pietro is accused of theft, but the bishop’s intervention and the owner’s understanding resolve the situation favorably.
Topics: Post-war Naples as depicted in Italian cinema, The influence of Boys Town on Italian film, The real-life inspiration behind Proibito rubare’s characters, Social issues in 1940s Italy through film, Luigi Comencini’s direction in Proibito rubare, The role of street children in Italian neorealism films, Tina Pica’s role in post-war Italian cinema, Mario Russo’s acting career post-Proibito rubare