Behind the Scenes of the Movie The Bicycle Thief Part 1

About the film The Bicycle Thief, plot summary and behind the scenes of the Italian neo-realist movie.

INSIDE STORIES OF THE 10 GREATEST FILMS

THE BICYCLE THIEF (1947)

The Story: The plot and characters of The Bicycle Thief are deceptively simple. It is the tragic story of Antonio, an unemployed worker in postwar Rome who finally manages to find a job plastering posters on the walls of the city. To do the job he needs a bicycle, and his own is in hock. Antonio's wife sells all six of the family's sheets to redeem the bike, and her husband goes to work.

During his first day on the job, the bicycle is stolen. Antonio sees the thief and chases him, but he gets away. He must have the bicycle to work; otherwise his family will starve. He and his young son then begin a quest to find the stolen bicycle. In a series of vignettes, they encounter a cross section of Roman society.

Antonio finally encounters the thief, but without the bicycle. He catches him and calls the police, but he has no proof and the thief is released. Antonio is crushed and sits on a curb with his small son as hundreds of cyclists ride past. He sees an apparently unattended bicycle and, as his son looks on, he steals it. He gets caught, but the owner of the bicycle decides not to have him prosecuted. He remains, however, without a job and without a bicycle.

The Story behind the Story: Postwar Italian filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica reacted to the years of Fascist control of their art by turning from mindless comedies to the genre that became known as neo-realism in an attempt to depict common people in their struggle to survive. But to find backing for such films was a problem.

"I could make as many light comedies as I wanted to," De Sica said, "especially if I was prepared to act in them, but no tragedies." De Sica made the rounds of Italian and foreign producers, trying to convince them that a film about the theft of a bicycle should be made. "I acted out all the parts," he said. "I wept, I laughed, I was moved, I put all I had into it; but to no avail."

French producers offered to buy it after it was made but wouldn't offer a franc of front money. De Sica went to London to see producer Gabriel Pascal and found himself mysteriously locked in a room in Pascal's country mansion in order to keep him from seeing another producer, Alexander Korda. Pascal finally offered 10 million lira, not nearly enough to begin production.

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