An Immigrant’s Story

The Italian
R: Reginald Barker. B: Thomas H. Ince, C. Gardner Sullivan. D: George Beban, Clara Williams, J. Frank Burke. P: Thomas H. Ince / New York Motion Picture. USA 1915

“It tells the story of an immigrant Venetian named Pietro “Beppo” Donnetti (George Beban). The film follows Beppo after he moves to New York from Italy in the 1910s. Upon arrival, Beppo experiences the precarious state of being an immigrant, encountering thieves, criminal gangs and being robbed by street vendors. This kind of immigrant experience is integral to America’s cultural imagination, and I believe constitutes the archetype for contemporary New York diasporic gangster movies. (…)
The Italian is certainly an important documentation of American Social history, charting a narrative that has since been retold again and again: that of the immigrant and the urban underbelly. But isn’t all of film history subject to the cementing and re-cementing of popular narratives? In the case of The Italian, the film explores a dark subject that was incredibly forward thinking for 1915. D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (released the same year) comes to mind, a film with strikingly conservative and disturbingly racist narrative and characterisation to modern eyes.”
James Harrison