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Movie Poster of the Week: Rita Hayworth and The Bicycle Thieves

Behind the poster within the picture, and Vittorio De Sica’s directorial career in movie posters.
It had been so long since I last saw Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves—the last time being long before I started to become involved with movie posters—that I had forgotten that Antonio Ricci’s job at the start of the film, the job he so desperately needs a bicycle for, is pasting up movie posters.
Researching De Sica posters to coincide with the current month-long restrospective at New York’s Film Forum I discovered that De Sica’s most famous film centers—as does the Shawshank Redemption, coincidentally—on a poster of Rita Hayworth. I had hoped that it would be a poster by Anselmo Ballester, who painted Hayworth gloriously many times, but the signature on the top right of the poster is clearly that of one T. Corbella. Tito Corbella (1885-1966) was an artist known for his sensuous portraits of Italian divas since the 1910s. Dave Kehr’s invaluable book Italian Film Posters features two posters by Corbella, for Alessandro Blasetti’s Fabiola (1948) and Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment (1949) both of which would have been made after Bicycle Thieves.
But in De Sica’s film we see some of the world that Corbella would have moved in. After landing a much sought after job (the film is set in poverty-stricken, post-war Rome) which is dependent on his getting his bicycle out of the pawn shop, Ricci goes to an office to pick up the posters he needs to distribute around the city. The walls of the building are covered in posters and right before Ricci enters we glimpse a standee (a cardboard cut-out for theater lobbies) of Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux (1947). Interestingly, considering the film’s Chaplin-esque ending, De Sica’s camera barely notices it as it pans towards Ricci.
When Ricci is taken out to be shown the ropes, he is shown how to “smooth out the wrinkles” on Hayworth’s face...
And to apply an additional layer of glue...
In the next scene Ricci is seen putting up the same poster...
And it is while he is busy with Rita that his bicycle is stolen by a gang of thieves...
The lookout guy is seen standing beneath a poster for William A. Wellman’s Gallant Journey (1946) and to the right of that is a poster for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le corbeau (1943).
After Ricci has fruitlessly chased the thieves across the city he returns to the poster and finishes the job. It looks, however, as if there should be a third sheet to the poster since “Rita” is cut off and there is no movie title...
But Ricci’s colleague had earlier left his poster similarly “unfinished”...
I have seen Italian posters promoting movie stars rather than movies, so this may have been the case here though it seems strange to paper the city with posters for a person rather than a product. I have been unable to find that particular Hayworth poster anywhere but I did find a similar poster by Corbella (with a rather different signature) for Yvonne De Carlo.
Though it would have been fitting to have Corbella design the poster for the film, the original posters for Bicycle Thieves were by the great Ercole Brini (1913-1989) who painted both a 4-foglio and a 2-foglio version...
Above: 1948 Italian 4-foglio by Ercole Brini for Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1948).
Above: 1948 Italian 2-foglio by Ercole Brini for Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1948).
Bicycle Thieves plays in a new restoration today at Film Forum, and the Vittorio De Sica retrospective (of films he both directed and starred in) runs through October 8. Below are some more of my favorite posters from De Sica’s long and illustrious—and quite eclectic—directorial career.
Above: Dutch poster by Joop Geesink for The Children Are Watching Us (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1944).
 
Above: Italian 2-foglio by Luigi Martinati for Shoeshine (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1946).
Above: 1956 East German poster by Baltzer for Shoeshine (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1946).
Above: 1950 Italian poster by Maiorana for Miracle in Milan (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1950).
Above: 1951 French grande by Boris Grinsson for Miracle in Milan (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1950).
Above: Italian 4-foglio by Averardo Ciriello for Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1952).
Above: 1954 US one sheet for Indiscretion of an American Wife (Vittorio De Sica, Italy/USA, 1953).
Above: Italian 4-foglio by Giniello for The Gold of Naples (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1954).
Above: Italian poster for The Roof (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1956).
Above: Italian 4-foglio for Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1960).
Above: French grande by Gilbert Allard for Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1960).
Above: Russian poster for Il Boom (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1963).
Above: Argentinian poster for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1963).
Above: US one sheet for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1963).
Above: US one sheet for Marriage Italian Style (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1964).
Above: US one sheet for After the Fox (Vittorio De Sica, UK/Italy, 1966).
Above: US one sheet for Woman Times Seven (Vittorio De Sica, France/Italy/USA, 1967).
Above: Japanese poster for Sunflower (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1970).
Above: 1972 Polish poster by Wiktor Gorka for Sunflower (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1970).
Above: Italian 2-foglio by Maro for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1970).
Above: Italian 4-foglio for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1970).
Above: US one sheet for A Brief Vacation (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1973).
Above: French grande by Jouineau Bourduge for The Voyage (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1974).
Above: US one sheet for The Voyage (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1974).
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions and MoviePosterDB and screen grabs are from the Criterion Collection DVD edition of Bicycle Thieves.

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