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31 January 2015

La Cuccagna (1917)

The Italian diva Hesperia was the star of the silent drama La Cuccagna/The Bonanza (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917). The film was an adaptation of Emile Zola's La curée. Hesperia is Renata/Renée, second wife of the cunning and wealthy Saccard, who married young Renata for her money. She has an affair with Saccard's son Max, played by Alberto Collo. In the end money triumphs over love, just as in Zola's novel.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5070. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Renata and Massimo love each other." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Alberto Collo.

Hesperia in La cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5071. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Saccard surprises Renata and Max Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917). On this postcard the father (Claudio Nicola at left) looks not much older than the son (Alberto Collo at right).

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5072. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Massimo and Luisa are betrothed. The jealousy of Renata." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5073. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Renata and Massimo at the ball of Bianca Muller." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Alberto Collo.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5074. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Saccard cannot pay the bills of his wife anymore." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Claudio Nicola.

Money triumphs over Love


Hesperia (1885-1959), was one of the divas of the Italian silent screen. She often worked with director Baldassarre Negroni, who later became her husband.

La Cuccagna was a liberal adaptation of Emile Zola's La curée, cutting Zola's socialist critique on bourgeois building speculation and nouveau riche under the Second Empire, and keeping the Phaedra-like, private intrigue of a triangular affair.

Hesperia is Renata/Renée, second wife of the cunning and wealthy Saccard (Claudio Nicola), originally Aristide Rougon, who married young Renata for her money, with Saccard's sister Sidonie as intermediate.

Years after, his son from his first marriage, Max/Massimo (Alberto Collo), develops an affair with his stepmother Renata - an affair which Saccard initially tolerates in exchange for Renata's inheritance. They claim to have an open marriage.

In the end money triumphs instead of love, just as in Zola's novel. Massimo is married to young Luisa (Diana d'Amore), the daughter of rich banker Mareuil (Ignazio Lupi), when Saccard claims he cannot pay Renata's bills anymore.

Renata is so shocked Massimo leaves her for wealth and youth she first maddens, then develops meningitis and dies.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5076. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Massimo had been raised in a provincial college." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia, Alberto Collo and Claudio Nicola.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5077. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Renata had turned Massimo in un 'viveur'." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Claudio Nicola, Hesperia and Alberto Colla.

Ida Carloni Talli in La cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5078. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Sidonia hosted meetings between her female and her male customers." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Ida Carloni Talli as Sidonia.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5079. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Renata and Massimo agree to elope." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Alberto Collo.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5080. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "The nocturnal meetings of Massimo and Renata." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Alberto Collo.

How true are her heartbeats


In the Italian film journal La vita cinematografica (22/28.2.1917), Pier da Castello regretted the loss of the social critique but praised Hesperia's performance:

"How naively she smiles, how heartily she laughs, how she knows to be tender, languid and mischievous!

How true are her heartbeats and her worries, how pathetic are her despairs, how sad and bitter her tears.

How true and human is her desperate rage! Hesperia does not act. She lives her part, defies every confrontation and surpasses any expectation.

Whoever sees her in La cuccagna must connect her with the female sovereigns of the gesture, among the silent actresses who unsurpassable know to express any emotion."

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5081. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "Renata has heard about the wedding between Massimo and Luisa." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia and Alberto Colla.

La Cuccagna
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 5082. Photo: Tiber Film. Caption: "At the Half Lent ball. All is lost for Renata." Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 1917), starring Hesperia.

Source: Vittorio Martinelli (Il Cinema Muto Italiano - Italian) and IMDb.

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