Bitter Rice (1950): Italian Neo-Realism with Erotic Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman

In Bitter Rice (“Riso Amaro”), a landmark film of the Italian neorealist movement, the gorgeously looking Silvana Mangano portrays a woman named Silvana, working in the Po Valley rice fields.

Movies-Riso Amaro.jpg

Theatrical poster


In the course of the tale, she is courted by two men: the respectable Marco (Raf Vallone) and the no-good but alluring fugitive Walter (Vittorio Gassman), who plans to steal the rice crop. Torn between the two mles, Silvana chooses Walter, which brings disaster not only to her but to her co-workers.

The rice-field scenes, which are staged and shot in a realistic semi-documentary style, contrast with the more intimate erotic scenes, which are borderline exploitational, drawing on Mangano’s endowment and raw sexuality.

At the time, critics were unanimous in their praise for “Bitter Rice.” But the movie became international sensation, due to the support of male fans who saw the film for the now-famous image of the buxom of the voluptuous Silvana Mangano.

At 19, Mangano became an Italian (and international) sex symbol, drawing attention less for her work inn the rice fields, but for wearing tight shorts and torn black stockings.

Beware the older, dubbed version of the film, which is terribly amateurish and inaccurate.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Motion Picture Story: Giuseppe De Santis (who directed) and Carlo Lizzani

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

A surprise nomination in the writing category for the new-realist film that ironically gained notoriety not for its depiction of work in the rice fields but due to Silvana Mangano’s sex appeal.

Panic in the Street, co-written by Edward Anhalt and Edna Anhalt, won the Motion Picture Story Oscar


Vittorio Gassman as Walter

Doris Dowling as Francesca

Silvana Mangano as Silvana

Raf Vallone as Marco

Checco Rissone as Aristide

Nico Pepe as Beppe


Running time: 108 Minutes.

Directed By: Giuseppe De Santis.

Released on September 21, 1949.

Directed byGiuseppe De SantisProduced byDino De LaurentiisWritten byGiuseppe De Santis
Carlo Lizzani
Gianni PucciniStarringVittorio Gassman
Doris Dowling
Silvana Mangano
Raf Vallone
Checco Rissone
Carlo MazzarellaMusic byGoffredo PetrassiCinematographyOtello MartelliEdited byGabriele Varriale
Lux Film
Distributed byLux Film
Release date
7 September 1949
Running time
108 minutesCountryItalyLanguageItalian