Author Pietro Di Donato’s acclaimed novel Christ in Concrete (1937) is, like its contemporary The Grapes of Wrath, a rich blend of poetry, social realism, and tough social criticism. A 1939 Book-of-the-Month selection, Di Donato’s semi-autobiographical book explored the immigrant experience in America, the complex family bonds of Italian-Americans, the difficult struggle to build a better life for themselves and their children.
This important work of American literature became the basis for a hard-hitting and intense film by director Edward Dmytryk (Murder My Sweet, Crossfire, The Caine Mutiny). Blacklisted in Americe for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Commission, Dmytryk mounted his production in England. On London soundstages, his art designers created an extraordinary reproduction of New York streets and tenements, lit with stunning grace and beauty by cinematographer C. Pennington Richards. A blend of neo-realism and film noir, Christ in Concrete (also variously released under the titles Give Us This Day and Salt to the Devil) won the Grand Masterpiece Award at the Venice Film Festival. It also won the Paris Press Prize for Direction and an honor for Dmytryk from the Czechoslovakian Film Fest. Widely praised as a masterwork, it remained Dmytryk’s personal favorite of his films.
Unfortunately, thanks to the director’s notoriety as one of the Hollywood Ten, coupled with the blacklisting of the film’s producer and star and the story’s bitter indictment of the American Dream, Christ in Concrete barely played in the US at all, and was withdrawn under protest from the Legion of Decency. It has remained out of circulation in all media, in all countries, for half a century. Indeed, as long ago as 1966, it was believed that all copies of the film had been lost or destroyed.
All Day Entertainment has worked closely with the Di Donato family to restore Christ in Concrete from its archival 35mm nitrate originals at the British Film Institute for this exclusive DVD presentation.