Italian novelist Italo Svevo was the pseudonym for Ettore Schmitz, a novelist and short story writer who was born in Trieste in 1861. After publishing two unsuccessful novels, he gave up writing until his English tutor James Joyce encouraged him to continue and he wrote a third novel in 1823, Confessions of Zeno (considered his masterpiece) and several short stories which were not published until after his early death from an automobile accident in 1928. Svevo never received the acclaim he deserved during his own lifetime but now he is considered one of Italy’s most famous authors and a pioneer of the psychoanalytical novel. His novels and some of his short stories were later adapted for film and television productions but the first one to hit the screen was Senelita (aka Careless, 1962), based on his second novel. The story of an insecure, self-absorbed office worker approaching forty who develops an obsessive love for a beautiful working class girl, the film was an impressive early masterwork for director Mauro Bolognini and helped launch Claudia Cardinale as an international star (The following year she appeared in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and made her American film debut in The Pink Panther).
A relic from an earlier era when gothic Victorian melodramas were all the rage, Uncle Silas (1947, released in the U.S. as The Inheritance) is an adaptation of Irish writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel which was actually an elaboration of his 1851 short story, “A Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess.” As you can surmise from the title, Le Fanu’s story was an earlier form of the Harlequin romance genre, steeped in an atmosphere of old dark houses, decadent aristocrats and mysterious locked rooms. Le Fanu is best known for his vampire novella, Camilla, which has enjoyed numerous film adaptations, but Uncle Silas (published in 1864) was a popular page-turner for its era.