The film of the 1961 “The Last Judgment” made by the duo De Sica – Zavattini, not very convincing for the critics, was set in Naples and it became display of the peculiar flaws of its Italian society .
The most successful character, the one focused on his utter aberration, was the one played by the actor Alberto Sordi: a vicious children seller, who bought the sons of poor families in the roughest quarters of Naples to sell them to sterile American couples.
The parents, longing for money, believed the stories of the wonderful life it would await their sons, once in the US. Sordi’s interpretation is exquisite, and whoever has watched the film felt a deep sense of shame and dismay before their offspring: Naples right after the postwar, facing the harshest misery (moral as well) and compared to the rich and advanced Americans.
But, maybe, the situation in the US wasn’t that far from the one back in the Italian city.
A picture that in 1948 was published on many American journals was the one of many other American men, telling about a story of misery and decay occurred not in a far away countryside village, but right inside a big city. In the picture there were 4 children sitting on the outside stairs of a house in Chicago. In front of them a sign saying:
“4 children for sale – inquire within”
The woman, pregnant again, covered up her face with her hands, to hide from the photographer.
The picture was published on the 5th of August 1948 by the Vidette-Messenger of Valparaiso (Indiana) with these words:
“A big sign – for sale – in a district of Chicago silently tells of the tragic story of Mr and Mrs Ray Chalifoux, who had to face an eviction from their flat. With nowhere to go, the truck driver and his wife decided to put up for sale their 4 children. Mrs Lucille Chalifoux turned back once she saw the camera, while her children looked with astonishment. On the higher step Lana of 6 years, and Rae of 5. Below Milton,4 years old and finally Ellen, 2.”
According to some family members, the woman was paid to take that picture, later on published in newspapers of different countries; however, within 2 years, all the 5 siblings (including the one who was about to be born) went separate ways. Only a few years ago they got to meet up again. Their stories are dramatic.
Raenn and Milton
Raenn declared to have been sold on the 27th of August 1950 for 2 dollars. Milton, that in that moment was crying, was taken with Raenn by a couple who took them to a farm, in a village called DeMotte. There is no documentation of sale or adoption, but it seems that the couple had simply changed their names. Brought up without love, the children were taken only to work in the fields. Raenn was raped when adolescent and she had a child coming from that violence, who was put up for adoption.
David, who was inside his mother at the time of the picture, was legally adopted on the 16th of July 1950, when he was taken away from the family for the awful condition in which he was kept. He was sent to a farm as well, not too far from his siblings Raenn and Milton, and the three sometimes used to see each other. According to his version, the two children were severely mistreated and kept locked in a stable. Milton on the other side was subject to severe abuse from his father and called “slave”; he had a hard life and he was even kept to a psychiatric hospital for 10 years.
Lana and Sue Ellen
Lana was legally adopted by a couple from Chicago but she never had the chance to meet up with her siblings anymore as she died before the event. Sue Ellen, perhaps adopted too, died shortly after having seen her sister Raenn. The birth mother, after being left by her husband, remarried and had 4 other daughters, who kept all with herself.
Raenn, Milton and David met, separately, their mother only once within the years and she never showed any sign of regret or sadness for what had happened. David said:
“She has never apologised. Back then it was survival. Who are we to judge? I do not hold a grudge”.
Sisters Raenn and Sue Ellen on the other hand, during their meeting, agreed on saying about her:
She deserves to rot in Hell
Does that sound like an American story?