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  • National Leader, International Actor

    Giorgio Bertellini

    Chapter from the book: Bertellini, G. 2019. The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America.


    Chapter 8 examines the role of rarely studied films that promoted Mussolini in America. One of these was Goldwyn’s The Eternal City (1924), which resulted from contacts between the U.S. State Department, the MPPDA’s chief Will Hays, and the Italian Ambassador to the United States, Gelasio Caetani. Shot in Rome and featuring Mussolini as himself, the film proved personally disappointing to the Duce, though the failure did not prevent him from accepting future projects. In 1927 Fox studio representatives persuaded him to give an audiovisual address to Americans and Italian-Americans in one of the first Movietone news shorts, The Man of the Hour (1927). Critics praised his acting style and star quality, naming him the “sheik of the newsreels,” as if his plebiscitarian appeal trumped any questions about his anti-democratic politics. At the same time, American newsreel companies, and especially Fox and Hearst, continued to give Mussolini cinematic visibility by inserting Italian newsreel footage in edited compilations circulating in their own distribution networks. Despite the positive publicity, Mussolini chafed against his reduction to a mere character actor in these films, underscoring his ambiguous reaction to his cultural and political appropriation in America.

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    Bertellini, G. 2019. National Leader, International Actor. In: Bertellini, G, The Divo and the Duce. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.62.i

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    Published on Jan. 15, 2019