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TitleMussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy
PublisherBerghahn Books
ISBN 139781782382454
CategoryArts - Film
File Size3.3 MB
Total Pages336
Table of Contents
                            Mussolini’s Dream Factory
Mussolini’s Dream Factory - Film Stardom in Fascist Italy - Stephen Gundle
Table of Contents
PART I - Fascism, Cinema and Stardom
1 - Italian Cinema under Fascism
2 - The Creation of a Star System
3 - Stars and Commercial Culture
4 - The Public and the Stars
PART II - Italian Stars of the Fascist Era
5 - The National Star - Isa Miranda
6 - The Matinée Idol - Vittorio De Sica
7 - Everybody’s Fiancée - Assia Noris
8 - The Star as Hero - Amedeo Nazzari
9 - The Uniformed Role Model - Fosco Giachetti
10 - The Photogenic Beauty - Alida Valli
11 - The Duce’s Whim - Miria Di San Servolo
PART III - The Aftermath of Stardom
12 - Civil War, Liberation and Reconstruction
13 - Survival, Memory and Forgetting
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Mussolini’s Dream Factory

Page 168

156 Mussolini’s Dream Factory

he wide range of expressions and moods he adopted belonged to the same
character. ‘his character is straightforwardly Italian’, Calendoli judged.48
he actor’s success derived from his being true, spontaneous, and faithful to
a way of being that was part tradition, part national spirit. While many of
the characters of Italian cinema had little relation to reality, ‘the persona of
Vittorio De Sica took inspiration from the most common suggestions of the
Italian character and found their reason for being and their limit in the
immediate surrounding world’. It did not matter if he was plebian or aristo-
cratic, since he was:

cordial, eager for human contact, sociable, optimistic, loving of life, whose true
meaning he discovers in simple, uncomplicated feelings; he is good, without giving
this too much weight; he pays his dues as far as the collectivity is concerned and
judges things accurately, weighing them up with intelligence, but without ever
assuming the severity of a judge. He underlines sometimes with his irony the defects
of the human race, but without ever embracing violent sarcasm or satire, precisely
because he does not have the indelible mark of a personality who is carried to
extremes by his exceptional qualities. Rather he is contented to stay within the
vaster zone of common feeling.49

he De Sica character’s modernity lay in this commonness, which verged
on anonymity. Apart from his prominent nose, for Calendoli he had no dis-
tinguishing characteristics. ‘His open, friendly, familiar image is in a way
a common image, that of the nameless man who lives in the beehive of the
contemporary city and who every evening is swallowed up by the apartment
blocks of the suburbs without leaving any trace’, he continued. ‘Besides, it
is the generic nature of his exterior appearance that constitutes the basis
of the character, which is exactly that of the everyman, of the individual
who is immersed up to the neck in the minute facts of every day and who
will never rise above that, not even if he will, for a moment, be brushed by
exceptional events.’50

he immersion in the everyday was a feature of many of De Sica’s charac-
ters. In his ilms with Camerini, he is often inserted in working environ-
ments such as a garage, a news kiosk, a department store, the street. In his
wider ilm work, identiiable streets and institutions in Milan, Rome and
Naples igured. However, there were also a large number of fantasy loca-
tions such as nightclubs, cruise liners, ballrooms and international resorts.
What enabled him to pass seamlessly from the banal to the desirable was
the vivacity and freshness of his playing. He had a light touch, variety of
pace and a ine sense of timing.

he delicious ordinariness of the De Sica persona is striking for its
utterly depoliticised nature. If it is true, as Paola Valentini has argued, that
he incarnated the Italian of 1930s and his aspirations, then those aspira-
tions were simple and the Italian not at all the remoulded soldier type that
Fascism propagated.51 Indeed, she continues, he represented the other side

Page 169

The Matinée Idol: Vittorio De Sica 157

of the Fascist coin; he was sentimental, inventive and individualistic where
the former was unlinching, obedient and self-sacriicing.52 His sole genre
was light comedy in its various permutations and, unlike almost every other
male actor of appropriate age, he never appeared on screen in a military role.
In fact, in Gli uomini, che mascalzoni!, as in one of the ilms De Sica directed
in the early 1940s, I bambini ci guardano (he Children Are Watching Us,
1942), uniforms (that of the chaufeur in the former, the boy’s boarding
school uniform in the inal scenes of the latter) are used as symbols of dehu-
manisation.53 His ilms usually have an ironical undertow, and varied cos-
tumes relect the luidity of his character and its capacity for transformation.
Although he adopted some of the attitudes of the male seducer, it is usually,
in the early ilms, the women who take charge of a romantic situation. De
Sica rarely emerged with credit or footloose from these. For the standards
of the time, his persona was a weak one, sometimes indecisive or tending to
passing melancholy, and the aspect of change introduced a conventionally
feminine element. He never played the hero or the leader.

De Sica’s persona, then, was a-Fascist but it should be underlined that
this does not mean it was anti-Fascist. Indeed, such a thing would have been
inconceivable. Despite his occasional adoption of lower-class roles, his back-
ground was bourgeois and his characters never actively undermined the
family, religion or respectability. He provided, in other words, the same sort
of escape as some of pleasures of consumption referred to in Chapter 3.
Fascism was based on compromise as far as the middle classes were con-
cerned, and space was always allowed for conventional values, attitudes and
distractions. It simply absorbed some behavioural models while carrying
others, including patriotism and male supremacy, to extremes. Viewed in
this light, De Sica provided not an antidote so much as a necessary safety
valve, a link to a certain type of familiar and innocuous tradition. Bolzoni
sees him as an artist who posed the regime no problems at all. ‘He was
elected the subtle and charming spokesman of that ideal type of Italian, or
rather of the Neapolitan with the heart of gold and the pleasant smile, who,
when faced with any diiculty, always inds a way out that is rarely dishon-
ourable’.54 Nevertheless, he received signiicantly more press coverage in
commercial magazines like Cinema illustrazione, published by Rizzoli, than
in publications that were more obviously subservient to oicial directives.55

Writing in 1946, the future director Steno (Stefano Vanzina) situated
the actor with precision in relation to the main currents of popular culture.
‘Beyond the Italy of Mussolini, there existed just below the surface, the Italy
of Vittorio De Sica’, he wrote:

‘Oicial ’ Italy was that of the banners and speeches, of the heads shaved in the
ancient Roman style and the demands; the ‘unoicial ’ Italy, by contrast – that
of Vittorio – was that of holidays on the Riviera or at Montecatini, that of the
lottery or the Motta panettone, that of the puzzle weeklies that were devoured in

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