The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America

The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America

by Giorgio Bertellini

Paperback(First Edition)

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In the post–World War I American climate of isolationism, nativism, democratic expansion of civic rights, and consumerism, Italian-born star Rodolfo Valentino and Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini became surprising paragons of authoritarian male power and mass appeal. Drawing on extensive archival research in the United States and Italy, Giorgio Bertellini’s work shows how their popularity, both political and erotic, largely depended on the efforts of public opinion managers, including publicists, journalists, and even ambassadors. Beyond the democratic celebrations of the Jazz Age, the promotion of their charismatic masculinity through spectacle and press coverage inaugurated the now-familiar convergence of popular celebrity and political authority.

This is the first volume in the new Cinema Cultures in Contact series, coedited by Giorgio Bertellini, Richard Abel, and Matthew Solomon.

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries. Learn more at the TOME website, available at:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520301368
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Series: Cinema Cultures in Contact , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Giorgio Bertellini is Professor of Film and Media History at the University of Michigan. He is the author and editor of the award-winning volumes Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Landscape, and the Picturesque and Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: “Nothing Like Going to an Authority!”

Part One. Power and Persuasion
1. Popular Sovereignty, Public Opinion, and the Presidency
2. Cultural Nationalism and Democracy’s Opinion Leaders
3. Wartime Film Stardom and Global Leadership

Part Two. The Divo, or the Governance of Romance
4. The Divo, New-Style Heavy
5. The Ballyhooed Art of Governing Romance
6. Stunts and Plebiscites

Part Three. The Duce, or the Romance of Undemocratic Governing
7. Promoting a Romantic Biography
8. National Leader, International Actor


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