Giorgio Bertellini's new book, The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America, is now available from the University of Calfornia Press and is also available to download at www.luminosoa.org.
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 book is fantastic, an eminently readable milestone in the study of celebrity.
Bertellini sets a new standard for archival and analytical approaches to movie
stardom in the 1920s while also illuminating the political stakes of celebrity that
resonate with twenty-first century culture."
— Gaylyn Studlar, author of This Mad Masquerade: Stardom and Masculinity in the Jazz Age
"Bertellini’s brilliant book shows clearly how celebrity and promotional culture became
integral to new practices of mass governance in the early twentieth century. It is a crucial
history, essential also to any genealogy of the mediatized present and the rise of modes of
authoritarian and neofascist governance."
— Lee Grieveson, author of Cinema and the Wealth of Nations: Media, Capital,
and the Liberal World System
This is the first volume in the new Cinema Cultures in Contact series, co-edited by Giorgio Bertellini, Richard Abel, and Matthew Solomon.