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

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.

(At left) Mary Pickford (right) and Douglas Fairbanks (center) doing the "Fascisti salute," in Los Angeles, a year after meeting Mussolini in Rome. Motion Picture Magazine, February 1927. (At right) Benito Mussolini and the US Ambassador Henry P. Fletcher on the set of Man of the Hour (Fox Movietone News), at Mussolini's private residence, May 1927. (Courtesy of Archivio di Stato, Rome).

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