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Italy In Hollywood Section No.2

Johnny WANG 2018-12-01 17:24

In the previous issue we introduced Italy in Hollywood taking place in Florence, Italy. Today we will have a closer look to the first and second halls of the exhibition.

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Italian Immigrants in California and Panama–Pacific International Exposition

The opening work of the first hall is a giant painting by Italian painter Raffaello Gambogi (1874—1943), finished in the late 19th century and collected by Civico Giovanni Fattori Museum in the port city Livorno. The picture portrays an Italian family eagerly waiting to board the ship bound for America. From 1880 to 1920, several million Italians left their homeland, but not all of them for the cause of escaping from an economically depressed society. For many of them, settling in another continent means searching for new opportunities, and Ferragamo was one of them. He landed in the New World in 1915 to study shoemaking, since he was very curious with the shoemaking techniques in the States at that time.

After a short stay on the East Coast, Ferragamo arrived at California in 1916. For many people California is the most typical Italian immigrant destination. This part traces the various occupations Italians took in California through photographs and films, for example construction, grape cultivation, winery, vegetable growing and gardening etc. Italian immigrants utilised the railway network to expand business – including Di Giorgio Brothers’ orchards, Fontana Cerrutti Brothers’ Del Monte cannery and Jacuzzi Brothers’ irrigation pumps. Meanwhile, fishermen from Ischia introduced a special “reti scorticarie” net to catch sardines in San Pedro. Some Italians went mining in Nevada, constructed railways, or plunged into the booming carpentry industry. Others moved to big cities and became cleaners, barbers, small businessmen and craftsmen.

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Besides the Renaissance Italian style, this exhibition brings the less recognised but equally influential Mediterranean elements into view. Here, Italy is the source of inspiration for Californian architects, which was formerly based on mundane buildings rather than classic masterpieces. For instance, rural buildings, farmers’ cottages and fishermen’s seaside residences are highlighted within the exhibition.

The highlight of the hall resides in the visual device inspired from Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, 1915. On that world-level fair, multiple pavilions were influenced by classical Italian style in architectural design. Marcello Piacentini, an Italian urban theorist, designed the spectacular Italian pavilion, which excelled among the 110 in total. The pavilion itself focuses on a vivid presentation of Italian charm. Several pieces in the exhibition prove the importance of the Fair in American history, including Plinio Nomellini’s (1866—1943) Baci di Sole by Paolo e Adele Giannoni Modern Art Museum in Novara, Giuseppe Graziosi’s (1879—1942) Nudo Di donna (Susanna) by Ricci Oddi Modern Art Museum in Piacenza, which was on display in the central hall of Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Many futuristic works on that exposition are on display here, among which we can’t miss Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive’s collection Disgregazione x Velocità, Penetrazioni Dinamiche D’Automobile, designed by Italian painter Giacomo Balla (1871—1958) in 1913.

Cabiria and Early Italian Films: Hollywood’s Source of Inspiration

After visiting the first hall, the second hall catches your eyes with the silent films about the Bible and classical motifs. The first film is the epic masterpiece – Cabiria, written by Italian writer, poet and journalist Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863—1938) and directed by Giovanni Pastrone (1883—1959) in 1914, and manufactured by Italia Film Studio in Turin. Cabiria garnered acclaims like “spectacular masterpiece” when it was aired in the States. With excellent visual effects, powerful aesthetic settings, creative techniques, convincing narratives and smooth scenes, the film was deemed as a legendary epic film, as well as a critical inheritance of Hollywood movies concerning the Bible and classical motifs.

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The other two films are Intolerance by D. W. Griffith in 1916 and The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille in 1923. The latter of which featured sandals designed by Ferragamo, and further established his position in film industry.

From a certain perspective, Italian silent films are good at producing grand scenes in the ancient times. Their first epic film set the background in ancient Rome, which not only succeeded in Italy but also promoted the development of nationalism-oriented pop culture. Meanwhile, The Last Days of Pompeii and Quo Vadis produced in 1913 and Julius Caesar in 1914 travelled across the ocean and spread the imagination of the ancient civilisation to corners of the world. With combinations of multiple themes and motifs, like the beauty of ruins, lust, battlefields, martyrs of Christianity, natural disasters and enraged mobs, these Italian films offer a portal to discover the Italian culture, and also provide a bank of resources including character features, scene elements and creative narratives to the American film industry. 

【Layouts Hu Fangfang】

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