Italian Americans’ Transnational Film Culture in 1920s New York City
Italian-produced films found a vast audience in New York City theaters, encompassing motives of emotional longing and diasporic nationalism among immigrant spectators well into the 1920s. The essay investigates whether and how 1920s Italian American film culture resonated with assertive transnational connections. In particular, it looks at how the largest Italian American newspaper, Il Progresso Italo Americano, articulated self-assured ideas of cultural dialogue and exchange through film reviews, reports about film reception and stars, and advertisements for new films or talent agencies. The evidence Il Progresso provides reveals a dense circuit of newsmaking and popular response, indeed a culture of film consumption, that positioned Italy and America not as opposed, but in dialogue with one another. For an emigrant community long accustomed to endure racial and cultural prejudice and perceived to be strenuously attached to European customs and lifestyles, the 1920s saw the emergence of a geocultural confidence that impacted ideas and practices of film consumption turning manifest and inescapable affiliation into choice.
Keywords: transnationalism, Italian Americans, film spectatorship, film studies, immigrant spectators, immigrant entrepreneurship, immigrant press, New York City history, 1920s, Italian film in America, Italian immigrants, ethnicity, consumer culture, Valentino, Rudolph, Il Progresso Italo-Americano
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