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By Carlo Celli, Marga Cottino-Jones

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The small number of dramas directly portraying Fascism indicates that filmmakers and producers prudently preferred to dress political themes in historical garb. Indirect portrayals of the regime blurred the manner in which the Fascists attained power and helped to avoid the threat of censorship. Thus more remote historical dramas such as Blasetti’s Ettore Fieramosca (1938), Un avventura di Salvator Rosa/An Adventure of Salvator Rosa (1940) and La cena delle beffe (1941), became one of the principal film forms of the 1930s.

28 After serving in WWI and being taken prisoner of war to Germany, he returned to Italy to work with his brother Augusto and his cousin Augusto Genina in silent films, where he gained experience in a variety of genres. Camerini directed adventure films such as Saetta principe per un giorno/Saetta Prince for a Day (1924), and African colonial films such as Maciste contro lo sceicco/Maciste against the Sheik (1924), Kif Tebbi (1928), and late Il grande appello/The Great Call (1936). However it was in the romantic and sentimental comedies that Camerini made his mark.

Padre Costanzo from 1860 plays a role similar to Manzoni’s heroic priest Fra’ Cristoforo by providing moral leadership and a plan for the young man to escape. In Manzoni’s novel, The Betrothed, Renzo the inexperienced country lad enters Milan, a city where the laws and customs he is accustomed to no longer apply. In 1860 Carmelo makes a similar voyage into northern Italy, first to Civitavecchia and later to Genoa. Rather than the bread riots of Manzoni’s novel, Carmelo is confused by the myriad voices of Italy’s different political factions.

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