Announcing a publication!

Not long ago, a major project of mine came to fruition. A chance infatuation with the adverts for a particular film grew into a fruitful research project which involved early newspaper comic strips, international media coverage, and two Italian silent films. Now, my article on this particular collison of comic strip history, pop culture, and silent cinema has been published in the journal Feminist Media Histories.

The article is called From the New York Herald to the Italian screen: Fluffy Ruffles, la donna americana, and you can find it here.

It’s a research article, but also has a visual component: I produced hand-drawn illustrations to accompany the text. They’re mostly in pen, with some ink, and some use of collage. The illustrations are all based on archival materials, primarily adverts, that I unearthed in the course of my research. (Originally the concept was to produce something more zine-like in nature, but for several reasons it worked out differently).

Here’s the abstract:

The popular 1907–9 American newspaper comic strip character Fluffy Ruffles was an iconic embodiment of contemporary American femininity between the eras of the Gibson Girl and the later flapper and “it” girl. This article discusses Fluffy Ruffles as a popular phenomenon and incarnation of anxieties about women in the workplace, and how she underwent a metamorphosis in the European press, as preexisting ideas of American youth, wealth, and liberty were grafted onto her character. A decade after her debut in the newspapers, two films—Augusto Genina’s partially extant Miss Cyclone (La signorina Ciclone, 1916), and Alfredo Robert’s lost Miss Fluffy Ruffles (1918)—brought her to the Italian screen. This article looks at how the character was interpreted by Suzanne Armelle and Fernanda Negri Pouget, respectively, drawing on advertisements and the other performances of Negri Pouget to reconstruct the latter. The article is illustrated with drawings and collages based on the author’s research.

The article is on freeview until the end of the week. (And if you come to this post later on and want to take a look, flick me an email!)

I’m thinking of following up with a ‘behind the scenes’ post about the project, if people are interested. Any takers?

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Now on the Media History Digital Library: several of my film magazines

Well, when I say ‘now’, I mean ‘several months ago’. Last year, I went on holiday to Europe (including taking in Il Cinema Ritrovato), and while in the Netherlands, I picked up several issues of the Dutch journal Cinema en Theater from the early 1920s. Back home, I made high-resolution scans, and submitted the issues to the Media History Digital Library. I imagine many readers are familiar with this brilliant resource, which provides access to digitized copies of books and magazines about films, broadcasting, and recorded sound.

You can find the Cinema en Theater issues linked here on the Global Cinema Collection page, but I thought I’d point out an interesting thing or two about each issue here on Silents, Please. As you’ll see, the visual design of the magazine is really lovely. Plus, there’s a blog-only exclusive that involves Pola Negri! Continue reading

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I act, therefore IAM: Italia Almirante Manzini in Notte di tempesta (1916)

Italia Almirante Manzini was a major diva of the Italian silents who has, so far, been mentioned on this blog only briefly. I like her a lot—she’s always fun and engaging to watch. Despite a stately appearance, I perceive a certain gentle wryness to her smile; it seems both that she is enjoying herself and that she is in on the joke.

A little background: Almirante Manzini began her acting career on the stage, and entered films in the early teens, but it was the mighty Cabiria (Itala-Film, 1914) that established her as a cinematic star. As is well known, Cabiria was groundbreaking both formally and narratively, and it’s still highly enjoyable; in my opinion, it’s one of those classics that wholeheartedly deserves its critical reputation. Almirante Manzini is resplendent as the Carthaginian noblewoman Sofonisba (a character based on the historical figure Sophonisba), living in luxury, complete with pet tiger.

As Sofonisba in Cabiria.

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Lina Cavalieri in Sposa nella morte! | The Shadow of Her Past (IT 1915)


Known as “the most beautiful woman in the world”, opera singer Lina Cavalieri starred opposite Caruso, was fêted by D’Annunzio, and was painted by Boldini. She began her career singing in the café-chantants of Rome, Naples, and Paris; rising to international stardom, she toured Europe, was beloved in Tsarist Russia, and performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Along the way, she launched her own perfume (‘Mona Lina’), and married and divorced several times. Indeed a great beauty, Cavalieri was extensively photographed, her face and fashionably corseted figure published on many postcards. The proliferation of her likeness certainly helped establish Cavalieri as a defining icon of the Belle Époque.

Cavalieri also appeared on the silver screen, though unfortunately almost all of her films are now lost. The sole exception is her second film, Sposa nella morte! (literally Wife in Death, released in the USA as The Shadow of Her Past), which she made at Tiber-Film in 1915.

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Diva ‘December’ returns – Fabienne Fabrèges in Signori giurati … (1916)

Welcome to (the now well-misnamed) Diva December! In this series, I look at examples of the Italian diva film, a genre that proliferated in 1910s Italy—for an overview, click here. This first instalment is devoted to a relatively obscure title, Signori giurati … | Gentlemen of the Jury …, starring French actress Fabienne Fabrèges, who also wrote the screenplay.

Advertisement in Film, no. 21 of 1916

Advertisement in Film, no. 21 of 1916

Signori giurati is a classic femme fatale story, in which Fabrèges plays Julienne Santiago, a woman with two noble goals: to open a fancy drug den, and to break as many hearts as possible. Well, we all have to make a living, no?

Fabrèges in her character introduction shot.

Fabrèges in her character introduction shot.

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Diva December delayed!

Regular readers will know that in December, I usually publish a series of articles on the films of the Italian divas. Due to a heavy workload right now, I have to postpone this until early next year – so please check back then! In the meantime, here is my introductory article to this genre, and the diva film archives can be found here.

I leave you with this adorable picture of Maria Jacobini in the interim.


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More question marks in Italian film advertising of the teens

Late last year, I published a post of adverts I’d come across in silent-era Italian film journals that prominently used question marks. But there is a lot more material where that came from—so now, I present a sequel. Enjoy some more interrogative punctuation … …?

Oh Ambrosio, why do you tease me so?

La cinematografia italiana ed estera 02 del 1916 inferno smlLa cinematografia italiana ed estera 02 del 1916

Preferisco l’inferno! | I prefer Hell! starred frequent collaborators Gigetta Morano and Eleutorio Rodolfi, the latter of whom also directed.

What is Léontine Massart up to next?

Cinemagraf 09 del 1916 smlCinemagraf no. 09 of 1916

The answer: a few titles in 1916, and then not a whole lot else.

Jupiter-Film seem unsure about their lead actress, Diana Karenne.

Cinemagraf 09 del 1916 Karenne question smlCinemagraf no. 09 del 1916
Cinemagraf 10 del 1916 Karenne question smlCinemagraf no. 10 del 1916

Continue reading

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