Over the course of my research, I’ve noticed on a delightful quirk of Italian silent film advertising: a prominent and often repetitious use of question marks to build anticipation and enthusiasm for future film releases.
I’ve shared examples annually for the last couple of years, but the well is not yet dry, my friends. So, for the third excursion into this phenomenon, I’ve looked for examples that combine punti interrogativi with other punctuation. Andiamo!
Question marks and exclamation marks are a match made in heaven in this advert for Dollari e fraks, a four-part serial in Emilio Ghione’s long-running Za La Mort series.
What about Chaplin? Stefano Pittaluga has the goods, advertising Charlot falso Barone (Caught in a Cabaret, 1914), Charlot ortolano (The Tramp, 1915), and Il pianoforte di Charlot (His Musical Career, 1914).
Tiber Film in Rome aren’t sure what to do with Maria Jacobini:
Jacobini made several films at Tiber that year, but then moved to Itala Film, where she had one of her big successes with the very good Addio giovinezza! (Goodbye Youth!).
Speaking of which, here is Itala Film advertising their 1919 picture Scacco matto (Checkmate) and communicating a strong possibility that the king may not in fact be in check.
Tornielli Film of Turin only ever produced three films, none of which have a title related to the cryptic repetition of P..y..n!? in this advert.
The question mark followed by ellipsis is also a common device. Cines keep us guessing on who will play Salome in their upcoming film:
It was not a film that ever came to fruition, as far as I can tell. Likewise, Filmgraf (headed the prolific Gustavo Serena) teases us with the mystery of what is to come, all the while publicising other films that never saw the light of day.
Back in Rome, Fontana Film is in rationing, with Yvonne de Fleuriel and Amleto Novelli earning a ? and a ! respectively. The two costarred in the 1919 film Tutto!.
What is La gardenia rossa? Another phantom film.
For maximum impact, a combination of question marks, exclamation marks, and ellipses may be used. Maria Jacobini’s sister Diomira also worked at Tiber, where she was not neglected by punctuation:
The director cited, Alfredo de Antoni, directed and acted alongside Bertini in several of her big films, including Il processo Clémenceau (1917) and Frou-Frou (1918). (His acting career stretched into the 1940s, and included a role in the notorious 1937 fascist film Scipione l’africano). De Antoni and Jacobini only worked together on one title at Tiber, I due volti di Nunù of 1920.
And last but not least, let’s appreciate this creative use of visual typography: