The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema

The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema

Jacqueline Reich
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/19/2015
ISBN: 978-0-253-01748-2
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Winner, American Association of Italian Studies 2016 Book Prize for Film and MediaFinalist, Wall Award, Theatre Library AssnFinalist, The Bridge Award (American Initiative for Italian Culture)

Italian film star Bartolomeo Pagano's "Maciste" played a key role in his nation’s narratives of identity during World War I and after. Jacqueline Reich traces the racial, class, and national transformations undergone by this Italian strongman from African slave in Cabiria (1914), his first film, to bourgeois gentleman, to Alpine soldier of the Great War, to colonial officer in Italy's African adventures. Reich reveals Maciste as a figure who both reflected classical ideals of masculine beauty and virility (later taken up by Mussolini and used for political purposes) and embodied the model Italian citizen. The 12 films at the center of the book, recently restored and newly accessible to a wider public, together with relevant extra-cinematic materials, provide a rich resource for understanding the spread of discourses on masculinity, and national and racial identities during a turbulent period in Italian history. The volume includes an illustrated appendix documenting the restoration and preservation of these cinematic treasures.

Author Bio

Jacqueline Reich is Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. She is author of Beyond the Latin Lover (IUP, 2004) and Re-Viewing Fascism (IUP, 2002).


“By weaving together questions of stardom, genre, and national ideology through groundbreaking archival research, Dr. Reich’s reading of Maciste provides a fantastically rich and exceptional contribution to star studies, Italian studies, and film history.”
 — Giorgio Bertellini, editor of Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader

“At long last, this carefully researched, clearly written and theoretically informed star study offers a fascinating and multi-faceted portrait of one of the most intriguing --- and heretofore elusive --- figures in the history of silent film. Employing a full range of interdisciplinary approaches, together with a thorough examination of archival resources and a masterful synthesis of historical details, Jacqueline Reich's The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema marks a major contribution to film scholarship.”
 — John P. Welle, University of Notre Dame

“...a brilliant contribution to the study of stardom in silent film. Reich combines stylish writing, deep historical research, and intellectual sophistication to tell the story of an overlooked star from one of the most important periods of Italian cinema. Engaging in a wide-ranging but carefully considered examination of extra-cinematic and cinematic discourses, including recently restored prints, Reich persuasively argues that Maciste’s populist appeal as an icon of masculinity linked to national identity demonstrates the power of cinematic stardom to merge political and visual culture in sometimes unexpected and startling ways.”
 — Gaylyn Studlar, David May Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Maciste?
1. The Birth of the Strongman: Italian Silent Cinema, Stardom, and Genre
2. From Slave to Master: Cabiria (1914) and Maciste (1915)
3. Maciste Goes to War: Maciste alpino (1916)
4. Over There: The Maciste Series, World War I, and American Film Culture
5. Love, Labor and Leadership: The Modernity of the Maciste Series, 1919-1922
6. Muscling the Nation: Benito Mussolini and the Maciste Films of the 1920s
Conclusion: The Giant of the Dolomites and Beyond
Appendix: Claudia Gianetto and Stella Dagna
Part I: The Restoration of the Maciste Series
Part II: In Focus: Scene Analyses
Part III: Filmography