'"Why not forget him?": le lettere dei fan, le polemiche e il trattamento della memoria di Valentino in "Picture Play", 1926-1928'
Carluccio, Giulia and Alovisio, Silvio (eds.)
Rodolfo Valentino: Cinema, Cultura, Società tra Italia e Stati Uniti negli anni Venti.
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This chapter (published in Italian) examines responses to Rudolph Valentino’s death through a case-study of film fan-magazine letters in Picture-Play, with examples from Britain’s Picture Show and Picturegoer, between 1926-27. Picture-Play, although published in the United States, included a distinctly international range of correspondence in its letters pages, which enabled a rather heated exchange between fans in America and the UK as to the appropriate way to remember their idol. Those responses, which did not appear before December 1926 due to the two-month lead-in for publication, would peak between April and October 1927 as fans began to reply to each other and as the first anniversary of the star’s death approached. Following the intervention of Mercia Stanhope in London, president of the Valentino Memorial Guild, who argued for Valentino’s memory to be ‘defended’ and sought formal commemoration, others soon joined the discussion. ‘Revere his memory!’ exclaimed a Swedish respondent. Countering this were those who condemned Stanhope and her followers for producing prose and poetry ‘overflowing with sentimental gush’ and, as a contributor from Seattle put it ‘carrying to extremes the methods in which they are advertising their mourning’. ‘Why not forget him?’ asked another provocatively.
I ground these arguments within wider cultural debates around memorial following the Great War, and also draw from existing English-language scholarship on Valentino (including Studlar, Hansen and Basinger). Moving beyond that work, which has largely examined the star’s relationship to female spectatorship and concepts of race and national identity, I examine for the first time in detail the Anglo-American context of fan-magazine responses to his death. In their letters pages fans and non-fans alike negotiated the most appropriate means of remembering, commemorating, or indeed forgetting, the star. Finally, I ask what this debate reveals about not only Valentino’s legacy as a star, but about the nature of stardom, and its meaning for audiences, more widely.
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