From the silent era and The Black Hand (1906) to HBO's hit series The Sopranos, Hollywood has had a love-hate affair with Italian Americans. Now in paperback, Hollywood Italians is a celebration of nearly a century of images of Italians in American motion pictures and their often under-appreciated, underpraised, and truly remarkable contribution to popular culture.
Hollywood Italians covers the careers of dozens of stars among them Rudolph Valentino, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, Marisa Tomei, and James Galdolfini. In addition, the book reviews the work of such Italian American directors as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese in a fresh light. In all, Hollywood Italians discusses scores of films with a concentration on their literary and European-cinematic roots. The book is capped by a no-holds-barred examination of The Godfather and its two sequels as well as the international television phenomenon The Sopranos.
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George, Utah.From Publishers Weekly:
Stereotypes have their uses. Just ask Bondanella, a professor of comparative literature and Italian at Indiana University, who has organized his study of Italian-Americans in film by examining conventional roles. Italians may be prominent as immigrants, boxers, lovers and gangsters, but Bondanella employs the categories to showcase the values associated with Italian culture, such as hard work and loyalty to family. He claims negative portrayals haven't prevented Italian-Americans from receiving full acceptance in American society, and he emphasizes their rejection of victim status to gain upward mobility. His critique covers a wide range, beginning with the classic 1915 tale The Italian, which addresses immigration, to Rocky and Saturday Night Fever, and ends with The Sopranos, which he treats as film. In a few generations, Bondanella notes, Italians have gone from outsider to ordinary citizen. In fact, The Sopranos is his strongest argument for a multidimensional Italian-American portrayal, since its characters enjoy range: mob king to doctor, teacher to FBI agent. Not surprisingly, half the book examines the association of the Italian-American with the gangster milieu. Bondanella is intrigued by films that pair a criminal with an ethnic law-enforcement officer, the "bad-wop-and-good-wop theme," from 1909's The Detectives of the Italian Bureau through 1997's Donnie Brasco. Predictably, much of Bondanella's attention focuses on the Godfather trilogy and the variations in Martin Scorsese's films that deromanticized the Mafia. Throughout, Bondanella offers engaging plot lines, astute observations and compelling behind-the-scenes tidbits, which make for entertaining reading as both cultural and film history. Photos.
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