“Harlem”, the most racist (and censored) national blockbuster ever returns – Corriere.it

In Bologna, within the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, the 1943 film full of clichés about blacks and Americans, wanted by fascism

It is in a good position for the title of the most racist national film ever but it is certainly the winner for the most censored one in Italy. Perhaps «always», as the subtitle of the book that Luca Martera dedicated to “Harlem” by Carmine Gallone (La Nave di Teseo / Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), which will be presented in Bologna on Saturday 24th as part of the Cinema Ritrovato program, where of course it will also be possible to see the original copy, restored by the Cineteca Nazionale, of a film that was born in 1943 of 113 minutes and became in 1946 of 87.

At the origin there is a short story by Giuseppe Achille – “Harlem” precisely published in 1939 on “Monthly novel”, magazine published by “Corriere della SeraAnd that Luigi Freddi, the boss of Fascist cinematography really likes: in 1942 he sees you as the ideal starting point for an anti-American and anti-black (as well as anti-Jewish) film. Said and done: the Minister of Popular Culture Alessandro Pavolini gives the green light to “achieve the propaganda purposes to which the film should be inspired” and the production machine is set in motion.

With some difficulties, because Alessandro Blasetti, indicated as director, pulls back; the subject signed Steno (future father of the Vanzina brothers) and Lucio De Caro is not liked and the story passes into the hands of Emilio Cecchi, Paolo Monelli and the sports journalist Pietro Petroselli to find its final form with Sergio Amidei and Giacomo Debenedetti (who in spite of the racial laws it was held in the palm of his hand by Freddi). The story of Amedeo (Nazzari), a builder in Brooklyn on whose land the gangster Chris Sherman (Osvaldo Valenti) has set his eyes, and of his brother Tom (Massimo Girotti) who will challenge a black champion in the ring to allow Amedeo , with the money from the bag, to keep his activities but also to defend the Italian honor in front of the blacks who demonstrated for the invasion of Ethiopia (the film is set in 1935).

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A story like many others if it weren’t full of anti-American stereotypes (corrupt and corrupt, attached to the dollar and also ready to kidnap children) and racist clichés (attending the meeting, a black man eats his hat for tension, another shouts “Death to the Italians!”. some of the bad taste stunts that a thousand African prisoners forced to make extras were forced to). Which on April 24, 1943 arrived with a great crash in Italian cinemas. Except disappearing a few months later, when the advance of the allies made a film so vulgarly anti-American short-sighted.

So much so that in 1946, to try to recover some income, the film was subjected to a radical restyling operation: 31 minutes of cuts (minimizing the part of Osvaldo Valenti, shot by the partisans), another seven of redoubled dialogues, the prohibition of being screened in some regions for fear of reprisals (in Reggio Emilia a copy was burned) and above all the idea that the scissors of censorship can be capable of any miracle. Also return a virginity.

July 20, 2021 (change July 20, 2021 | 21:59)

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