The Politics of Dubbing

Film Censorship and State Intervention in the Translation of Foreign Cinema in Fascist Italy

by Carla Mereu Keating (Author)
©2015 Monographs XII, 184 Pages


During the late 1920s and the 1930s, the Italian government sought various commercial and politically oriented solutions to cope with the advent of new sound technologies in cinema. The translation of foreign-language films became a recurrent topic of ongoing debates surrounding the use of the Italian language, the rebirth of the national film industry and cinema’s mass popularity.
Through the analysis of state records and the film trade press, The Politics of Dubbing explores the industrial, ideological and cultural factors that played a role in the government’s support for dubbing. The book outlines the evolution of film censorship regulation in Italy and its interplay with film translation practices, discusses the reactions of Mussolini’s administration to early Italian-language talkies produced abroad and documents the state’s role in initiating and encouraging Italians’ habit of watching dubbed films.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Film Censorship and the Translation of Silent Cinema: An Overview
  • Chapter 2: A Damaging Foreign Competition: The State and the Production of Italian Talkies Abroad
  • Chapter 3: With Italian Voice and Soul: Political Involvement in the Translation of Films
  • Chapter 4: Unrecorded Censorship: From Preventive Control to Manipulated Dubbings
  • Chapter 5: The Dubbing Debate: The Translation of Films, the Press and the Public
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Figure 2.1 Publicity flyer: Il grande sentiero (1931, Fox), Lo spettacolo italiano, February 1931, 68.

Figure 2.2 Publicity flyer: Chi non cerca trova (1931, MGM), Lo spettacolo italiano, April 1931 [page unknown].

Figure 2.3 Publicity flyer: Ripudiata (1931, Fox), Lo spettacolo italiano, September 1931, 356.

Figure 3.1 Anonymous, ‘Un nuovo stabilimento di sincronizzazione e doppiaggio a Roma’, Eco del Cinema, April 1933, 33.

Figure 4.1 Official censorship of the translations of foreign films (1923–1943).

Figure 5.1 Anonymous, ‘Una nuova iniziativa: Il cinema Quirinetta’, Cinema Illustrazione, October 1935, 11.

Figure 5.2 Tell O’Darsa, ‘Le voci del cinema’, Cinema Illustrazione, September 1937, 9–10.

Figure 5.3 First cover image of ‘Inchiesta sul doppiaggio: pro o contro?’, Cinema 110, 25 January 1941, 10.

| ix →


I was about ten years old when I realised for the first time that the movements of the lips of the actress on the TV screen did not correspond with the voice that came out of the TV speakers. It was an Italian film and its dialogues had been post-synchronised poorly. That bewildering audience experience instilled in me a curiosity which I was able to satisfy several years later by pursuing further studies into the nature, use and meaning of (human) language in cinema and, eventually, by digging into the historical origins of a cultural and commercial practice which attracted my curiosity at such an early age.

My PhD thesis, from which this book originates, owed much to the dedicated guidance and insightful criticism of Christopher Wagstaff, my supervisor at the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies of the University of Reading. I am also indebted to Federico Faloppa, Daniela La Penna, Paola Nasti and the scholarly community in Reading, who have inspired me with their strong commitment to high quality education and research, and to Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick), for his generous and expert postdoctoral mentorship.

Special thanks go to Pier Luigi Raffaelli, for his invaluable help and guidance during my many visits to the archive of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (MiBAC) and to his collaborators at the Italia Taglia project in Rome and in Bologna, and in particular Francesca Meschino and Gabriele Bigonzoni; at the Fondazione Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (CSC) in Rome, I am greatly indebted to Franca Farina, film archivist at the Cineteca Nazionale, and to Viridiana Rotondi, at the Videoteca, for their patient assistance with film and press research; many thanks also go to Fiammetta Lionti and Giancarlo Concetti at the Biblioteca Luigi Chiarini, to Enrica Lozzi at the Biblioteca Alessandrina for their support with the illustrations from Cinema, Cinema Illustrazione, Eco del Cinema and Lo spettacolo italiano, and to the staff of the Archivio Centrale dello Stato (Rome) and the Archivio Storico Diplomatico of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome. ← ix | x →

I would like to thank Hans-Michael Bock (CineGraph, Hamburg), Jorge Dìaz Cintas (University College London), Serenella Zanotti (University of Roma Tre), Irene Ranzato (University of Roma La Sapienza), Katia Pizzi (University of London), Carol O’Sullivan (University of Bristol), and translator and AVT historian Jean-François Cornu, for their active scholarly support and for their constructive criticism; to Robert Dickson and Jenny Romero (Margaret Herrick Library), Richard Koszarski (Rutgers University), Mark Quigley (UCLA Film and Television Archive) and Brett Service (Warner Bros. Archive) for facilitating my research in Los Angeles with their expert knowledge and guidance.

I have had the great privilege of spending dedicated periods of study and research in the UK and in Italy thanks to a three-year scholarship I received in 2009 from the Master and Back programme, jointly sponsored by the Regione Autonoma della Sardegna (Italy) and the European Social Fund. Research to document Italian-language film production based in the US and the diplomatic involvement in the US-Italian film trade during the 1930s, which appears in Chapter 2 and partly in Chapter 3, was conducted in archives and libraries in Rome and Los Angeles as part of the project ‘The Language and the Image of a Nation: Diplomatic Relations between the Italian Foreign Office and the MPPDA (Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America) during the 1930s’. This independent post-doctoral project was generously sponsored by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust with a small research grant (SRG 2013–2014).

Researching in the Arts and Humanities is an elitist and prestigious activity and managing to secure funding, networking and publishing can be challenging at the early career level without the moral support of colleagues and people outside academia. Many family members and friends spread across the world have contributed to the progress of this work by helping me see the glass half full. My most heartfelt thanks go to my mother Simonetta Cadeddu, my sister Martina Mereu and my husband Aran Keating. I could not have taken up this work without your tireless encouragement and your loving and generous support every step of the way. This book is dedicated to you.

| xi →


ACS = Archivio Centrale dello Stato

AFI = American Film Institute

AVT = Audiovisual Translation

CCC = Centro Cattolico Cinematografico

CSC = Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia

DGC = Direzione Generale per il Cinema

DGPS = Direzione Generale della Pubblica Sicurezza

GU = Gazzetta Ufficiale

GUF = Gruppi Universitari Fascisti

LV = Language Version

MAE = Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale

MCP = Ministero della Cultura Popolare

MGM = Metro Goldwyn Mayer

MiBAC = Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali

MLVs = Multi-Language Versions

MPPDA = Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America

MSP = Ministero per la Stampa e la Propaganda

PCM = Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri

PNF = Partito Nazionale Fascista

| 1 →



XII, 184
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Film trade press Audiovisual translation Film translated into Italian Fascist Italy Sound technologies in cinema Film censorship
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XII, 184 pp., 8 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Carla Mereu Keating (Author)

Carla Mereu Keating holds a PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Reading. She has contributed to various publications on film history, censorship, ethnicity, dubbing and subtitling. She is a visiting research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London. Her current research focuses on portrayals of warfare and war legacy in films, state censorship and the shaping of cultural and collective memory.


Title: The Politics of Dubbing
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