Film, Media and Music

Ester Lo Biundo

This chapter investigates relations between the Italian broadcasters and British government institutions. It focuses on three aspects: their internment in British camps in June 1940, when Italy entered the war; the Free Italy movement, founded by Italian anti-fascists in Britain; and the problems encountered by some of them in 1943 when, after the Allied landings in Sicily, they wanted to return to Italy, where they felt they were needed for the liberation cause.

While many Italian refugees wrote memoirs about a very positive experience at the BBC, they also encountered serious political issues in Britain. By analysing some correspondence between Italian refugees, the Foreign Office and the international department of the British Labour Party, the chapter reflects on how the relations between these Italians and Britain’s ‘enemy-friend’ government were not always easy.

When Italy entered the war in June 1940, some of the Italian exiles, including Uberto Limentani and the Treves brothers, were already working for the BBC. And yet they were interned as ‘enemy aliens’.

Another interesting fact that emerges from the Labour Party documents is that some of the Italian broadcasters at the BBC had an ambiguous political past.

Clearly, the anti-fascist cause itself was not among the priorities of the British government. Winning the war was far more important. While these data are not surprising at all in a war context, they are evidently in contrast with the myth of the BBC as the guarantor of anti-fascism and resistance.

in London calling Italy
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Ester Lo Biundo

This chapter concentrates on the Italian Service by mainly focusing on primary sources, including pamphlets published by the BBC, the BBC’s internal correspondence, letters between members of the BBC and the Manchester Guardian, and Foreign Office directives for the BBC Italian Service.

The first section explains when the service was set up, who were the first people involved in the project and what political agenda was followed. It also focuses on the profiles and careers of three important figures at the BBC Italian Service: the two wartime editors Cecil Jackson Squire Sprigge and Cecil Frederick Whittal, and the broadcaster Colonel Harold Raphael Stevens.

The second part gives an overview of programme titles and themes. This section also refers to translation issues experienced during the early months of the service as well as the use of music as a tool to successfully engage with the Italian population.

The third and last section analyses some Political Warfare Executive (PWE) guidelines for the BBC Italian Service to show how a typical directive from the Foreign Office was structured.

Again, in this case, ordinary Italians were at the centre of the BBC’s interest.

The dual nature of the BBC Italian Service also emerges from this chapter. While elaborating ideas to entertain and inform the Italians, the propagandists ultimately aimed at Italy’s defeat.

in London calling Italy
BBC broadcasts during the Second World War
Author:

During the Second World War the BBC established many of its foreign services.

The ambiguity of Radio Londra, as the BBC was known in Italy, is clearly reflected in the broadcasts of the BBC Italian Service. The British station was both the voice of an occupier and a liberator of Italy from Nazi fascism. Despite this, the radio is mainly remembered as the authentic voice of anti-fascism and resistance.

By analysing, from a transnational perspective, archive material collected in Italy and the UK, this book aims to understand why the BBC programmes have become one of the myths of Italian cultural heritage of the Second World War. To what extent were the Italian exiles at the BBC independent from the government? How did the programmes engage with ordinary Italians, and how did Italian civilians receive them?

The book also investigates the role played by transnational broadcasts in offering ordinary people a window onto a foreign world, and the contribution of foreign refugees living in the UK to the war effort and the development of the BBC. The book claims that the Corporation did play an ambiguous role, but it was the reception of the programmes in Italy at the time that created the myth of the BBC as an authentic supporter of Italian anti-fascism. It also argues that one of the key reasons for the success of the Italian Service was its ability to engage with ordinary people and address their concerns during the difficult years of the war.

Ester Lo Biundo

In the previous chapters the dual nature of the BBC Italian Service as both an ally and an enemy radio station has been analysed in the context of the relationship between the Italian exiles and the British government (Chapter 4); political interests in the Mediterranean on the occasion of the Ethiopian war and the battle of El Alamein (Chapter 5); and the anti-German programmes (Chapter 5).

The correspondence between the BBC and the EIAR in Chapter 4 demonstrates that the two radio stations exchanged information and material until Italy entered the war. In addition, Britain’s anti-fascist propaganda only began when the Italian war in Ethiopia put British colonial interests at risk. This was not in line with the self-representation of Britain as the champion of democracy and anti-fascism. Moreover, despite the BBC’s reputation as an impartial source of information, the Italian Service contributed to the distribution of falsehoods about the behaviour of German troops during the battle of El Alamein.

In this chapter the interpretative key of occupation/liberation will be applied to some issues relating to the Allies’ campaign in Italy: the unconditional surrender of Italy, the problems experienced by Italian civilians in their everyday lives (bombings, food shortages) and the relations between the Allies and the Resistance. The analysis of some programme extracts will show that, in this case also, the rhetoric of the liberation was often in contrast with the actual military interests of the Allied forces.

in London calling Italy
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Ester Lo Biundo

The aim of this chapter is to provide an introduction to the key issues and themes relating to political warfare during the Second World War on a global scale; and to offer an institutional context for a deeper understanding of the BBC Italian Service, its programmes and reception. By referring to existing literature on both propaganda and the development of the BBC, the chapter details how the birth of a mass society and the technological progress of the twentieth century influenced political warfare, when ordinary men and women became the key target audiences of the propaganda of many countries involved in the conflict.

The first part of the chapter focuses on the variety of approaches adopted by different countries to undermine their enemies, as well as on the introduction of two transnational tools of propaganda: radio and leaflets. Radio broadcasts, and leaflets dropped by enemy aeroplanes, allowed civilians to experience a more direct form of interaction with the enemy.

The second part concentrates on the birth of the BBC and the contribution of the war to its development as a leading international radio broadcaster. In particular, it explains how the BBC’s transition from private company to public corporation led to a public educational role for British radio. This educational function was also a feature of the foreign branches established during the conflict, including the Italian Service.

in London calling Italy
Ester Lo Biundo

The analyses of the radio transcripts in Chapters 5 and 6 confirms that the BBC played an ambiguous role in Italy. In order to win the war, it was crucial to demonstrate that the Allied coalition was a superior military force. As the BBC often repeated, the Allies would not treat the Italians as enemies if they got rid of fascism and the Nazi occupiers. However, they could also bomb their cities.

The contradictory role of the Italian Service has also emerged from Chapters 3 and 4. The Italian exiles working for the BBC experienced several issues with the British Foreign Office and were not always free to express their political opinions, despite references in their memoirs to the BBC being a second home.

By analysing the BBC’s target Italian audiences and the reception of the programmes, this chapter aims to understand how the myth of Radio London was constructed. By focusing on the work of radio historians and scholars, the first part of the chapter explains how difficult is to obtain reliable quantitative estimates about radio listeners in the 1930s and 1940s. The second part concentrates on the categories of Italians that the BBC hoped to reach and analyses some programme extracts. The third and fourth sections concentrate, respectively, on some indirect and direct sources of qualitative information on the listeners: the BBC surveys on the audiences of enemy countries and the letters sent by listeners to the Italian Service to Colonel Stevens.

in London calling Italy
Andrew Spicer

Chapter 5 explores the cultural politics of the ageing star, analysing why Connery managed that notoriously difficult transition so successfully. Central to his success, the chapter argues, was his development of a coherent new persona, the father-mentor, who embodies wisdom, knowledge, understanding and above all a centred integrity that he imparts to a younger man who becomes his surrogate son. This construction began fortuitously in Highlander (1986) but gained industry traction as the ‘Connery role’ after he won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in The Untouchables (1987), whose success also restored him to A-list stardom. The chapter analyses these films in detail along with The Name of the Rose (1986) – his astonishing performance as a mediaeval monk that was a huge success in Europe, demonstrating Connery’s transnational appeal in a role that would have severely challenged an American actor. Close attention is also given to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which Connery plays a comic version, and The Hunt for Red October (1990), in which his father-mentor is a magisterial figure. The chapter argues that the father-mentor was a much more capacious construction than Bond, one that offered a variety of acting challenges. The persona enabled Connery to project many of his own values in these roles, which are notable for often being politically progressive, his character at odds with a corrupt and venal society. They are also mythic and thus could accommodate the scale of Connery’s stardom.

in Sean Connery
Andrew Spicer

Chapter 2 focuses on Connery’s international stardom playing James Bond, from Dr. No (1962) to Diamonds Are Forever (1971). It examines why he was offered the role, the uncertainties about his choice and the series’ hopes of success. It emphasises that Bond was a considerable acting achievement, for which Connery’s early career had provided the skills and training, and the importance of the ironic humour with which he imbued the role, alongside his supple athleticism and sex appeal. It discusses how he developed the role and the increasing subtlety of his interpretation. The chapter foregrounds the Bond roles as a particular form of stardom, the ‘serial star’, the product of an industrial form of authorship in which the producers regarded Connery as a replaceable component in the franchise, claiming it was the character, not the actor, which generated the series’ extraordinary success. This produced an intensified form of typecasting, commodification and entrapment, the usual hazards of the successful star. The chapter explores in detail Connery’s struggles for increased remuneration and recognition and his frustrations at not being offered a partnership. It also discusses how the scale of the ‘Bond phenomenon’ threatened to engulf Connery’s whole identity, how his complete identification with a fictional figure did not allow him to develop a separate star persona, nor was his acting achievement in creating the screen Bond recognised. The chapter concludes with an analysis of Bond’s iconicity as a new form of cosmopolitan masculinity, a classless modernity that displaced previous forms of the British hero.

in Sean Connery
Abstract only
Andrew Spicer

The Conclusion assesses Connery’s significance and summarises what his career reveals about the nature of stardom. It discusses how Connery’s determination to become an accomplished actor was inseparable from his ambition to be a major international star who could compete for roles with Hollywood stars. It argues that his greatest achievement was to invest ‘popcorn hits’ with the delineation of engaging characters of some depth and complexity, alongside his ability to reinvent his persona from Bond to father-mentor. The Conclusion argues that his Scottish identity redefined post-war Britishness as part of a generational group of British actors in the vanguard of social change. It debates how his representation of masculinity was wide-ranging but always haunted by its association with a retrograde traditional patriarchy and his public condoning of male violence. The Conclusion summarises the importance of attending to the varied dimensions of stardom: commercial, cultural, iconic/mythic, social and political. It reviews the various ways in which stars’ careers must be contextualised within the shifting commercial systems in which they are situated and the conditions of their employment. Although the study has shown that even star actors’ agency is often highly circumscribed, the chapter argues that Connery’s lifelong truculence and his separateness from the Hollywood establishment helped increase stars’ autonomy and economic status. Although Connery was a singular star, the Conclusion argues that his struggles illuminate the complexities of stardom as an occupation.

in Sean Connery
Andrew Spicer

Chapter 1 explores Connery’s early career before he became James Bond. It analyses the significance of the particular social conditions from which Connery emerged: a working-class area of Edinburgh and the importance of physical display in his cultural formation, notably his bodybuilding. The principal focus is on his haphazard development as a professional actor, the significance of his unorthodox training – including attending classes with Yat Malmgren, the Swedish movement teacher – and the ways in which he negotiated the three interlocking but separate production contexts of theatre, television and film. His neglected television work is examined in close detail, including his ‘breakthrough’ role as an over-the-hill boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1957) and his major parts for the BBC such as Hotspur in An Age of Kings (1960) and his work with Rudolph Cartier on Adventure Story (1961) and Anna Karenina (1961). The chapter argues that during this period Connery’s television work was far more important than his unsatisfactory roles in feature films and the failure of Twentieth Century-Fox to promote his career despite his long-term contract. The intention throughout this chapter is to give this formative phase of his career its proper attention and integrity, and to demonstrate Connery’s commitment to developing the craft of acting as an art form. In this way the chapter contests the conventional approach that interprets every element of his early career as an anticipation of becoming James Bond, which, it is argued, could not have been predicted nor was something towards which Connery worked.

in Sean Connery