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How Italian Influences Affected America's Taste For Glamour
by Cookie Curci
During the 1950s and '60s, what America wore, what its citizens drove, and how they looked, was, in a large part, dictated by Italy's trendsetters, which included fashion designers, film directors and automakers. If it originated in Italy, and the designer's name ended in a vowel, the American public was buying it. Even our First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, was enamored with Oleg Cassini fashions. She set America's style pace in suits and jackets designed by Cassini. The film industry was, to a large degree, responsible for the public's newfound interest in the European way of life. With films such as Federico Fellini's, La Dolce Vita and La Strada, Italian moviemakers had stirred a lust in America's heart that hitherto had not been touched. Italy's "leave it till tomorrow" lifestyle and carefree attitude appealed to the American moviegoer, who quickly began to emulate the "dolce" lifestyle.
Living the sweet life soon became the priority of the day. People not only wanted to live well, but better, a passion that sent Americans on a search for the "good life."
Songs such as Dean Martin's "That's Amore", Al Martino's "Al di la" and Mario Lanza's "Arrivederci Roma" were high on America's hit parade. Even Walt Disney got in on the act when he had the Italian tune "Bella Notte" composed especially for his animated hit, "Lady and the Tramp". While Peggy Lee's voice sings the romantic ballad, the canine stars of the film, Lady and Tramp, dine alfresco on a platter of meatballs and spaghetti. The song and the scene were the hit of the film.
Films featuring Italy were sure to draw people to the box office. Movies such as Three Coins in the Fountain, Summertime, and The Rose Tattoo, helped feed the frenzy for anything Italian. Wildly famous Italian fashion designers, Cassini, Pucci, Gucci and Simonetta were hotly in demand, as were these fast cars made by Italian auto makers: Lamborghini, Maserati, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. But more than cars and more than clothes, Italy's most profound import was the movie icon, the Italian cinema's sexy, earthy women and demonstrative, romantic Italian men.
They came to us in a variety of sizes, shapes and heights, those voluptuous Italian actresses and sensuous men from across the sea. Whatever their size, shape or style, few moviegoers were exempt from the spell cast by these magnetic stars.
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