26. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1

1789. Compub for Irwin from Merriam. Film situation Italy requires immediate attention French British Italian propaganda films. Public resent laudatory films as most material dull and forced. Exceptional opportunity here because popularity films as Italian amusement and fact papers not as effective in certain provinces as films. Disappointment over many films sent this office and Y.M.C.A.; only twenty per cent usable with careful reediting and censoring; much material dull and old; need livelier stuff. No highly organized booking system here but if had sufficient amount proper material could use powerful existing organizations such as Mutilati military hospitals etcetera and cover Italy thoroughly together with usual commercial channels. Italians in general have no conception United States resources, war actualities or life. Good popular American dramas best for front as cannot give much war material or industrial films there. Braden2 of Italian Y.M.C.A. receiving complaints that United States film material not live[ly] enough for Italian front. Film theater situation altogether different from France; in Italy varied programme not shown; only one long five reel, dramatic subject.

Suggest this office [be] made official headquarters all American films imported Italy and no other American films permitted to be exhibited unless obtained from this office that the (?)3 Red exclude Y.M.C.A. and other organizations wishing United States films get material from us. To meet present demand require the following subjects specially suited as follows: first, negative or not less than ten copies of Wednesday and Saturday releases of Pathe Universal and other weeklies and specials of interest. This is most important category; wish to distribute bright weekly current events without obvious propaganda or official markings and add amusing war caricature by popular Italian artists.

Feel positive if weekly film properly developed can have enormous influence supplementing press; second, send only panoramas of the United States, one negative or two copies weekly; third, for the front [Page 59] and American camps to be distributed to Y.M.C.A. and Italian soldiers good feature dramas essential, one negative or ten copies per week, paramount, Goldwyn Triangle subjects not older than six months; fourth, one negative ten copies of comedies Keystone, Sidney Drew Universal weekly. Only a part of this organization self supporting; film would be rented to Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross; most of our films must be distributed gratis to reach proper places. These suggestions may seem novel but are result hard work and study Italian situation.

Nelson Page
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 733, 103.93/461. No classification marking. Red. No Distribution. Received on July 2 at 7:42 p.m. Patchin wrote on the first page of the telegram: “Sent to Irwin 7/3/18. File. P.H.P.
  2. George Braden, sent by the YMCA to work in Italy with U.S. and Italian soldiers.
  3. As in the original. Presumably it signifies an omission or garbled text in the transmission from Rome.