Telefoni Bianchi (Italian pronunciation: [teˈlɛfoni ˈbjaŋki]; "white telephones") films were made in Italy in the 1930s in imitation of American comedies of the time. For example, there would be expensive Art Deco sets featuring white telephones (status symbol of bourgeois wealth and generally unavailable to the movie-going public), and children would have Shirley Temple curls. The films tended to be socially conservative, promoting family values, respect for authority, a rigid class hierarchy, and country life, all stances perfectly in line with the ideology of the fascist regime. The genre is also referred by modern film critics as "Hungarian style comedies", because they were often adaptation of stage plays of Hungarian authors (a popular source material also for Hollywood productions of the time). In fact, to avoid the limitations imposed by the censure of the fascist authorities, when potentially controversial topics were addressed in the plot (for instance divorce, at the time illegal in Italy, or adultery, a punishable offense by the contemporary Italian law) the action was often set in various, and sometimes imaginary, Eastern European countries, but always with Italian protagonists.
The Neorealist filmmakers saw their gritty films as a reaction to the idealized Telefoni Bianchi style. They compared and contrasted the high-and-almighty gimmicks of set and studio production, with the disheveled beauty of everyday life, the rigorous depiction of human life and its sufferings, and chose instead to work on location and with non-professional actors.
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