WHO DEFENDS ROME: The Forty-five Days, July 25-September 8, 1943 by Melton S. Davis

WHO DEFENDS ROME: The Forty-five Days, July 25-September 8, 1943

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Davis' capacity-crowded history of Mussolini's collapse and the period of politico-military confusion following reads like a cinemascopic retake of Is Paris Burning? only in another country. The dramatis personae appear cameo fashion: here is the swaggering Duce, before deposal, saying in a hard voice ""I won't cede my powers to anyone"" but later, dining with Hitler, so ill that he ""hardly moved his fork to his mouth"" (cast Orson Welles); cut to docile, vacillating King Vittorio Emanuele III, only five feet tall, ""his legs ridiculously small in proportion to his size"" (who else but Jose Ferret?); cut to beautiful Carla Capponi, young radical leftist who dreams of assassinating the Duce (Ali McGraw maybe?); cut to the conspirators, represented by suave but mercilessly tough Dino Grandi (George C. Scott); a spot on General Giacomo Carboni who ""could easily have doubled for Errol Flynn""; a short-take of Mussolini's final mistress Claretta Petacci, ""an undoubted beauty. . . curly black hair, liquid green eyes, a long-legged, firm figure, and a Roman woman's full bust"" (Sophia, natch). There are also swatches of sex, easily expandable (""Mussolini hated women and usually muttered curses as he made love to them. . . with most of his clothes still on, he would take them quickly, frequently on the floor of his office"") and there are great gulps of historical detail concerning whose side the Italians were really on (no one, least of all the Italians, seemed to know). Davis, a journalist with two other books (All Rome Trembled, 1957; a novel The Voluptuaries, 1964), writes in the slick and oozy manner and hit, scenario might interest a third-rate Fellini.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1971
Publisher: Dial