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  • Image: Arresting Trouble December 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    The Beachcombing family has been shook tonight by phantom (?) contractions and Mrs B. is  upstairs wondering whether or not she is about to give birth. Beachcombing is a nursing a frullato downstairs confident that the baby is still a month away. But then Beachcombing is wrong about almost everything and that leads him nicely to another error-prone individual, Benito Mussolini… Now Benito always came out well in photos. From the mug shots of his early arrest in Switzerland, to his hugs-and-kisses pics with Hitler, to his hanging upside down antics in Piazzale Loreto, the head fasces indubitably makes an impression. But Beachcombing particularly enjoys this fabulous picture of the duce being arrested back at the beginning of the First World War, his absolute fave of the Roman lawgiver for five reasons. First, there are not many pre-First-World-War action shots: one of the few others that comes to mind is another arrest, that of Gavrillo Princep. Yet here Mussolini is being hustled, in full, demented, head-long tilt down the streets by Italian plain-clothes policemen as if he is a particularly naughty schoolboy who has been caught scrumping the headmaster’s apples. It is, given the technology available and the motion involved, a miracle that the picture is so in focus. Second, too often the world recalls Mussolini as he was in 1940-45, when he looked like an old man with a tumour in metastasis: skin hanging from his face, the melancholy of impending death in his eyes. But here, instead, is the Mussolini that changed Italy and indeed the world in the 1920s. The Mussolini that sent Parisian old maids and American dowagers into swoons. The Mussolini who made it into a Cole Porter song: You’re the Tops in case the good reader is wondering – ‘You’re Mussolini,/ You’re Mrs. Sweeney’. The diabolical, energy is certainly here – as it is in contemporary pictures of Lenin, forget comparisons with Hitler – so much dirt under Europe’s finger-nails. And they ‘hurled the little streets against the great’. Third, there is the suit. There is something in the bulk of Mussolini in a suit that always knocks Beachcombing off balance: it is as if a lumberjack had accidentally put on his wife nurse’s uniform after waking up with a hangover. Benito’s sartorial pretensions took a long time to fade. He would be in office several months before he was convinced to stop wearing a bowler – the resemblance to Charlie Chaplin was unsettling his adoring public. Fourth, Beachcombing has a weakness for ridiculous moustaches particularly on policemen… It is so, well, Village People. Beachcombing also wants to go on record as saying that all those pictured in the photo will have been passionate supporters of Mussolini by, say, 1925. And fifth and finally there is some confusion (in Beachcombing’s sources) about when this photo was taken. This might not seem to speak in its favour but allow Beachcombing to make the case for the choice is telling. Was it taken in an anti -ar demonstration in the fall of 1914 when Mussolini was still ra-raring for the Italian socialist party and annoying the Italian establishment? Or was it (more probably) taken, instead, in the April of 1915 when Mussolini was speaking at pro-war rallies and annoying the Italian establishment? Does it even matter? Here’s Trouble and Trouble is being arrested. Soon everyone will know and praise Trouble’s name and twenty years after that everyone will be denying that they’d ever said anything good about Trouble. But this brings us back Piazzale Loreto and upside-down Muss and poor Clara Petacci. Beachcombing is always on the look out for striking and little known historical photos: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com