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Giorgio Bertellini traces the origins of American cinema's century-long fascination with Italy and Italian immigrants to the popularity of the pre-photographic aesthetic - the picturesque. Once associated with landscape painting in northern Europe, the picturesque came to symbolize Mediterranean Europe through comforting views of distant landscapes and exotic characters. Showing readers how this aesthetic was transferred from 19th-century American painters to early 20th-century American filmmakers, Bertellini moves from the picturesque in silent films to the Godfather trilogy, perhaps the definitive example of the picturesque in modern cinema. "Italy in Early American Cinema" offers readings of early films that pay close attention to how landscape representations that were related to narrative settings and filmmaking locations conveyed distinct ideas about racial difference and national destiny.