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Italy and the art of dubbing

The arrival of “talking movies” in 1927 brought with it the realization that if film studios wanted to make inroads on the European market, sub-titles were not really going to satisfy fans there and so something else was required. Italy proved to be one of the most receptive markets of all, but the Fascist regime was quick to oppose the dissemination of foreign languages believing it would contaminate Italian culture and in 1930, they enacted a law forbidding the showing of any films in a foreign language.

It meant that overseas studios wanting to show their films in Italy had to take step back and turn their “talkies” back into old-style silent movies, but that proved to be quite a problem. Dialogue meant that storylines had became more complex, so the title cards used between scenes to explain what was happening had to carry more information but it was difficult to read everything in time and the Italian public hated them.

That, coupled with the fact that few cinemas had audio systems to relay the sound track meant that for a while, nothing changed. MGM can claim to have been the first – in 1931 – to dub a film and the first dubbing studio opened in Italy a year later. Today Italy dubs more films than anywhere else in the world – and can rightfully boast that its technicians are amongst the best.