Air date: Tues., Feb. 24, 9:00 pm
Loyal Americans / The American Dream
This series chronicles the evolution of Italian Americans from the late 19th century to today. Once “outsiders” viewed with suspicion and mistrust, Italian Americans are today some of the most prominent leaders of U.S. business, politics and the arts. The series peels away myths and stereotypes to reveal a world uniquely Italian and uniquely American. Among those interviewed are Tony Bennett, David Chase, John Turturro, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Gay Talese and many others. Stanley Tucci narrates.
A second generation of Italian Americans begins to enter the labor movement, politics, sports and entertainment. Fiorello LaGuardia becomes mayor of New York City. Joe DiMaggio, the son of a San Francisco fisherman, becomes a baseball powerhouse who becomes an American hero. But with the outbreak of World War II, loyalty to America is questioned and Italians are forced to choose between two nations at war. While many Italian Americans fight on the frontlines with valor and bravery, other Italian Americans are labeled “Enemy Aliens,” including DiMaggio’s parents. The war proves to be a turning point for Italian Americans as they begin to break out of their enclaves.
The American Dream
In post-war America, Italian Americans enter the middle class. Italian-American crooners define American cool, but even as Frank Sinatra skyrockets to fame, he is haunted by accusations of Mafia ties. Governor Mario Cuomo, son of Italian immigrants, struggles to straddle both worlds, while his sons’ success promises assimilation and acceptance. Antonin Scalia becomes the first Italian American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is the first woman and Italian American elected to Speaker of the House.
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