A Lesbian Hero, Italy 1915

R: Mario Roncoroni. B: Giovanni Bertinetti. K: Luigi Fiorio. D: Mario Mariani, Cristina Ruspoli*, Giovanni Spano, Filippo Vallino. P: Corona Film. It 1915

* Silent’s please! names Valeria Creti instead of Cristina Ruspoli playing the role of Filibus.

“Created during a time when heroic thieves were common in European popular culture, Filibus (the first of thirty films directed by actor Mario Roncoroni) featured as a protagonist a roguish female modeled on Ponson du Terail‘s anti-hero ‘Rocambole’. The Baroness Troixmonde is a respectable member of society, but in the guise of ‘Filibus’ she terrorizes Sicily from her zeppelin, which is full of technologically-advanced equipment and weaponry. The zeppelin is manned by a staff of mask-wearing, black-skin-suit-clad male assistants who obey the Baroness’ commands instantly. The zeppelin is her headquarters and her home, and she descends to land only to rob or to hobnob with the socialites and dance with women as the tuxedo-wearing dandy Count de la Brieve. By contrast, Marlene Dietrich‘s famous cross-dressing scene in Morocco did not take place until 1930; the Baroness precedes Dietrich as a lesbian hero, and arguably the first in cinema, by over a decade. At the end of Filibus she eludes her enemy, Detective Hardy and flies off into the sunset.”
Jess Nevins

“Rocambole is a fictional adventurer created by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail, a 19th-century French writer. The word rocambolesque has become common in French and other languages to label any kind of fantastic adventure.”