The Italian Almanac

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Ida Dalser and Benito Albino Mussolini

Mussolini's hidden Son

Italian movie director Marco Bellocchio is making a movie about a little-known chapter in the life of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini - the story of a son he kept hidden in mental asylums until his early death. Benito Albino Mussolini was born in 1915 before his father's rise to power and died at 27 in an asylum near Milan, three years before the dictator's execution. His mother Ida Dalser, an Austro-Hungarian beautician and nurse, was also confined in asylums near Trento and Venice, where she reportedly died in 1937.

The tale of isolation and abuse has been known to historians but largely ignored by mainstream culture. Bellocchio said he was inspired by two recent books and a documentary on the subject. "This is the tragic story of a mother and a son, confined and dying in mental asylums," Bellocchio said in an interview at his studio in Rome. There is no dispute about Benito Albino Mussolini's parentage, although it remains unclear if Mussolini ever married the boy's mother. The son became a sailor, but the Fascist regime later confined him and Dalser in at least three mental asylums where they died of still unknown causes.

Bellocchio said historical details about the long-hidden relationship are scarce because Fascist militias destroyed most of the relevant documentation. As a result, Bellocchio said the film "Vincere" ("To Win") will be largely fictionalized though based on real events. "Ida was very feisty and persistent, and somehow invincible," Bellocchio said. "She continued to protest and rebel and not accept the role of the abandoned woman."

Casting and shooting locations have not yet been determined, but Bellocchio suggested the actors would be mostly Italians.