At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

13 March 2018

Corrado Gaipa – actor

From The Godfather to voice of Alec Guinness

Corrado Gaipa was a talented character actor who appeared in more than 30 movies
Corrado Gaipa was a talented character actor who
appeared in more than 30 movies
The respected character actor and voice-dubber Corrado Gaipa was born on this day in 1925 in Palermo.

His versatility as a voice actor brought him considerable work at a time when Italian cinema audiences much preferred to watch dubbed versions of mainstream English-language films rather than hear the original soundtrack with subtitles.

Gaipa’s voice replaced that of Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy.  He was also heard dubbing Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Burt Lancaster in The Leopard, Telly Savalas in The Dirty Dozen and Lee J Cobb in The Exorcist.

He was the voice of a number of characters in animation films also, including Bagheera in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book and Scat-Cat in The Aristocats.

As an actor in his own right, he worked with many leading directors in Italian cinema, including Francesco Rosi and Vittorio Gassman.

His most famous role was probably that of Don Tommasino in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

In Mario Puzo’s story, Don Tommasino was an old friend in Sicily of the movie’s main character, Vito Corleone, who sold olive oil to restaurants and stores in New York on behalf of Tommasino.

Gaipa played Don Tommasino in the original Godfather movie
Gaipa played Don Tommasino in
the original Godfather movie
In return, Corleone calls on Tommasino for help in eliminating the local Mafia chief, Don Ciccio, who he believes was complicit in the murder of his parents.  Gaipa was partially disabled, needing to walk with a stick and sometimes using a wheelchair. As it happens, his character, Tommasino, is crippled by a shotgun blast from one of Ciccio’s bodyguards.

Later in the story, Vito Corleone calls on Tommasino, who replaces Ciccio as the local Mafia capo, to look after his son, Michael Corleone, during a period in which takes refuge in Sicily after committing two murders in New York.

Before embarking on his career, Gaipa was a student at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome, founded by the writer and critic Silvio D’Amico, and named after him following his death.

He made his stage debut in 1948 and for several years was an important actor in radio productions before moving into television.

After appearing on the small screen for the first time in a comedy called La rosa bianca  (The White Rose), he became a regular in TV drama series, including the 1973 hit Napoleon on Sant’Elena, in which he portrayed the English prime minister Lord Liverpool.

Although he struggled with his health over a long period, his death in 1989 at the age of 64 came rather suddenly, denying cinemagoers the chance to see him return to the role of Don Tommasino in The Godfather Part III, for which he was preparing at the time of his death.

Rome's Parioli district is an upmarket residential area
Rome's Parioli district is an upmarket residential area
Travel tip:

The Silvio D’Amico National Academy of Dramatic Art can be found in Via Vincenzo Bellini where it meets Via Guido d’Arezzo in the Parioli district of Rome, between the Villa Borghese gardens and the vast Parco di Villa Ada. The academy, which has trained many leading Italian actors, now has university status.  Parioli is regarded as Rome’s most elegant residential area.

Palermo's Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy
Palermo's Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy
Travel tip:

Palermo, Gaipa’s home city, is blessed with a number of notable theatres, including the magnificent Teatro Massimo – the largest opera house in Italy – as well as Teatro Politeama, Teatro Biondo, Teatro di Verdura, Teatro Garibaldi and Teatro Santa Cecilia.  The city also boasts a number of theatres devoted to the Sicilian tradition of puppet theatre.

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