28 March 2016

Alberto Grimaldi - film producer

Spaghetti Western trilogy gave Naples producer his big break

Alberto Grimaldi was born in Naples in 1925
Alberto Grimaldi
Film producer Alberto Grimaldi, who celebrates his 91st birthday today, boasts an extraordinary list of credits that includes Last Tango in Paris, The Canterbury Tales, Man of La Mancha, Fellini's Casanova, 1900, Ginger and Fred and Gangs of New York.

Born in Naples on this day in 1925, Grimaldi trained as a lawyer and it was in that capacity that he initially found work in the cinema industry in the 1950s.

However, he could see the money-making potential in production and in the early 1960s set up his own company, Produzioni Europee Associate (PEA).

His first three productions, cashing in on the popularity in Italy of westerns, enjoyed some success but it was a meeting with Sergio Leone, the Italian director, that earned him his big break.

Leone, whose first venture into the western genre, A Fistful of Dollars, had been an unexpected hit both for him and the young American actor, Clint Eastwood, was busy planning the sequel when a dispute arose with his producers over the cost of the movie.

Grimaldi was listed as a producer of the 2002 movie directed by Martin Scorsese
Movie poster advertising Scorsese's
epic Gangs of New York
As it happened, Grimaldi's first production, The Shadow of Zorro, had been filmed, like A Fistful of Dollars, on location in Spain.  Leone knew of Grimaldi's legal background and initially sought his advice on settling the dispute.  Ultimately, they agreed to collaborate and the Leone classics, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, also starring Eastwood, were PEA productions.

Both were considerable box office hits and established Grimaldi's name, opening many doors.

By the 1970s, Grimaldi was in a position to produce movies by many of Italy's top directors, including Federico Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, as well as supporting the artistic aspirations of other Italian directors, such as Gillo Pontecorvo, Elio Petri and Francesco Rosi.

He became more selective in his projects in the 1980s, notably turning down the chance to work with Leone again on Once Upon a Time in America. After producing Fellini's comedy drama Ginger and Fred, a 1986 film about two Italian impersonators of the American dance movie legends, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, it was 16 years before his name was attached to the $100 million Martin Scorcese epic, Gangs of New York, which was released in 2002.  By then Grimaldi was aged 77.

Grimaldi was aged 10 in 1935
Via Partenope in 1935
Travel tip:

Grimaldi's home city of Naples has changed little in his lifetime.  The black and white postcard image shows the Via Partenope, bordering the waterfront in the Santa Lucia district of the city, in 1935, when Grimaldi was a 10-year-old boy.  It is scarcely different today, 81 years on.

A view of Naples from Castel Sant'Elmo
Over the rooftops of Naples towards Mergellina and
Posillipo, as seen from Castel Sant'Elmo
Travel tip:

Visitors to Naples who crave a more peaceful side to the city away from the chaos of the Spaccanapoli or the Spanish Quarter should venture north from Piazza del Plebiscito and the Royal Palace on to the long promenade of Via Francesco Caracciolo towards Mergellina and the residential quarter of Posillipo, the traditional home of the more wealthy Neapolitans.

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