Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts

31 July 2023

Mario Bava - filmmaker

‘Master of Italian Horror’ had far-reaching influence

Mario Bava followed his father into the film industry
Mario Bava followed his father
into the film industry
Mario Bava, whose near-50 year career in the film business saw him become a pioneer for horror and other genres in Italian cinema, was born on this day in 1914 in Sanremo.

At various times a screenwriter, director, cinematographer and special effects artist, Bava’s work was largely on low-budget productions, yet with his imagination and artistic flair he created films that would have far-reaching influence in the movie industry.

Although the content tended towards the macabre, Bava is credited as the driving force behind the first Italian science fiction film in The Day the Sky Exploded (1958), the first big-screen giallo - the Italian murder mystery genre - in The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), and the first Italian horror film in I Vampiri - The Vampires - in 1957.

His 1960 movie La maschera del demonio - The Mask of the Devil - was Italy’s first Gothic horror, his 1964 production Six Women for the Assassin is considered one of the earliest examples of the so-called ‘slasher’ movies, featuring mass murder. Steve Miner’s 1981 cult ‘slasher’ movie Friday the 13th Part II was directly inspired by Bava’s A Bay of Blood, which appeared a decade earlier.

Directors such a Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola  and Tim Burton all cite Bava as an influence on their own work, while the British rock band Black Sabbath, pioneers of the heavy metal genre, admitted that when they changed their name from Earth in 1968, they chose Black Sabbath because it was the title of a Bava film playing in a local cinema.

Although Bava’s father, Eugenio, was working as a special effects photographer and cameraman on Italian silent films when he was growing up, Mario’s first ambition was to make a living from painting. He had some talent, yet his paintings sold for relatively small amounts and turning them out with a frequency that could generate a living was impossible.

He needed a job in addition to his painting and through his father’s contacts found work as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers. He helped his father directly in the special effects department of the Istituto Luce, the film production plant created by the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who wanted Italy to be at the forefront of the movie business as it began to take off as an entertainment industry in the 1920s.

Bava rejected several opportunities to take his many talents to Hollywood
Bava rejected several opportunities to take
his many talents to Hollywood
By the late 1930s, Bava had set up as a cinematographer in his own right and worked with the up-and-coming director Roberto Rossellini on two short films in 1940.

He began directing in the 1950s, taking over when Riccardo Freda walked out on the project, to finish I vampiri and working jointly with Paolo Heusch on The Day the Sky Exploded.

A somewhat unassuming person, Bava turned down several opportunities in Hollywood that would have enhanced both his standing and his bank balance. Indeed, most of the 72 films he made as director failed to achieve major commercial success. 

Yet many came to be regarded as classics, earning favourable comparison with the works of directors of much higher profile such as Alfred Hitchcock.  Movie historians now regard Bava as 'the Master of Italian Horror'.

Bava was proud that his son, Lamberto, followed him into the business. Lamberto worked as assistant to his father for 14 years before directing his first solo film in 1980.

His death in Rome in 1980 from a heart attack at the age of 65 came as a major shock to his friends and family and to the industry as a whole, given that he had undergone a physical a few days earlier and was declared by his doctor to be in perfect health.  He was buried at the Flaminio Cemetery in Rome.

The port of Sanremo in Liguria was one of the first Italian resorts to become a tourist destination
The port of Sanremo in Liguria was one of the
first Italian resorts to become a tourist destination
Travel tip:

Sanremo, an Italian Riviera resort most famous as the home of the Sanremo Music Festival, the prestigious song contest that has been held there every year since 1951, is an historic Italian holiday destination that was one of the first to benefit when the phenomenon of tourism began to take hold in the mid-18th century, albeit primarily among the wealthy. Several grand hotels were established in the Ligurian town and the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia was among the European royals who took holidays there. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, made it his permanent home.  Blessed with a comfortable climate most of the year, the area produces notable olive oils and is an important centre for the commercial growing of flowers.

Rome's Flaminio Cemetery is known for its striking contemporary architecture
Rome's Flaminio Cemetery is known for
its striking contemporary architecture
Travel tip:

Rome’s Flaminio Cemetery, established in 1945, is the largest cemetery in Italy, covering an area of 140 hectares. Also known as the Prima Porta cemetery, it can be found some 17km (11 miles) north of the centre of Rome. Designed by Elena Luzzato, it is considered a masterpiece of contemporary cemetery architecture. It houses the tombs of many famous personalities of Italian culture, art, entertainment, sport and politics, including the TV journalist Ilaria Alpi, the Communist leader Enrico Berlinguer, actors Rossano Brazzi, Gino Cervi and Virna Lisi, the athlete Pietro Mennea, the footballer Giorgio Chinaglia, singers Alberto Rabagliati and Renato Rascel, and Natasha Sophia Simpson, an 11-year-old American killed in the December 27, 1985 terrorist attack on Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Also on this day:

1598: The birth of sculptor Alessandro Algardi

1886: The birth of New York Mafia crime boss Salvatore Maranzano

1969: The birth of footballer and coach Antonio Conte


30 June 2023

Mario Carotenuto - actor

Roman from theatrical family made more than 100 films

Mario Carotenuto forged a career as a character actor in comedies
Mario Carotenuto forged a career
as a character actor in comedies
The actor Mario Carotenuto, who became one of the most familiar faces in the commedia all’italiana genre of Italian film, was born on this day in 1916 in Rome.

Carotenuto, who was active in the movie industry for more than 30 years having started in the theatre and on radio, acted alongside some of the greats of Italian cinema, including Totò, Alberto Sordi, Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren and Monica Vitti.

More often than not, he was cast in supporting roles rather than as the star, yet became respected as one of Italy’s finest character actors in comedy, winning a Nastro d'argento award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of The Professor in Luigi Comencini’s 1973 comedy-drama Lo scopone scientifico - The Scientific Card Player - which starred Sordi, Silvana Mangano and the American Bette Davis.

Carotenuto was born into an acting family. His father, Nello, made a living in Italian silent movies, while his older brother, Memmo, also had a long career in films. His nephew, Bruno, and his niece, Nennella, also entered the acting profession.

He made his stage debut at the age of eight but is said to have had a rebellious nature as a child and his involvement in petty crime and antisocial behaviour saw him receive part of his education in a reform school.

As he matured, he became fascinated with theatre and acting and alongside various jobs he took in order to earn money he was always on the lookout for opportunities to act, one of which came with a radio station in Florence, where he was given parts in radio drama productions.

Carotenuto's acting style was perfect for the  highly popular commedia all'italiana genre
Carotenuto's acting style was perfect for the 
highly popular commedia all'italiana genre
After the end of the Second World War, in which he claimed he joined the Italian Waffen SS in order to avoid being imprisoned by the Germans, he set up his own small theatre company in Milan before being discovered in 1956 by the director Giorgio Strehler, who wanted to entrust him with the part of Peachum, the king of beggars, in Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. 

Carotenuto’s interpretation of the role gained the approval of Brecht himself and won him the San Ginesio Prize, awarded by a Milan-based magazine. He went on to have roles in plays by Shakespeare, Pirandello, Molière, Harold Pinter and Tennessee Williams.

After making his film debut in 1950, his ability to portray a broad range of characters soon saw him an actor much in demand, particularly in the comedy genre, working for famous directors such as Alberto Latuarda, Dino Risi, Mario Monicelli, Luigi Comencini, Luigi Zampa and Ugo Tognazzi. 

Ultimately, his most popular roles were those in which his character was one with which many Italians could identify in the years after the war, a character looking to make his way in a changing society in which generally people looked forward with optimism.

Carotenuto's simple memorial at  the cemetery of Grottammare
Carotenuto's simple memorial at 
the cemetery of Grottammare 
Federico Fellini used him as the voice of the actor Mario Cannochia in Otto e mezzo (8 ½).

Carotenuto had many television credits as well as his long list of movie roles but ceased to be active in either medium in the early 1980s, dividing his time between Rome and the seaside town of Grottammare in Marche, the home of his second wife, theatre actress Gabriella Cottignoli.

He had been married previously to Luisa Poselli, an actress, singer and dancer, with whom he had a daughter, Claretta, who went on to become an actress and director.

He died in Rome in the Aurelia Hospital in April 1995 at the age of 79, having for many years been ill with lung cancer.  His funeral took place in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo - the 'church of the artists' - and was attended by many personalities of cinema and entertainment. His body was then taken to be buried in the municipal cemetery at Grottammare.

Rome's principal opera house, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, was originally the Teatro Costanzi
Rome's principal opera house, the Teatro dell'Opera
di Roma, was originally the Teatro Costanzi
Travel tip:

Carotenuto made his stage debut at the Teatro Costanzi in Via del Viminale, a short distance from Piazza della Repubblica. Today the theatre has a different identity as the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma - Rome’s main opera house. Built in 1879-80, it takes its name from Domenico Costanzi, a contractor, who financed the project. It was designed by the Milanese architect Achille Sfondrini, a specialist in the building and renovation of theatres. Built on the site of the house of the Roman emperor Elagabalus, the theatre was inaugurated in November 1880 with a performance of Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini.  Sfondrini paid particular attention to the acoustics of the theatre, the dome of which was adorned with frescoes by Annibale Brugnoli. As well as the world premiere of Pietro Mascangi's Cavalleria rusticana, the theatre staged the first production of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini in January 1900 and introduced Roman audiences to Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, Turandot and Il trittico as well as Richard Wagner’s Parsifal and Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.

Piazza Peretti is the central square of the older part of Grottammare, which sits above the resort
Piazza Peretti is the central square of the older part
of Grottammare, which sits above the resort
Travel tip:

Grottammare, where Carotenuto is buried, is one of the beach resorts that make up the Marche region’s Riviera delle Palme, a stretch of coastline around the larger town of San Benedetto del Tronto. It is notable for a fine, sandy beach but also for the well preserved remains of a fortress overlooking the town that was built following the sacking of Grottammare by the Montenegrin Princes of Dulcigno in 1525.  The centre of the older part of the town is Piazza Peretti, a square enclosed by the Church of San Giovanni Battista, the Town Hall, Municipal Tower and Teatro dell'Arancio.  A peculiarity of which the administration of Grottammare takes pride is that it sits on the 43º parallel, the line of latitude that also passes through the cities of Assisi (Italy), Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Lourdes (France), Medjugorje (Bosnia), Vladivostok (Russia), Sapporo (Japan), Buffalo and Milwaukee (United States).

Also on this day:

1961: The birth of novelist Gianrico Carafiglio

1986: The birth of heiress Allegra Versace

First Martyrs Day


3 May 2023

Gino Cervi - actor

Star best known for Don Camillo and Maigret

Gino Cervi in his role as Peppone, the Communist mayor, in the first of the Don Camillo film series
Gino Cervi in his role as Peppone, the Communist
mayor, in the first of the Don Camillo film series
The actor Gino Cervi, a star of cinema and television screens in Italy for more than four decades as well as an accomplished stage performer, was born on this day in 1901 in Bologna.

Although his movie credits run to more than 120, he is probably best known for his portrayal of the Communist mayor Peppone in the Don Camillo films of the 1950s and ‘60s, and for playing Chief Inspector Maigret in the Italian TV series of the ‘60s and ‘70s based on the crime novels of Georges Simenon.

Cervi was the father of Italian film producer Tonino Cervi and the grandfather of actress Valentina Cervi.

Born Luigi Cervi in the historic Santo Stefano district of Bologna, Gino’s interest in acting had its roots in his journalist father Antonio’s job as theatre critic for Il Resto del Carlino, the city’s daily newspaper.

As a boy, he persuaded his father to take him to the theatre, soon developing an ambition to be a stage actor, which is where his talents first became known.

After his stage debut in 1924 - sadly, too late to be witnessed by his father, who died in 1923 - Cervi was invited the following year to join the company of the Teatro d’Arte di Roma, where the artistic director was the playwright, poet and future Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello, working with actors of the quality of Lamberto Picasso, Ruggero Ruggeri and Marta Abba.

The writer Luigi Pirandello saw Cervi's acting talent
The writer Luigi Pirandello saw
Cervi's acting talent
After a decade in which his reputation grew year on year, he was invited to be lead actor at the Tofano-Maltagliati company, becoming an accomplished and lauded interpreter of the works of Goldoni, Sophocles, Dostoevsky and Shakespeare.  In 1938, jointly with with Andreina Pagnani, Paolo Stoppa and Rina Morelli, Cervi formed the company of the Teatro Eliseo in Rome, taking over as director in 1939.

By then he had already made his film debut but it was not until he formed a working relationship with Alessandro Blasetti, the director sometimes described as the father of modern Italian cinema, that his screen career really took off.

Blasetti directed him in a series of successful movies including Ettore Fieramosca (1938), Un'avventura di Salvator Rosa (1939) and La corona di ferro (1941), followed by 4 passi fra le nuvole (1942), the film considered to be the precursor of the neorealism movement that dominated Italian cinema for a period in the late 1940s and early ‘50s.

Yet Cervi’s star was to climb still higher in the 1950s, when he was chosen for the role of Peppone, the Communist mayor of a fictional town in northern Italy invented by writer Giovanni Guareschi, who is constantly at odds with the town’s rather hot-headed parish priest, Don Camillo.

The two characters made their screen debut in Le Petit Monde de don Camillo - The Little World of Don Camillo - in 1952, bringing fame both to Cervi and to Fernandel, the French comic actor cast as the priest. 

The movie, an Italian-French co-production directed by the French director Julien Duvivier, was the highest-grossing film of all-time in both Italy and France, attracting 13.2 million cinema admissions in Italy and 12.8 million in France. 

Cervi and Fernandel became firm friends and their on-screen relationship was central to the success of both the original feature and its four sequels between 1953 and 1965. A fifth was started in 1970 but was left unfinished because Fernandel was in failing health.

Cervi was oustanding in the role of Commissario Maigret on TV
Cervi was oustanding in the role of
Commissario Maigret on TV
For Cervi, a further chapter of success came in the shape of his portrayal of the French detective Jules Maigret, created by Georges Simenon, in an Italian series commissioned for national broadcaster Rai by Andrea Camilleri, then working in television as a producer, who would later create his own characterful police detective, Salvatore Montalbano.

Le inchieste del commissario Maigret - The Investigations of Commissioner Maigret - had four series over the course of eight years, comprising a total of 35 episodes. There was also a spin-off movie, Maigret a Pigalle, which was produced by Tonino Cervi.

Again, Cervi’s interpretation of the character garnered considerable critical acclaim, even from Simenon himself.

Cervi was married for much of his adult life to Angela Rosa Gardini - known as Ninì - a young actress he met in 1928 and married soon afterwards. In later life, they divorced and he married Erika Mayer.

Once a committed supporter of the Fascist party, he took part in the March on Rome in 1922, but would later denounce Mussolini’s regime. He switched his allegiance to the Christian Democrats after World War Two and later joined the Italian Liberal Party, for whom he served as a councillor in Lazio.

Although he retained an affection for Casalbuttano ed Uniti, a town near Cremona in Lombardy where his father had a house, Cervi spent his final days on the Tuscan coast at Punta Ala, a tiny coastal village on a headland opposite the island of Elba, where he died in 1974 at the age of 72, not long after he had retired from the stage.

He is buried alongside his first wife and their son, Tonino, who died in 2002, at the Flaminio cemetery in Rome.

The Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna, looking towards the church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna, looking
towards the church of the Holy Sepulchre 
Travel tip:

The centrepiece of the Santo Stefano district of central Bologna, in which Gino Cervi’s family lived, is the Basilica di Santo Stefano, unusual in that it is actually a complex of seven religious buildings from different eras, clustered around Piazza Santo Stefano. It is known locally as the Sette Chiese - the Seven Churches - as a result. The original building, designed to resemble the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was built according to tradition by Saint Petronius in the fifth century, when he was a bishop of Bologna, over the site of a pagan temple to Isis.  The other buildings include the Lombard church of the Crucifix, the church of the Calvario, the church of Saint Vitale and Saint Agricola - the oldest part of the complex, dating back to the fourth century - and the Church of the Trinity, which was restructured between the 12th and 13th centuries.

The bronze statue of Peppone in front of Brescello town hall
The bronze statue of Peppone
in front of Brescello town hall
Travel tip:

The town of Brescello on the south shore of the Po river, a little over 20km (12 miles) northeast of Parma in Emilia-Romagna, has become a tourist attraction since being chosen as the location for the Don Camillo films in which Gino Cervi starred. The town, which has its origins in the Roman era, has a museum dedicated to the characters of Don Camillo and Peppone, which can be found in Via Edmondo de Amicis, a few steps from Chiesa di Santa Maria Nascente, the town’s main church, which overlooks Piazza Matteotti, the central square in which there are bronze statues of Don Camillo (in front of the church) and Peppone (by the door of the town hall). The statues were created by Andrea Zangani, a sculptor from the nearby province of Mantova, to mark the 50th anniversary in 2001 of the first Don Camillo film. 

Also on this day:

1461: The birth of Renaissance cardinal Raffaele Riario

1469: The birth of writer and diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli

1764: The death of philosopher and art collector Francesco Algarotti

1815: The Battle of Tolentino


8 November 2022

Salvatore Cascio - actor

Child star of classic movie Cinema Paradiso

Cascio (right) in a famous scene from Cinema Paradiso alongside Philippe Noiret's Alfredo
Cascio (right) in a famous scene from Cinema
alongside Philippe Noiret's Alfredo 
The actor Salvatore Cascio, who earned fame through his starring role in the Oscar-winning movie Cinema Paradiso, was born on this day in 1979 in Palazzo Adriano, a small town in a mountainous area of western Sicily.

In Guiseppe Tornatore’s nostalgic 1988 drama, Cascio was the eight-year-old child chosen to play the part of the the film’s central character as a small boy in a Sicilian village who loves to watch films at his local cinema and develops a friendship with the cinema’s grumpy but good-hearted projectionist, Alfredo.

His performance was so charming and captivating it won him the prize for best actor in a supporting role at the 1990 BAFTAs. He remains the only Italian to have won such an award. Roberto Benigni, star and director of the 1997 film Life is Beautiful, is the only Italian to have won a BAFTA as best actor.

By coincidence, the lead character in Cinema Paradiso is also called Salvatore and, like Cascio, is known as a boy as Totò, the Sicilian diminutive of Salvatore.

Landing the part was not down to just having the same name, however, although it helped when it came to filming.

Cascio was chosen for the part of his namesake Totò from more than 200 hopeful boys
Cascio was chosen for the part of his namesake
Totò from more than 200 hopeful boys
The process of choosing the right child for the part involved Tornatore searching a number of towns and villages. One of the casting sessions took place in Palazzo Adriano. Out of more than 200 young hopefuls, the director chose Cascio and a boy from a village five kilometres away - a friend, as it happened - but plumped for Cascio.

Location shooting for Cinema Paradiso - or Nuovo Cinema Paradiso as it was called in Italian cinemas - took place almost entirely in Sicily, with several scenes shot in Tornatore’s home town of Bagheria, near Palermo.

The principal location was Palazzo Adriano, where the central Piazza Umberto I was chosen as the main square of Giancaldo, the fictional town where the Cinema Paradiso picture house was located. The cinema’s facade was built on the square and some of the interior scenes were constructed in the nearby church of Maria Santissima del Carmelo.

Tornatore’s crew remained in Palazzo Adriano for three months. Cascio recalled that the days were long and tiring, often starting at 7am and going on until late in the evening, with some scenes requiring 20 or more takes before the director was satisfied.

As an adult, Cascio chose a different life, running a restaurant with his father
As an adult, Cascio chose a different
life, running a restaurant with his father
Yet Cascio formed a close relationship with Tornatore, who ensured the process remained fun and who he came to regard as a second father, and with Philippe Noiret, the French actor who played Alfredo.

Cascio found himself in demand after his success with Cinema Paradiso and found himself playing opposite some major stars in films such as Breath of Life, with Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and Fernando Rey; C’era un castello con 40 cani (There Was a Castle with 40 Dogs) with Peter Ustinov; Stanno tutti bene (Everybody’s Fine), with Marcello Mastroianni; and Jackpot with Christopher Lee and Adriano Celentano.

He also appeared in a number of TV dramas yet by the end of the 1990s his life was moving in a different direction. A star almost by accident, having never really had ambitions to make a career in acting, he decided ultimately that the life that beckoned was not for him.

Instead, he went into partnership with his father in opening a restaurant with rooms. They found a property in Chiusa Sclafani, a village not far from Palazzo Adriano, and called it L’Oscar dei Sapori - the Oscar for Flavours. 

The restaurant is themed with Cinema Paradiso memorabilia and Cascio remains willing to talk about the film that played such a huge part in his life, even though it is now 34 years since it was made. He is often invited to movie events.

Earlier this year, he published his autobiography, entitled La gloria e la prova - The Glory and the Test -  written with the help of journalist Giorgio De Martino, in which he enthuses about the glory of the cinema and also talks about the challenges he has faced since being diagnosed, in his early thirties, with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive, hereditary disease that will ultimately deprive him of much of his peripheral vision.

Piazza Umberto I in the Sicilian town of Palazzo Adriano featured prominently in Cinema Paradiso
Piazza Umberto I in the Sicilian town of Palazzo
Adriano featured prominently in Cinema Paradiso
Travel tip:

Palazzo Adriano, where Cascio was born and grew up and which forms the backdrop to many scenes in Cinema Paradiso, is an inland town situated on the slopes of Monte delle Rose in western Sicily, almost equidistant between Palermo, on the northern coast of the island, and Agrigento, on the southern coast.  A settlement has existed at the site since at least the 11th century, Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the area was populated by a large community of Albanians, speaking a version of the Albanian language known as Arberesh. Just off the central Piazza Umberto I is a small museum dedicated to the film, Cinema Paradiso. The town also has the remains of a Bourbon castle. As well as Cascio, Palazzo Adriano also claims to be the birthplace of Francesco Crispi, the first Sicilian to be Italy’s prime minister and one of the major protagonists of Italian unification, along with his friends Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Bagheria is famous for its wealth of Baroque villas, such as the Villa Palagonia
Bagheria is famous for its wealth of Baroque
villas, such as the Villa Palagonia
Travel tip:

Bagheria, the birthplace of Cinema Paradiso’s director, Giuseppe Tornatore, can be found 15km (9 miles) southeast of Palermo, occupying an elevated position a short distance from the sea. A traditional Sicilian town that descends towards the fishing village of Aspra, in the 17th and 18th centuries it was a favoured by the aristocracy of Palermo as somewhere to spend the summer months, the legacy of which is some 20 or more Baroque villas that add to the town’s charm.  Tornatore employed locations in the town both in Cinema Paradiso and his 2009 film Baarìa - which is its Sicilian dialect name - which told the history of the town from the 1930s to the 1980s through the life of a local family.  Parts of The Godfather Part III were also shot in Bagheria.

Also on this day:

1830: The death of Francis I of the Two Sicilies

1931: The birth of film director Paolo Taviani

1936: The birth of actress Virna Lisi

1942: The birth of footballer Sandro Mazzola

1982: The birth of golfer Francesco Molinari


31 October 2022

Angelo Rizzoli – publisher

Rags to riches story of an editorial entrepreneur

Angelo Rizzoli was raised in an orphanage in Milan
Angelo Rizzoli was raised in
an orphanage in Milan
Printer, publisher and film producer Angelo Rizzoli was born on this day in 1889 in Milan.

Rizzoli was orphaned when still very young and grew up in poverty, but by the time he was in his 20s he had become an entrepreneur.

Young Angelo was brought up in the orphanage of Martinitt in Milan, which had been founded in the 16th century in Via Manzoni for orphaned and abandoned Roman Catholic boys. It was there that he learnt the trade of a printer. 

Along with another trained print worker, and using his savings for the downpayment on a Linotype machine, he opened a typographical firm under the name of A. Rizzoli & C. in Via Cerva in Milan in 1911. The company was later to evolve into the publishing giant, RCS MediaGroup.

Rizzoli acquired Novella magazine, a bi-weekly aimed mainly at women and went on to add new publications, such as Annabella, Bertoldo, Candido, Omnibus, Oggi and L’Europeo.

In 1929, he started publishing books, producing La Storia del Risorgimento by Cesare Spellanzon. He later began producing both classic and popular novels.

The Rizzoli logo has become famous in Italian publishing
The Rizzoli logo has become
famous in Italian publishing 
His business gradually grew. He bought the Lama di Reno paper mill, near the town of Marzabotto in Emilia-Romagna, which would become the supplier of paper for the entire publishing empire, and in 1960 the moved to a large complex in the northeast of Milan in Via Civitavecchia, since renamed Via Angelo Rizzoli. 

Rizzoli’s dream of producing a new national newspaper never materialised although four years after his death his company purchased Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest selling daily. 

His interest in the film industry led him to create the production and distribution house Cineriz - short for Cinema Rizzoli - in 1956. The company produced two of Federico Fellini’s most famous films, La dolce vita in 1960 and Otto e mezzo in 1963.

Angelo Rizzoli (right) with son Andrea (centre) and nephew Angelo jr, who would take over the business
Angelo Rizzoli (right) with son Andrea (centre) and
nephew Angelo jr, who would take over the business
In recognition of his success as an entrepreneur, Rizzoli was given the title cavaliere del lavoro. In 1967, he was also given the title of Conte, by the ex-king of Italy, Umberto of Savoy, who was at the time living in exile in Lisbon in Portugal.

Rizzoli married Anna Marzorati, the daughter of one of his first clients, in 1912. The couple had three children, Andrea, Giuseppina, and Giuditta. Rizzoli died in 1970 at the age of 81 in Milan, leaving a fortune of more than 100 billion lire in his will.

The company passed into the hands of Andrea Rizzoli. His nephew, also called Angelo, joined the company’s board. Andrea enjoyed success in another sphere as the owner and president of AC Milan football club between 1954 and 1963, during which time the club won the Serie A title four times and the European Cup for the first time in its history.

RCS Media group (formerly Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera) has since changed hands a number of times but remains an international multimedia publishing group producing daily newspapers, magazines and books and operating in radio broadcasting, new media and digital and satellite TV.

The Casa Manzoni can be found where Via Morone meets Piazza Belgioioso
The Casa Manzoni can be found where
Via Morone meets Piazza Belgioioso
Travel tip:

Rizzoli grew up in the orphanage of Martinitt in Via Manzoni in Milan, which was housed in the oratory of Saint Martin that had been originally given to the founder of the orphanage, Gerolamo Emiliani, by Francesco II Sforza. The street takes its name from the writer Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), one of the most famous novels in Italian literary history, who was born in a house on nearby Via Gerolamo Morone. Via Manzoni, which stretches from Piazza della Scala towards the Piazza Cavour, today is a busy shopping street, one section of which is part of the quadrilatero della moda - Milan’s famous fashion quarter, where most of the biggest names in haute couture have a presence.

Rizzoli's Albergo Reginella Isabella  was Ischia's first luxury hotel
Rizzoli's Albergo Reginella Isabella 
was Ischia's first luxury hotel
Travel tip:

Angelo Rizzoli has a street named after him on Ischia, the verdant island off Campania that he fell in love with on his first visit in 1950. He established a home for himself and his family there in Villa Arbusto, an 18th century house in the spa of Lacco Ameno. The house is now given over to a museum displaying Greco-Roman and other artefacts recovered on the island. Rizzoli was invited to take part in a project to renovate the Regina Isabella spa at Lacco Ameno and accepted enthusiastically. He also built the main hospital of Ischia, which is named Anna Rizzoli in honour of his wife, and the Albergo Reginella Isabella, the island’s first luxury hotel .

Also on this day:

2 August 2022

Carlo Savina - film composer and musical director

Worked on major scores including The Godfather and Fellini’s Amarcord

Carlo Savina conducting in during his  time working in TV and radio in the 1950s
Carlo Savina conducting in during his 
time working in TV and radio in the 1950s
Musical director Carlo Savina, who arranged soundtracks written by such luminaries of the film music industry as Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota, was born on this day in 1919 in Turin.

Savina was also a prolific film composer in his own right and is credited with writing or arranging the scores of at least 200 movies in a career spanning more than 35 years.

He won a David di Donatello award for Best Music for the 1985 crime drama The Pizza Connection, directed by Damiano Damiani and starring Michele Placido, a version of which was released in the United States as The Sicilian Connection.

Yet Savina is more frequently remembered for his work with Rota on the multi-award winning soundtrack of the first film in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy in 1972 and with Federico Fellini the following year on Amarcord, the maestro’s semi-autobiographical film about growing up in a village in the Fascist Italy of the 1930s.  He worked with Fellini and Rota on many projects, including La Dolce Vita (1960), which remains their most famous collaboration.

Although the music in a film would always be attributed to the headline composer in the credits, the work done by the likes of Savina in matching their music to the scenes and in producing an edited version of the soundtrack for commercial release was invaluable.

Savina came from a musical family. His father was the first clarinet for the orchestra of the public radio broadcaster EIAR, based in their home city.

Savina, who played a wide range of instruments, is shown accompanying a vocal group on guitar
Savina, who played a wide range of instruments,
is shown accompanying a vocal group on guitar
As a child, Savina learned to play the violin and as a student attended the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Turin, where he studied piano, violin, composition, and conducting. He obtained further qualifications from the National Education Ministry in the 1940s.

Savina explored many avenues in music, for a while conducting small orchestras or playing soloists at dance halls in Turin. 

His early classical compositions included sonatas for clarinet and violin and a quartet for wind instruments. Savina also wrote a small number of operas, one of which was performed at the Teatro dei Rozzi in Siena.

Immediately after the Second World War, he wrote music and songs for the popular market.  In the 1950s, he began to acquire national fame through his work with the national broadcaster Rai, who entrusted him with the direction of a large string orchestra. He had a prominent role in the musical direction on the experimental programmes made for Rai’s early television output in 1953.

Savina was in his 30s before the film industry began to be his focus.  His relationship with some of the world’s most famous film music composers  began at the outset, when he composed the music to Carlo Borghesio’s 1950 comedy Il monello della strada (The Street Brat) in partnership with Rota.

Savina worked with Nino Rota on The Godfather and other titles
Savina worked with Nino Rota
on The Godfather and other titles
He worked with the great commedia all’italiana director Mario Monicelli on Totò cerca pace (Totò seeks peace) in 1954 and thereafter until the late 1960s was writing as many as a dozen soundtracks per year. His individual output, from spaghetti westerns, of which he scored more than 30, to horror films, began to lessen in the 1970s, but by then he was in demand to work with other composers.

As well as Morricone and Rota, he collaborated with Armando Trovajoli, Mario Nascimbene, Stanley Myers, Stephen Sondheim, Philippe Sarde, and Miklós Rózsa among the great big-screen music composers of his time.  

It was his relationship with Rota and Fellini that would prove the most enduring and successful, spanning almost 30 years until Rota’s death in 1979. Their last collaboration was on Fellini’s Orchestra Rehearsal, a 1978 film in which members of an orchestra go on strike against their conductor.

Savina, who wrote under various pseudonyms in his career, including Herbert Buckman, Charles Hanger and James Munshin, died in Rome in 2002 at the age of 82.

After his death, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Rome’s historic film school, established the Premio Carlo Savina as an annual prize for composers of film music. Winners include Morricone, Davide Cavuti and Franco Piersanti, who among other things wrote the music for the TV series based on Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels.

Elegant streets and a vibrant café culture are a feature of Turin
Elegant streets and a vibrant café
culture are a feature of Turin
Travel tip:

Turin, the capital city of the region of Piedmont, where Carlo Savina was born and grew up, has some fine architecture that illustrates its rich history as the home of the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin.  An elegant, stylish and sophisticated city, Turin has much to commend it, from its many historic cafés to 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in Piedmont. In the 19th century, the city’s cafés were popular with writers, artists, philosophers, musicians and politicians among others, who would meet to discuss the affairs of the day.  The city’s duomo, the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, as it is also known, was built between 1491 and 1498 in Piazza San Giovanni in Turin, on the site of an old Roman theatre.

The Centro Sperimentale di Cinematogrofia in Rome was established in the 1930s
The Centro Sperimentale di Cinematogrofia
in Rome was established in the 1930s
Travel tip:

The Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia has its headquarters in Via Tuscolana in Rome, was established at the time when the city became the hub of the Italian film industry because of the nearby Cinecittà, a large studio complex to the south of the city, built during the Fascist era under the personal direction of Benito Mussolini and his son, Vittorio. The studios were bombed by the Allies in the Second World War but were rebuilt and used again in the 1950s for large productions, such as Ben-Hur, the 1959 epic starring Charlton Heston, the acclaimed soundtrack of which saw Carlo Savina work with the Hungarian-American composer Miklós Rózsa. These days a range of productions, from television drama to music videos, are filmed there and Cinecittà has its own dedicated Metro stop.

Also on this day:

1854: The birth of author Francis Marion Crawford

1945: The death of composer Pietro Mascagni

1980: The bombing of Bologna railway station


24 July 2022

Ermanno Olmi - film director

Won most prestigious awards at Cannes and Venice festivals

Ermanno Olmi's films won some of  cinema's most prestigious awards
Ermanno Olmi's films won some of 
cinema's most prestigious awards 
The film director Ermanno Olmi, who won both the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Venice Film Festival’s equivalent Golden Lion with two of his most memorable films, was born on this day in 1931 in the Lombardy city of Bergamo.

His 1978 film L'albero degli zoccoli - The Tree of Wooden Clogs - a story about Lombard peasant life in the 19th century that had echoes of postwar neorealism in the way it was shot, won the Palme d’Or - one of the most prestigious of film awards - at the Cannes Film Festival of the same year.

A decade later, Olmi won the Golden Lion, the top award at the Venice Film Festival, with La leggenda del santo bevitore - The Legend of the Holy Drinker - a story adapted from a novella by the Austrian author Joseph Roth about a homeless drunk in Paris, who is handed a 200-francs lifeline by a complete stranger and vows to find a way to pay it back as a donation to a local church.

He also won three David di Donatello awards  - the Italian equivalent of the Oscars - as Best Director, for Il posto - The Job - his first full length feature film, in 1962, for The Legend of the Holy Drinker, and for Il mestiere delle armi - The Profession of Arms - in 2002.

Born in the Malpensata district of Bergamo, near the railway station, Olmi grew up in Treviglio, a town in Bergamo province about 40km (25 miles) east of Milan. His mother worked in a cotton mill. His father, a railway worker and a staunch anti-Fascist, was killed during World War Two.

As a young man, Olmi enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Milan to take acting lessons, at the same time taking a job as a messenger at the electric company, Edison-Volta, where his mother also found work.

The original poster for the film seen as Olmi's masterpiece
The original poster for the
film seen as Olmi's masterpiece
The company entrusted Olmi with organising leisure activities and entertainment for employees. By now, the film industry was becoming the focus of his ambitions and he persuaded Edison-Volta to sponsor him to make documentaries promoting the company, which he saw as an opportunity to develop his skills behind the camera.

Edison-Volta were impressed with Olmi’s work, in particular his 1959 mini-feature film, Il tempo si è fermato - Time Stood Still, a story about a friendship between a student and the guardian of an isolated hydro-electric dam high in the mountains, which he filmed at the Sabbione Dam in Val Formazza, an Alpine valley in Piedmont, close to the Swiss border.

Subsequently, they agreed to support his first full-length feature, Il posto (1961), a semi-autobiographical and gently humorous story about the aspirations of two young men from rural areas whose first jobs are with big firms in Milan in the postwar years. In the tradition of Roberto Rossellini, the neorealist director whom he particularly admired, Olmi cast non-professional actors in many of the roles, one of whom, Loredana Detto, he would later marry. 

The success of Il posto, in terms of both critical acclaim and the doors opened by winning a David di Donatello and the critics’ prize at the Venice Film Festival, enabled Olmi to devote himself to film-making. His next few films, including a biographical feature about Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Bergamo cardinal who became Pope John XXIII, enjoyed relatively modest success, but in 1978 came the movie regarded by many critics as his masterpiece.

Inspired by the stories he was told by his grandmother about the peasant community in rural Lombardy, L’albero degli zoccoli revolves around the lives of four peasant farming families earning a meagre living on land owned by the same landlord. 

Olmi followed in the tradition of the neorealist era in using non-professional actors
Olmi followed in the tradition of the
neorealist era in using non-professional actors
Set against the turbulent political background of late 19th century Italy, its focus is the plight of one of the families who want to give their son the opportunity to better himself and cut down a tree so that the father of their household can make wooden clogs for him to wear on his long daily walk to school. The fragility of their existence is then underlined when the landlord is so incensed he throws them off their land, with the other families looking on in dismay.

As well as winning the Palme d’Or, the movie won critical acclaim in Europe, Britain and the United States, where the actor Al Pacino many years later described it as his favourite film and where the New York Times in 2003 listed The Tree of Wooden Clogs in a feature entitled The Best 1,000 Movies Ever.

Il mestiere delle armi focuses on a battle between a Papal Army led by Giovanni de’ Medici and the army of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in 1526, highlighting the harsh conditions and ultimate lack of glory in warfare.  It was shot in Bulgaria and featured several Bulgarian actors.

In the late 1960s, Olmi and his wife moved to a home he had built at Asiago, in the mountains above Vicenza. It was a story he was told by the residents of Asiago that inspired him to make I recuperanti (The Scavengers), his 1970 film about how the deprivations of World War Two forced local people to dig for scrap metal buried in the ground to sell for cash. 

Olmi spent the rest of his life in Asiago, where he died in 2018 after struggling for a number of years with the degenerative neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome. Fabio Olmi, one of Ermanno and Loredana's three children, also works in the world of cinema as a director of photography.

The Basilica of San Martino in the city of Treviglio
The Basilica of San Martino
in the city of Treviglio
Travel tip:

The small city of Treviglio in Lombardy can be found about 20km (13 miles) south of Bergamo and 40km (25 miles) northeast of Milan, in an area known as Bassa Bergamasca. Treviglio, the second most populous city in Bergamo province with 30,000 inhabitants, developed from a fortified town in the early Middle Ages and, having been at times controlled by the French and the Spanish. It became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.  Its most visited attraction is the Basilica of San Martino, originally built in 1008 and reconstructed in 1482, with a Baroque façade from 1740, which is in Piazza Manara. In 1915, the town was chosen by Italy’s future dictator Benito Mussoloni for his civil marriage to the long-suffering Rachele Guidi. 

The alpine landscape around the town of Asiago in the northern Veneto region
The alpine landscape around the town of
Asiago in the northern Veneto region
Travel tip:

Asiago, where Olmi lived from the late 1960s onwards, is in the province of Vicenza in the Veneto, halfway between Vicenza to the south and Trento, the capital of Trentino-Alto-Adige, to the west. It is now a major ski resort and famous for producing Asiago cheese. It is situated on a high plateau known as the Altopiano di Asiago - the Asiago upland - in an area that has been favoured by emigrants from Germany for more than 1,000 years. The widely spoken local dialect, known as Cimbro, is very similar to German. The landscape over the years has been dotted with fortresses. The Interrotto in Camporovere, in the centre of the town, is a barracks-fortress whose construction goes back to the middle of the 1800s.  The area also has many reminders of the Battle of Asiago, a major confrontation of Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces in World War One that resulted in more than 25,000 deaths.

Also on this day:

1759: The birth of Victor Emanuel I of Sardinia

1843: The birth of painter Eugene de Blaas

1921: The birth of tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano


18 June 2022

Isabella Rossellini - actress and model

Daughter of ‘cinema royalty’ who became star in her own right

Isabella Rossellini won critical acclaim for her performance as a nightclub singer in Blue Velvet
Isabella Rossellini won critical acclaim for her
performance as a nightclub singer in Blue Velvet
The actress and model Isabella Rossellini, famed for her roles in the David Lynch-directed mystery Blue Velvet and the Oscar-winning black comedy Death Becomes Her and for 14 years the face of luxury perfume brand Lancôme, was born on this day in 1952 in Rome.

Her parents were the Swedish triple Academy Award-winning actress Ingrid Bergman and the Italian director Roberto Rossellini, one of the pioneers of the neorealism movement that spawned some of Italy’s finest films. She is the eldest by 34 minutes of twin girls.

Resident in the United States since 1979, when she married the American director Martin Scorsese, she has a home on Long Island, New York, where she keeps a number of animals. 

An active campaigner for various wildlife conservation causes, Rossellini has a MA in Animal Behaviour & Conservation after studying the subject at Hunter College, New York. Although her acting career continues, she moved in a less conventional direction by writing, directing and appearing in a series of short documentary films about sexual and reproductive behaviour in animals entitled Green Porno.

Rossellini was the face of French cosmetics brand Lancôme
Rossellini was the face of French
cosmetics brand Lancôme
Although she is now seen as the offspring of ‘screen royalty’ in that Bergman and Roberto Rossellini were two of the most famous names in cinema in the postwar years, her parents’ relationship initially caused controversy.  

Bergman had begun an affair with the Italian after writing to ask if he would like to direct her and fell pregnant with Isabella and Isotta’s elder brother, Robin, while still married to a Swedish dentist.  This was seen as scandalous in the conservative fifties and Bergman did not work again in the US for several years, while given a similarly harsh reception in her own country.

After her parents divorced when she was five, Rossellini had an unconventional upbringing, her time divided between different homes, although she insisted in interviews in later life that she had happy memories of her childhood.  Yet she also suffered from scoliosis, a condition affecting the spine that required two years of sometimes painful treatment.

After attending arts college in New York, she had her first brief film role as a nun in the 1976 musical fantasy A Matter of Time, which starred her mother and Liza Minnelli.  Her first proper role came in the 1979 Italian film Il prato (The Meadow), of which one critic wrote: ‘She looks like her mother, but she certainly hasn’t inherited her talent.’

Rossellini pictured at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival with her then partner, David Lynch
Rossellini pictured at the 1990 Cannes Film
Festival with her then partner, David Lynch
The pressure of feeling she had to live up to such expectations persuaded her to focus more on her modelling career, in which she had already worked with many renowned magazine photographers, but after the death of her mother in 1982 her own screen career acquired some momentum.

Her appearance in the 1985 film White Nights, directed by Taylor Hackford, introduced her to international audiences. Her role as a troubled nightclub singer in Lynch’s Blue Velvet followed in 1986 and the next 10 years brought a series of well-received performances, including Death Becomes Her in 1992, when she was cast alongside Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis.

Her television work gained her accolades too, including a Golden Globe nomination in 1997 for her performance in the made-for-TV drama Crime of the Century and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television series Chicago Hope.

In the meantime, Rossellini had become the principal model and spokesperson for Lancôme in 1982, a role she fulfilled until 1996 when, controversially, she was deemed “too old” at 43 and effectively sacked. Her daughter, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann, became the new face of Lancôme in 2009, five years before the brand, by then with a female CEO at the helm, re-engaged her mother as a global ambassador.

While continuing to take regular film roles, Rossellini’s fascination with animal behaviour, which began with a book she was given as a 14-year-old, led her to enrol at Hunter College, a public college attached to the City University of New York, to study the subject.

It was around this time that she began a collaboration with the Sundance Channel, an independent film network founded by the actor Robert Redford, which commissioned My Dad Is 100 Years Old, a film tribute to Rossellini’s father which she created herself.

Rossellini with her sister, Isotta, on a  Sardinian beach in 1960
Rossellini with her sister, Isotta, on a 
Sardinian beach in 1960
The idea for Green Porno emerged from this collaboration. The concept, which began with a series of short, humorous films in which Rossellini dresses up as various animals and, with the aid of cardboard cut-outs and foam-runner models, enacts the mating rituals of insects and animals.  The first series was so successful that further series and spin-offs followed, including a live show on stage at the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 2014.

In her personal life, Rossellini has been married twice - to Scorsese from 1979 to 1982 and production designer Jon Wiedemann from 1983 to 1986, with whom she has a daughter, Elettra, and an adopted son, Roberto. 

She had a five-year relationship with David Lynch after working for him on Blue Velvet and a two-year engagement to the English actor Gary Oldman, but remains single. 

Rossellini has a close relationship with her twin sister, Isotta, a professor of Italian literature who has taught at Columbia, New York, Harvard and Princeton universities.

Santa Marinella, north of Rome, is blessed with wide, sandy beaches
Santa Marinella, north of Rome, is blessed
with wide, sandy beaches
Travel tip:

One of Rossellini’s childhood homes was at Santa Marinella, a seaside town of about 19,000 residents approximately 65km (40 miles) northwest of Rome on the Lazio coast, near Civitavecchia. Once a favoured retreat of wealthy Romans, it is divided into a port area overlooked by the medieval Castello Odescalchi, now a hotel, and a resort with long, sandy beaches and streets lined with boutiques, cafes, bakeries, and seafood restaurants.

Stromboli remains an active 
volcano in the Aeolian Sea
Travel tip:

Rossellini’s mother, Ingrid Bergman, first worked for her father on his 1950 film Stromboli, set on the volcanic island of Stromboli in the Aeolian Sea, around 70km (43 miles) off the northern coast of Sicily. A still-active volcano towering out of the sea, the island is attractive for day trippers, while there are a small number of hotels in the village of Stromboli on the northeast of the island and in Ginostra at the other extremity. Rossellini’s film was responsible for a surge in tourist attention, which led to the development of clusters of holiday homes around a few stretches of volcanic sand.

Also on this day:

1511: The birth of sculptor and architect Bartolomeo Ammannati

1943: The birth of actress, singer and TV presenter Raffaella Carrà

1946: The birth of football coach Fabio Capello