10 December 2016

Imported from the USA: Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Handsome and distinguished, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (1909-2000) was much more than the son of his superstar father. He was a bright, multi-talent, who excelled in sports and sculpting, was involved in business and was knighted for his war efforts as a lieutenant. And he acted in approximately 100 films or TV shows.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7297/1, 1932-1933. Photo: First National Pictures.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit. (Casa Editr. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze), no. 2108. Photo: Paramount Films.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Dutch postcard by J.S.A., no. 192. Photo: Universal Film Booking Office.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. 1005. Photo: Universal International.

Noblesse oblige

Douglas Elton Ulman Fairbanks Junior was born in New York City in 1909 as the only child of the future Swashbuckler of silent films, Douglas Fairbanks, and Beth Sully, the daughter of a very wealthy cotton mogul. His parents divorced when he was nine years old, and both remarried.

He lived with his mother in New York, California, Paris and London. He soon proved a gifted boy. Guy Bellinger at IMDb: "Douglas Elton Ulman - better known as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - never really intended to take up acting as a career. However, the environment he was born into and the circumstances naturally led him to be a thespian. Noblesse oblige."

'Doug' excelled at sports, notably during his stay at the Military Academy in 1919. Later his role in Claude Autant-Lara's L'athlète incomplete/Love Is a Racket (1932) illustrated these abilities. He also excelled academically, and attended the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris, where he had followed his divorced mother.

Very early in his life he developed a taste for the arts as well and became a painter and sculptor. Not content to limiting himself to just one field, he became involved in business, in fields as varied as mining, hotel management, owning a chain of bowling alleys and a firm that manufactured popcorn.

During World War II he headed London's Douglas Voluntary Hospital (an establishment taking care of war refugees), was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's special envoy for the Special Mission to South America in 1940 before becoming a lieutenant in the Navy and taking part in the Allies' landing in Sicily and Elba in 1943.

Fairbanks held the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit with V for valour in combat device from the U.S. government for his combat service. In 1949, he was created an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. A fervent Anglophile, he often entertained Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in his London mansion, 'The Boltons'. In 1954, Fairbanks was promoted to the rank of captain in the Navy.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
French postcard in the Les Vedettes de Cinéma series by A.N. Paris, no. 71. Photo: Paramount.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 635. Photo: Fanamet Film.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1242/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Paramount Film.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
British postcard in the Film Weekly series, London.

Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
With Joan Crawford. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 4628/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The toast of the town

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. began his film career at the age of 13. Largely on the basis of his father's name, Fairbanks, Jr. was given a contract with Paramount Pictures.

He debuted in the silent comedy Stephen Steps Out (Joseph Henabery, 1923) but the film flopped and his career stagnated despite a critically acclaimed role in Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1925), in which he sported a moustache to play a rich husband. In 1929, he took to the stage,  and appeared in Young Woodley and Saturday's Children in Los Angeles. He impressed his father, his stepmother Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin, who encouraged him to continue with acting.

Things really picked up when he appeared in the silent drama Our Modern Maidens (Jack Conway, 1929) opposite Lucille Le Sueur, a young starlet who was soon to become better known as Joan Crawford. They married and the young couple became the toast of the town.

He demonstrated a well-modulated speaking voice and good parts followed in early sound films. He was an ace pilot in the World War I drama The Dawn Patrol (Howard Hawks, 1930), and the hapless partner of Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (Mervyn Leroy, 1931). His separation and 1933 divorce from Joan Crawford gained even more publicity than their courtship and marriage.

The 1930s were a fruitful period for Fairbanks who easily played a wide variety of roles. He was good as the mad Tsar in The Rise of Catherine the Great (Paul Czinner, 1934). He was even better as the irresistible villain Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda (John Cromwell, 1937) starring Ronald Colman. But his most memorable role is probably that of the British soldier in Gunga Din (George Stevens, 1939) with Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen.

Till then Fairbanks had carefully tried to avoid comparisons with his father, but after Doug Senior's death, he proved himself zestful as a romantic adventurer. In films like The Corsican Brothers (Gregory Ratoff, 1942), The Exile (Max Ophüls, 1947) and Sinbad the Sailor (Richard Wallace,1947) the spirit of his father seemed to glow within him.

In the early 1950s, Fairbanks retired from the cinema and moved to London. He produced and was a co-writer of several films. Between 1954 and 1956 he was the executive producer and host of a popular television anthology show, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents . Despite a moving part opposite Fred Astaire and Melvyn Douglas in Ghost Story (John Irvin, 1981), he did not appear in a major film.

He published two volumes of autobiography - The Salad Days (1988) and A Hell of a War (1993). Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. also collaborated with Richard Schickel on the illustrated survey of Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. called The Fairbanks Album (1975) and with Jeffrey Vance on a critical study/biography of Fairbanks Sr. ultimately published as Douglas Fairbanks (2008).

He was married three times. After his divorce from Joan Crawford, he was married till her death in 1988 to Mary Lee Eppling, with whom he had three daughters, and from 1991 till his death to Vera Fairbanks. At the age of 90, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. died of a heart attack in 2000. Guy Bellinger: "Now a legend himself, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. left this world with the satisfaction of having lived up to the Fairbanks name at the end of a life nobody could call 'wasted'."b

Douglas Fairbanks jr. in The Narrow Corner (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Warner. Publicity still for The Narrow Corner (Alfred E. Green, 1933) with Dudley Digges, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Everett Brown.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)
British postcard by Valentine's, no. 5904 N. Photo: London Films. Publicity still for The Rise of Catherine the Great (Paul Czinner, 1934).

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Gunga Din (1939)
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin. Photo: RKO Radio Film. Publicity still for Gunga Din (George Stevens, 1939).

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin. Photo: Universal International. Publicity still for The Exile (Max Ophüls, 1947).

Maria Montez and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in The Exile (1947)
Spanish postcard by Sobe, no. 452. Photo: publicity still for The Exile (Max Ophüls, 1947) with Maria Montez.

Sources: Guy Bellinger (IMDb), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), New York Times, The TelegraphWikipedia and IMDb.

09 December 2016

EFSP's Dazzling Dozen: Divas

Danish Asta Nielsen was the first European film star, but the first diva of the silent cinema was an Italian actress, Lyda Borelli. Her ecstatic and aristocratic performance, mixing grand gesture with delicate small details, her elegant attire and her long blond hair caused a craze. In the 1910s girls dyed their hair, went on diets and strove to imitate her twisted postures. This phenomenon was described in Italy as Borellismo. Soon other Italian actresses like Francesca Bertini, Pina Menichelli and Rina de Liguoro also swept across the screen. Their film dramas of the 1910s and early 1920s were full of decadence and outrageous emotion, and they offered an extravaganza of costumes and gestures. Ivo Blom selected for EFSP 12 dazzling postcards of these divas who gave the early Italian cinema grandeur, sensuality and style.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 118. Photo Ed. Soc. Anon. It. Bettini, Roma.

Lyda Borelli (1887-1959) was already an acclaimed stage actress before she became the first diva of the Italian silent cinema. The fascinating film star caused a craze among female fans called 'Borellismo'.

Francesca Bertini by Tito Corbella
Italian postcard. Ufficio Rev. Stampa, no.894, Milano 25-5-1917. Portrait: Tito Corbella.

Francesca Bertini (1892-1985) had already a prolific career in one-, two- and three-reelers for the Italian companies Cines and Celio, before she received diva status in 1914. In 1921 she married count Paul Cartier and retired. After their divorce, she returned to the film sets. Her last film role was that of a nun in Bernardo Bertolucci's Novecento/1900 (1977).

Pina Menichelli
Italian postcard by TM.

Fascinating and enigmatic Pina Menichelli (1890-1984) was the most bizarre Italian diva of the silent era. With her contorted postures and disdainful expression, she impersonated the striking femme fatale.

Diana Karenne
Italian postcard. Photo Ed. Emilio Sommariva, Milano, no. 1.

Polish actress Diana Karenne (1888-1940) was also one of the divas of Italian silent cinema. Between 1916 and 1920, Karenne fascinated audiences with her eccentric dresses and make-up, and with her primadonna behaviour. Afterwards she had a career in the German and French silent cinema.

Rina de Liguoro in Quello che non muore
Italian postcard. U.C.I., no. 942. Rina De Liguoro in the Italian silent film Quello che non muore (Wladimiro De Liguoro, 1926).

Rina De Liguoro (1892-1966) was the last diva of the Italian silent cinema of the 1920s. She had her breakthrough in 1924 as the sensual, untamed Roman empress Messalina, and the beautiful countess continued her glittering career in such epics as Quo Vadis (1924), Casanova (1927) and Cecil B. De Mille's notorious Madam Satan (1930).

Helena Makowska
Italian postcard. Photo DM.

Polish singer and actress Helena Makowska aka Elena Makowska (1893-1964) was a beautiful diva of the Italian silent cinema in the 1910s. During the 1920s she moved to Berlin and also became a star of the German cinema.

Soava Gallone
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 329. Photo Fontana, Roma.

Polish actress Soava Gallone (1880-1957) was directed in one silent film after another by her husband, Carmine Gallone. From the mid-1910s onwards, the diva starred in many Italian films as the 'femme fragile'.

Maria Jacobini in La preda (1921)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 154. Maria Jacobini with Carmela Bonicatti (Carmen Boni) in La preda (Guglielmo Zorzi, 1921).

Among the Italian divas, Maria Jacobini (1892-1944) was an island of serenity, as film historian Vittorio Martinelli expressed it. She was the personification of goodness, of simple love. Her weapon was her sweet and gracious smile. However, in some Italian and later also in German films, she could as well play the vivacious lady, the femme fatale, the comedienne, the hysterical victim, or the suffering mother or wife.

Leda Gys
Italian postcard by Ed. Vettori, Bologna. Foto Pinto, Roma.

Versatile actress Leda Gys (1892-1957) was the only Italian diva who never played vamp roles and the only one whose career lasted until the advent of sound films. She starred in some 80 dramas, comedies, action thrillers and even westerns of the Italian and Spanish silent cinema. Her claim to fame came with the film Christus (1916), shot in Egypt and Palestine, where Gys performed the Madonna.

Elena Sangro
Italian postcard by Foto Ebano, no. 1.

Elena Sangro (1896-1969) was one of the main actresses of the Italian cinema of the 1920s. In spite of the general film crisis then, she made one film after another. She was also one of the first female directors and she had a famous affair with the 64-year-old poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.

Italia Almirante
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 529. Photo Scoffone. Italia Almirante in L'arzigogolo/The Court Jester (Mario Almirante, 1924), an adaptation of the play by Sem Benelli.

Italia Almirante (1890-1941) was one of the great divas of the Italian silent cinema. She starred in the classic epic Cabiria (1914). In the following decades she worked with some of the most important Italian directors of the silent era, including Roberto Roberti, Augusto Genina and Giovanni Pastrone. From 1935 on she played on stage in Brazil, where she suddenly died, when she was bitten by a poisonous insect.

Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Roma. Photo Pinto, Roma.

Hesperia (1885-1959) was one of the Italian divas of the silent screen. She often worked with director Baldassarre Negroni, who later became her husband.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday, hosted by Beth at the The Best Hearts are Crunchy. You can visit her by clicking on the button below.

Source: Silents, Please!.

08 December 2016

Carlo Romano

Carlo Romano (1908-1975) was an Italian actor in film, vaudeville, radio and television. He was also a highly active voice actor, and was the Italian voice of Fernandel in all the Don Camillo comedies.

Carlo Romano
Italian photo card by A. Scarmiglia Editore (Aser), Roma (Rome), no. 87. Photo: Aser.

Comical Sidekick

Carlo Romano was born in Livorno in 1908. He was the son of actress Dina Romano and the younger brother of Felice Romano, who was an actor as well. He started at the Teatro Minimo in Trieste when he was only five.

In 1929 Romano entered the Compagnia Talli-Capodaglio, and later he was active in vaudeville. Because of his young age and his style, which was theatrical and personal, expressing sympathy and warmth, he was nicknamed Carletto (little Carlo), a name that stuck on him. In 1933 Romano married actress Jone Bolghero but the couple divorced later.

In the cinema Romano started in 1934 with an uncredited part as a taxi driver in La signora di tutti/Everybody's Woman (Max Ophüls, 1934) starring Isa Miranda. After years of small parts, his roles slowly became bigger towards the end of the decade.

He played mostly in comedies by Guido Brignone, and Mario Bonnard. In dramas he was still often the comical sidekick. Romano played the protagonist of the comedies Il socio invisibile/The invisible partner (Roberto Roberti, 1939) co-starring Clara Calamai, and Un marito per il mese di aprile/A husband for the month of April (Giorgio Simonelli, 1941).

Between 1939 and 1943 he played in some 35 films. From these very active years, Romano is best remembered for Cavalleria rusticana (Amleto Palermi, 1939) - in which his mother also performed, for Quattro passi fra le nuvole/Four Steps in the Clouds (Alessandro Blasetti, 1942) in which he was the reckless bus driver Antonio, and for the Beniamino Gigli vehicle I pagliacci/Laugh Pagliacci (Giuseppe Fatigati, 1942) in which Romano played composer Ruggero Leoncavallo.

Clara Calamai
Clara Calamai. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3171/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / DIFU.

Beniamino Gigli
Beniamino Gigli. Italian postcard. Photo: Nova Film.


In the postwar era Carlo Romano would play in some 55 films more. Highlights are Campane a martello/Bells to hammer (Luigi Zampa, 1949) with Gina Lollobrigida, Domani è troppo tardi/Tomorrow Is Too Late (Léonide Péguy, 1950) starring Pier Angeli, Il cardinale Lambertini/Cardinal Lambertini (Giorgio Pastina, 1954) starring Gino Cervi, and the Aldo Fabrizi drama Accadde al penitenziario/It happened at the penitentiary (Giorgio Bianchi, 1955).

One of Romano’s best parts was as the lawyer Enzo La Rosa in the tragicomedy Luci del varietà/Variety Lights (Alberto Lattuada, Federico Fellini, 1950), about a young golddigger (Carla Del Poggio), who uses the head of a second-rate theatrical group (Peppino de Filippo) to launch her career.

With Alberto Lattuada, Romano continued to work in La spiaggia/Riviera, and with Federico Fellini in I vitelloni, both from 1953.

I Vitelloni follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts, who while away their listless days in their small seaside village. Romano plays Michele Curti, the owner of a shop in religious articles. He takes on one of the vitelloni, skirt chaser Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) whose father-in-law is his friend. Curti fires him when Fausto tries to seduce Curti’s wife (Lida Baarova) during the carnival. Later on Fausto steals a statue from Curti and tries to sell it to a monk. A hit in Italy upon its release, I Vitelloni secured Fellini's reputation as an up-and-coming talent, and it was his first international success.

Lattuada's La spiaggia was one of the first films shot in Ferraniacolor. It was a drama about a woman (Martine Carol) who is celebrated and then rejected by the local high society of a fashionable seaside village, when it is discovered she was a prostitute.

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida. Italian postcard by Rotalcolor, no. 17.

Martine Carol
Martine Carol. German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK-2. Retail price: 30 Pfg. Photo: Gérard Décaux / Ufa.

Caricature-like Airs and Dialects

In addition to acting, Carlo Romano was even more active in dubbing. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he gave his voice to numerous foreign and Italian actors, enriching them with caricature-like airs and when necessary with dialects. Among those whose Italian voice he was, were Fred Astaire, James Cagney, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Fernandel (Romano was his voice in the Italian versions of all the Don Camillo films), Lou Costello (known in Italy as Pinotto) and Peter Lorre.

In later decades he was the Italian voice of Eli Wallach, Rod Steiger and Jason Robards in their Spaghetti Westerns.

For Disney he dubbed Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, 1940), the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1951), the Secretary Bird in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson, 1971) and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

From the mid-1950s on, Romano also often worked for TV, and he had an even bigger career on the radio, playing in various radio dramas such as La domenica della buona gente/The Sunday of the Good People (1952), directed by Anton Giulio Majano, who also directed him in the 1953 film adaptation.

For years Romano joined the Compagnia del Teatro Comico Musicale of Radio Roma, often directed by Riccardo Mantoni.

His last films were the Spaghetti Western Lo sceriffo di Rockspring/Sheriff of Rock Springs (Mario Sabatini, 1971) with Richard Harrison, and the drama Il venditore di palloncini/The Balloon Vendor (Mario Gariazzo, 1974) with Lee J. Cobb.

Carlo Romano died in Bracciano, Italy in 1975.

Trailer La domenica della buona gente (1953). Source: DiFilm (YouTube).

Trailer I Vitelloni (1953). Source: Argent Films (YouTube).

Sources: AllMovie, Wikipedia (English and Italian) and IMDb.