Rossano Brazzi: La vita e il film (1941)
(“Rossano Brazzi: His Life and Films”)
The first thing you must do is pretend you are a very young teenage girl (or at the very least, a young woman), born and raised in a small provincial town in Italy, harboring a hopeless passion for that romantic, blue-eyed, gorgeous actor you see in the teatro communale, in the small Piazzale in the center of town, perhaps a few times a year. War is still a few years away. You are young, impressionable and overwhelmed with the bittersweet and unrequited love you feel for this amazing actor, this Rossano Brazzi. The year is 1941. The month is July. Under the warm Italian sun, in a country known for its passion and its tradition of all things romantic, Rossano Brazzi is, in a sense, your first true love.
You need to read this, the first of the two known biographies written about him, in that frame of mind, because it appears that this was written exclusively for Rossano’s first loyal following. In that respect, he was the Leonardo DiCaprio of his day – millions of young, Italian teenage girls (and young women) considered him to be one of the most magnificent creatures that ever lived and reacted to him with an almost religious fervor. It is not surprising, then, to find him compared, in this narrative, to everyone from the infant Jesus to Shakespeare’s Romeo, and the story literally follows the winding course of a romance novel: full of noble restraint and poetically-inspired devotion, tender passion, and, of course, those heated arguments that signal the onset of true love … supported, at least in his early years, by the always present “Mamma” and “Nonna”. No Italian love story could exist without them. Of course, we have no idea how accurate this really is. Was there a “Bruna” and an “Ida”, or were they composite or fictitious creations, created to embellish the young, romantic aspect of a teenage Rossano/Romeo for a young, dewy-eyed and smitten readership, eager to find points of similarity between his life and their own?
This biography differs from the Pietro Osso version written a year later, by being much more focused on the early loves of his life, as opposed to his work, and by attempting to render him as perfect and as eminently worshipful as possible. This version depicts him as a “brilliant scholar”, while the Osso version has him receiving a “clout in the head” from his father for preferring his dreams of the theater, to studying as he should.
The first appearance of Lidia in this version seems more accurate, and was later confirmed, in varying degrees of accuracy, by both of them: the unfortunate complication of her engagement to another lawyer; and that she initially wasn’t much taken with him. They both agreed that, initially, his interest in her far exceeded her reciprocal interest in him. Her recollection that the change in their relationship occurred during a train trip conducted by the Dopolavoro Ferraviario (“Afterwork Railway”) en route to a performance, is intact here, although the actual circumstances are somewhat different. There is no mention made here of his studies in law, or his supposedly brief stint as a lawyer in Rome, that have been told elsewhere.
Osso goes into much more detail about his work in the theater; even so, we do learn about a few more of his early performances on the stage that we hadn’t known about.
The paragraphs covering his earliest success in the cinema are extraordinary, and give you a very realistic snapshot of the life Rossano must have been leading when his first films arrived in the theaters: letters arriving by the thousands, piled up to the ceiling in their tiny apartment, as Rossano struggled valiantly to answer them, while filming two more movies simultaneously. The description of the public and critical reaction to his astonishing performance as a middle-aged “Edmund Kean” is probably accurate as well; for a twenty-four year old actor, in only his fourth film, to have not only attempted but vanquished the tremendously difficult role (reportedly, many other actors were afraid of taking it on) was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Certainly, “Kean” would have cemented his fame in Italy, before “Noi Vivi” truly immortalized him.
The first few paragraphs, about him being left as an infant with his Grandmother, were no doubt an invention of the author, for Rossano at the time his family resettled in Florence would have been nearly four or five years old, Oscar was already born, and Rossano was nowhere close to being an infant, as he is described. Certainly, he might have temporarily stayed with his Grandmother while the family settled in Florence, but he would have been older than this opening (although touching) narrative suggests.
Zeppegno also goes into much more detail about Rossano’s reaction to the adoration of his early admirers than did Osso, who spoke of that adoration in much more general terms.
One aspect of his personality you might find interesting is his purported great emotionalism at a very early age. Again, this might be fiction – the author imagining that an actor capable of such emotional range must have been a child with the same tendencies – or there may have been some truth behind these stories, of a Rossano devastated by the illness of a pet kitten, reduced to tears over a sad bedtime story; grief-stricken over being separated from his Grandmother. Her comment that she hoped that life would “sharpen his claws and his teeth” – that is, toughen him up – may tell you something of the great well of emotion and sensitivity he could draw from later, when he had to. At the very least, his intuitive reaching for Lidia from the very first moment they met seemed, at least to this author, to be an answer to a worried Grandmother’s concern for her grandson’s profound sensitivity: if life failed to toughen him up, at least Lidia was a formidable buffer between a sensitive spirit and the obstacles life would – and did – throw at him.
At this stage of his life, he was not yet saddled with that pesky “Latin Lover” image, obviously, but was perceived as “emotional”, “ardent”, and, more interestingly, “childlike”, easily undone by criticism and discouragement. When he later became the “Great Lover”, Lidia could not, in the minds of the press and the public, fit into the shape of that image and was relegated (by the press) to a role as his “stout childhood sweetheart”, with their marriage being one of “convenience”; that she endured his reported ‘infidelities’ because she enjoyed the finer aspects of his success.
For a number of reasons, that later version of Lidia Brazzi is largely insupportable, to anyone who knew the two of them. This first portrait of her, while possibly a bit overdone in this biography, represented what appears to be the reality of their marriage – the strong-willed, charming, and relentless force who protected him from his own childish emotionalism and kept him from becoming the victim of his own nature, whether that involved shoring him up in moments of discouragement and hopelessness, or of keeping him securely grounded when his public became more and more ardent and clamoring: she was the devoted wife who guided him with a “gentle but firm” hand; he was her “little boy”, who she protected from the disappointments and the betrayals that his life as an actor threw at him. In a very real sense, the world would never have known a “Rossano Brazzi” had he not had Lidia Bertolini Brazzi by his side, and, to his credit, it appears that he was always fully aware of that, for as long as she lived.
But before you get too caught up in this particular version of his young life, keep in mind that while this author has him weeping over lost loves like a heartsick schoolboy, other biographies report him as being at the same time an avid sportsman, one who played tennis and soccer, was competitive enough to be the goalkeeper for the Florentine soccer team, and was a formidable boxer. Which Rossano do YOU think was the more accurate one?
about this second biography, written about Rossano Brazzi, in July of 1941:
“His grandmother Stella bent over the little baby who extended to her his plump and rosy hands, with adoration. She met the blue-eyed gaze of that very beautiful baby, and with endless emotion discovered again in that blue wonder the sweetness and the purity of his infantile expression. Now her daughter was departing for Florence, and she would be deprived of the joy of cradling this beautiful baby, with the sky-blue eyes, the first grandson, who was the source of all her happiness.
“Do listen to me dear, couldn’t you leave him with me? You and your husband are newlyweds, and going away from our Bologna, will perhaps have to fight to create work in Florence … the baby would be a worry for you, my girl… Leave him with me for some time! Rossanino you want to remain with your grandmother Stella, don’t you?”
The small one extended his tiny hands and smiled. The young mother now looked at him, (her small angel come to cheer her life as a bride) and then at her mother, whose face was so like that of her child, and was thoughtful.
“Mamma, I cannot leave him. At the age of two a child always needs his mama”
“A grandmother is doubly mamma, my girl, and you are inexperienced, trembling if he so much as coughs, and I have seen you terrified the first time that Rossano had a fever! I have raised many children … I have the experience and the wisdom that you don’t have. Leave him with me for a few months, at least until you have found a beautiful house in Florence… there is a garden here, the little one already has his friends … tell your mamma, beautiful Rossanino, that you want to remain with your grandmother Stella!”
Her child smiled at her, sheltered in the arms of his Grandmother. So his mother, anxious and lost, entrusted him for some time to his grandmother who adored him. From Florence, every week she came to see her first baby, and it found him more and more beautiful. Mischievous but good, of such a kind and mild goodness that his Grandmother Stella said:
“This little one has the sweetness and the grace of a baby… I hope that time sharpens his nails and his teeth; otherwise life will dominate him … and when he indulges in some rare whim, he immediately repents, asks forgiveness with a manly grace, with such a visage that is almost necessary to ask his forgiveness for scolding him!”
But the mama of Rossano could not live without her child, and when the little one had completed the three years she came to pick him up and brought him to the divine Florence, where with her husband she had created, with hard work and good taste, an attractive cottage. His grandmother Stella cried a lot, and Rossano who adored her, grieved, his eyes, celestial as a serene April sky, were veiled in tears, and for many days he wandered the Florentine cottage sad and thinking of his grandmother in Bologna.
When walking in the country by the farmhouses, a shadow of longing seemed to pass across his serious eyes, longing for the quiet silent walks with his grandmother Stella, in the Margherita gardens or in the hills. His mother was a little jealous: she wanted all of her eldest son’s affection all to herself, and when she saw him silent, with the good-looking eyes very serious, she asked anxiously: “Rossanino, what are you thinking of?” The small one, already precociously sensitive and intuitive, felt that he shouldn’t reveal his nostalgia for his grandmother, and often answered: “I am thinking about the beautiful fables that you tell me every night, mamma. Do you want to tell me them again now?”
His mama picked him up in her arms, happy to have been mistaken, and told stories to her attentive and ecstatic boy, all of the stories that babies love throughout the world.
When, two years after Oscar was born, the young mother found herself dividing her life between the two babies and the job that her husband’s shops provided her, she thought that perhaps it would be good for her and for her first child, to bring to Stella her tiny favorite. His grandmother’s house was empty, now, since all her children had married, and she welcomed her idol with tears of joy. This way, grandmother and grandson lived their calming, sweet life for a year. The intelligence of the small Rossano was intense: his emotional sensibility was so great that his grandmother had sometimes worried about it. He was overcome with emotion over nothing, her beloved baby: over a sad story that his grandmother read to him, or over the sight of a wounded bird, not responding to caresses. One day, because the kitten, a very beautiful angora, got sick, Rossano wanted to cure it, without leaving its side for a moment, and, was comforted only when he saw the little animal growing more lively. For the whole day, the child had not touched food, and only when the kitten started playing with him again, would he satisfy his Grandmother by returning to the table.
At five he read and wrote correctly. Grandmother and grandson spent many hours, with the ABCs in his hands, and the child was a passionate reader, saying, often: “Granny, you’re now teaching me to read, but when you’re very old and cannot read any more with your glasses, I will sit next to you, and will read so many beautiful books to you!”
His grandmother touched the stubborn little head with the light and gilded hair, and trembled with the thought of this beloved creature returning to Florence with his family. Sometimes the little boy was jealous of his siblings.
“Grandmother, do you think that mama will now care only for 0scar? I am grown now, and he is so very tiny.”
“Don’t you know, Rossano, that a mother’s heart is so great that it can hold the deepest love for ten children?”
“Maybe so, but I would not like to be the tenth.”, Rossano said, sulkily, and the blue of his eyes was often veiled with melancholy.
He now attended elementary school: his brief themes were read in all the classes… he already wrote with a concise and not at all childish style, and there was so much poetry in those brief compositions of his that the teacher was quite touched.
“Grandmother, when I am older, I will write such beautiful poems! The most beautiful will be for you! Are you happy?”
Was she happy! He tore at her heart, her little angel, and she suffered at the thought of not having him always and forever. When he was eight years old, Rossano, first in his class and apple of the teacher’s eye, was prepared by his teacher, during the months of his summer vacation for his examinations and, a few months later, entered in Primo Technico. [secondary school]… he was proud to be the youngest of his class: all of his companions were almost two years older than he, and they called him «the child»… but he felt strong. He had to beat them all and have the “supremacy” that he always had been in the elementary classes, when he was the idol of his teachers.
Florence awaits him now. Oscar is six years old already and goes to school, and his mother doesn’t want to be separated from her Rossanino anymore. The separation from his grandmother causes him a lot of suffering. Before climbing aboard the train he hugs her to his heart, and pours childish tears:
“Don’t cry, Grandmother Stella… you will always come to find me, right? And I will also come visit you.”
“But you will be with your mama, my Rossanino, and not always with your grandmother anymore. And the house will seem so sad without you! Will you write me, at least?”
“Always, granny, every day…”
Always … every day, Rossano from Florence writes a kind of diary that he sends regularly, at the end of every week, to his favorite grandmother … renouncing relaxation, he rides his bicycle to devote himself to this joy: that of spending some time with his grandmother, revealing his thoughts and feelings to her.
The first appearance on stage by the young Rossano with his kind face and sapphire eyes, happened when the little boy was twelve years old, in an operetta written for children and presented for charity: “I principini di Pam-Pam” (“The princelings of Pam-Pam”) The aristocracy in Florence was ecstatic over the very beautiful child who, in the costume of the small prince, had the grace and the finesse of a true child of nobility. And his young fellow actors discussed the gentleness and the smile of the little boy with the romantic face and the polite manner. One among the young actresses dressed in grass, seemed really struck by the charm of the small Rossano, and was absorbed enough to contemplate him with big dark eyes full of admiration.
“Bruna has fallen in love with you!” a friend whispered in his ear, one evening before entering a scene. Rossano ignored the meaning of the word “love”, although his face colored and his eyes dropped.
Love .. all throughout his youth he had been an ardent soul, full of enthusiasm and poetry, which spoke of this magic, marvelous, spellbound word: only his young hands could never unlock the door of that fantasy garden. But, the dark eyes of Bruna little by little revealed to him that a feeling existed that brought suffering and joy at the same time, something incomprehensible in which the heart is lost in joy when a person dear to one’s heart is seen …
“You are very nice!” the little boy said to the little girl one evening, when their recitations on stage had ended. The young girl was two years younger than he, but in her look and in her already provocative form, had something female and interesting.
“You are also very beautiful… when you become the prince, you really seem to be the famous melancholy little king.”
“When we have finished performing this story, can we meet again?” (Oh… small Rossano, from his vibrating soul, is distressed already at the thought of not being able to see those dark eyes that fix upon him in ecstasy, wanting already to prolong the joy of a childish dream, that has in its essence something perfumed and poetic…)
“I am in first, grammar school, and you?”
“In technical second…”
“You are also very good in school — well, because you are younger than the others, and already ahead of everybody.”
“Bruna — just like your eyes or your hair… you seem almost like a gypsy ..”
“Oh, my name is common … yours I like. Nobody has your name: Rossano. Why have they named you this way?”
“My mother told me that my father was a soldier in an area [of Italy] called Rossano. I was called that perhaps because in that country they lived happy-go-lucky lives and had happy days!”
“How well you speak. They have told me that you are very good in Italian. Tell me Rossano, have you ever written any verses? I have …”
“No, I’ve never written any. But if you want I can write some for you.”
“And do you want to read your poetry to me?”
“If you promise me not to laugh…”
The parents of Rossano and those of Bruna worried about seeing their children together so often. It is an innocent game, a prelude to what will be, in one distant day, for them, the circumstance of love. But it is too beautiful not to delay it, and immediately both sets of parents separated their children.
The young Bruna has the face of an impassioned young woman and Rossano, with that melancholy princely face greeted every new feeling as a harp whose gilt strings is grazed by skilled, musical fingers.
If it were only a prelude to love with Bruna, in the soul of Rossano the true one, the first feelings of real love in his life were born one spring evening at sunset, and it became long-lived, real and deep, in that soul rich in poetry and ardor.
Ida was young and very beautiful: a schoolmate, a companion of games and nothing more, up until that evening. The two young friends walked, speaking of school, along Viale dei Colli, perfumed with the scent of jasmine in bloom …
A ray of sun, of almost violet radiance lit with golden dust bathed in its magic light the face of Ida, and Rossano was amazed to contemplate the sight of her. He didn’t say a word, but his eyes expressed the inner turmoil of sudden emotion.
“Rossano…”- the young girl murmured, and her lips quivered slightly, almost the light flutter of a butterfly’s wings, when a rough hand tightens them … they were suddenly in each others’ arms, as if something unreal had cast a spell and had pushed them to embrace. The young girl detached herself at once from that ardent and naïve embrace, and murmured, lost:
“I didn’t know I cared for you, Rossano…”
The boy was pale, and those magnificent clear blue eyes of his reflected an intense emotion. It was his first kiss, and, for men it is perhaps this first contact of love that is the deepest and most complete feeling of his life. Something that they never forget.
“Ida. .. I am so happy to care for you … I don’t know, it is as if the world appeared more beautiful to me, more bright… let’s go to the Piazzale Michelangelo and look down at Florence… I am sure I’ll see it for the first time, in all of her splendor, They climbed slowly, arms around each other. All the violet and azure light of the sunset seemed to illuminate their two young, shining faces, those big eyes that are able to see for the first time, everything in its enchanting charm, the beauty and the poetry of love. They were absorbed in the contemplation of the city that dressed in the first shades of the evening, and their mouths were united in a sweet kiss that had the perfume of that spring evening. Ida had to conceal from her parents her love for Rossano, but the boy with his ardent soul, from his living impulses, immediately spoke to his mama of the passion that had ignited within his heart.
“I want to marry her!” His mama smiled and caressed his fine hair, with tenderness.
“Do you remember, perchance, how old you are?”
“It’s useless, mama, to hinder my love. Ida and I love each other, and I want to marry her!”
“At sixteen? When you are just beginning your studies? When you’re still not a man, but a little boy who ignores everything in life? Ah, my Rossano, don’t let your father hear such foolishness!”
The ardent soul of Rossano, which already wanted from life everything he desired, rebelled, and cried hopelessly in the consoling arms of his mother.
“You know, mama, we’re obliged to remain hidden, Ida’s family would be troubled if they knew of our love… for this, you see, I thought… I said…”
“… of running away, you thought, my son! Life will always give you some bitterness if you take it too seriously. Enjoy this marvelous young girl, smile at the first love that comes your way, dressed in sweet poetry, but not enough to trouble you, my child, don’t create complications, don’t stumble on your path, which is already so sour from life, tragedy and useless suffering!
Rossano lowered his head and sighed. In an instant he realized that what he desired most in life is always necessarily conquered with hard struggle and with acute sufferings, since the boy suffered from not being able to see the girl of his heart when and how he wanted to.
And to meet with Ida, it was necessary to invent a thousand almost improbable stories and arrive late, troubled on the Ponte Vecchio, eyes bright from the long run, and then to shelter with her in a discreet and silent corner of the Boboli Gardens two young people in a love built around that first impassioned circumstance, their hearts like striplings, in an atmosphere of tragedy.
Rossano had shown a great passion for his studies, but his bright scholastic intelligence, was, in that period a little dejected and distracted by everything that wasn’t his first young love. His father, to distract him a little bit (and also because in their busy shop they had need of him), put his romantic young son to work as his right arm. But he didn’t want to abandon the young girl who had been such a source of joy and happiness for him: he enrolled in the Berlitz School to specialize in the comprehension of foreign languages, and was devoted to the French language especially… (the language of love, they told each other, and for Rossano, therefore the most fascinating language in the world to speak to her, that fluid, pure love flowing from the sweet lips of her enamored Florentine!)
Meanwhile another passion arose in his mind, eager to express all of the ardor and the beauty of the feelings that rose in heart: his love for the arts.
With the consent of his parents he enrolled in a Florentine Filodrammatica and the success that the small prince of Pam-Pam, blond and kind, had received in his youth, was renewed for the little boy that became more handsome every day.
Abruptly, Ida had disappeared from his life. Her parents had changed residence and the young girl, after a goodbye to Romeo from his Juliet, between the chirping of the swallows, the perfume of the flowers and the ardent tears, like a light and tender dream had faded away… leaving in the heart of Rossano a grieved sadness.
But the motto of Rossano was «love is life, and life is love», and he was not able spend his days in monotony and without anything happening to him. His spirit felt the desire to love, he wanted also to create a love for himself which didn’t color his picturesque images of love. His beautiful imagination gave life to kind ghosts and shadowy figures.
In this way he believed himself in love with Fioretta Mantici, a noble and beautiful young girl (whose garden bordered the same villa where he lived), when his blue eyes met the violet ones of the young girl who sat absorbed on a bench, amidst the flowers. The attractiveness of the youth was so full of poetry and grace that the woman remained there, stricken. This was Fioretta Mantici, with her long silken eyelashes covering her violet eyes, and her elegant and delicate face the color of rose. That was all it took to delude the ardent heart of Rossano. The contessina loved him, she would have been the interpreter of a new history of love, of which he, the protagonist, would have then narrated the circumstances in that big diary where he annotated, naïvely and childishly, the first chapters of his life of love… he filled the pages with that sweet name «Fioretta Mantici, Fioretta Mantici, the most beautiful of creatures … I know that I will love her for life… she is too high for me… she is noble, rich, divine… but as the ancient riders, I will know how to conquer her… and to do her my…»
But at that same time he had encountered on life’s road the woman of his destiny, that long-lived, real woman, who could disperse the poetic shadows of Rossano’s romantic dreams.
The youth had enrolled in the Experimental School and his teachers, struck by his charm and intuitive and interpretative intelligence, had expressed big hopes for his future. It was in the first days of the school, that Rossano (adored and caressed by friends happy for one look, one smile of his, one kind word of his) met Lidia, the creature that life had placed on his road, to drive him, with a strong and kind hand, on the road to success.
Rossano suffered the charm of the aristocracy, when he knew from rumors that Lidia had been born the Baroness Bertolini and that her family lived in an intellectual and very elegant environment, he started to deal with her, and to make a light, but insistent court. The young girl, attractive, intelligent, immediately told him laughingly, and a bit proudly, that she didn’t want to know him. “Let’s be engaged” he told her, when he tried to steal a kiss from her.
“I don’t love boys!”
Rossano was offended. “I’m nineteen years old!”, he answered her fiercely. “It seems to me I’m an old enough man for lovemaking!”
“Feel free … fall in love with all the girls of the Experimental School, with all the young girls of Florence, but not with me!”
Perhaps it was the first time that Rossano was met head on by such an energetic rebellion: all the women he had smiled upon received him with lips open like rose petals and hands extended to him.
He remained struck by this peremptory refusal to an offer of love, and suffered from it. Meanwhile he studied diligently, and the teachers were enthusiastic about him. He studied, but tried meanwhile to learn everything he could about Lidia. With a strange anguish that he didn’t understand, he knew that she was truly engaged to a rich lawyer in the city; they told him that, in Lidia’s family, all of her relatives were teachers and graduates, and that the young girl was in the second year of the University … he felt inferior to her and started studying, chaotically, everything that fell into his hands: history of art and literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis, music and poetry… and he abandoned himself with his characteristic ardor, to a deep and thorough study of the theater.
At the first recital of the Experimental Theater, he met with a success that he had never imagined. He was happy about it, but would have liked it if Lidia had paid him the same compliments as did his other companions, enthusiastically. Instead the young girl was satisfied to coldly tell him, “Very good, Rossano, you are really a born actor.” After which she left, accompanied by her mother and her fiancé. That evening Rossano stared at the door of the Theater, with a dark face and eyes full of lightning. He rebelled against that coldness, to that indifference, and his ardent soul quivered at it.
He threw himself headfirst in studying some new parts that were assigned to him and pretended not to take any more notice of the young girl. But one day, he said, bitterly and ironically, speaking in general but sure that Lidia listened to him:
“These girls of today don’t give value except to money! Love, beauty, youth… nothing of everything that is the poetry of the life, interests her!”
“Are you speaking of me? – Lidía asked him (with the sparkling eyes of anger.)
“Of you? Who knows anything of you? You are an acquaintance and nothing more!”
“Ah, do you envy the position and the wealth of my fiancé, perhaps?”
“Envy, me? At nineteen? Who knows but that one day this position of your fiancé doesn’t overcome him! He’s twenty years older than me!”
The girl turned pale. “I prefer wise and intelligent maturity to the idiocy and inexperience of your youth! Who do you think you are, boy? What, do you think with your beautiful face and blue eyes, you can conquer the whole world? And the women first? It’s better you stay silent, you impertinent pup!”
They glared at each other, with sparkling eyes of anger and something else, as a quiver passed between them, although they were unaware that they felt the thin brush of it.
As a ray of sun had revealed the sweet beauty of Ida to Rossano and disclosed to his young heart the mystery of love, so too his attitude of painful tiredness opened slightly the doors of the closed heart of Lidia … the Company of the Experimental Theater went out of town for a recital and the two young people had found places in the same compartment and, tired from the long rehearsals, had fallen asleep.
An abrupt shake woke Lidia up again, and as she was facing Rossano, she looked at him for the first time without grudge and without hostility. He slept as quietly as a child: his black eyelashes veiled the azure beam of his eyes and there was in his position something so sad and discouraged that the young girl felt guilty about it.
“He is a little boy – I think – and he will always have need of protection in his life… and how sad that he has a soul that suffers, a vibrating and sensitive soul, similar to a delicate gardenia that fades and wastes at the least and light graze of a hand … if I will smile at him, he will be able to smile also … which he can only do if an energetic and strong woman is near to defend him from the attacks in his life …
His blue eyes opened suddenly and he saw the look Lidia had fixed upon him with so much sweetness.
He extended his hand to her without speaking, as a suffering baby would ask for help and she extended her hand in return. It was that which cemented a promise, a promise that Lydia has maintained as a true gentlewoman: to support, in the bitter travails for art and for glory, the ardent and kind mind of Rossano. From that evening they loved each other with abandonment and with endless joy.
Without letting it weigh her enamored youth, slowly but with steadiness the young girl broke up her engagement with the rich gentleman of Florence, that she had never loved. As much as Rossano was romantic and impassioned, Lidia was strong, fair, energetic… their souls, so different in their spiritual attitudes, supported him and they understood each other.
“Neither you without me, neither me without you…”, Rossano murmured to his beloved one in the evenings of ecstasy … and the fair girl answered: “Poetry, always, but also reality in the life, to win, Rossano. I feel that you will become someone, but you need to help, because it is the youth that conquers every thing, to the world.”
“You are in my heart, in my body, in my spirit”…whispered Rossano in the sweet sunsets spent in the perfumed gardens in Florence.
“You have to be my companion and me your woman, but you have to make me proud of you, Rossano and not to live in dreams!” This way, with firm and kind hand, she drove him on the road, in the bloom of success and glory.
In 1937, Rossano, accompanied by Lidia who was now his wife, gathered the courage to make a screen-test. Admirers that love the young Rossano with the sapphire eyes and the soft voice, admirers that have made him your blue-eyed prince .. aghast! The screen-test didn’t succeed, and, sad and discouraged, Rossano felt that the roads of the Cinema were closed to him, and he abandoned every hope, and wrote to Emma Gramatica.
Lidia gave him courage in his first disappointment. She traveled with him, and showed to him that the theater can sometimes give way to a most emotional and most vibrating success in the cinema. The applause of the public is the most living joy for an actor. Gramatica went on tour to Rodi: a delicious oasis and a marvelous place for their honeymoon.
Between the perfume of the roses and the marvelous blueness of the sea, their love was cradled… Lidia was also abandoned now to the happiness of their love, and to the ecstasy and the enchantment of this passion. His youth was revealed more and more like a little boy in everything: in the intense feelings and in the sudden discouragements, in the enthusiasm and in the impetuous anger.
She loved him so, and was happy to feel strong, for protecting him from future anxieties, from the sufferings that the life of actor always gives. She loved this nomadic life that allowed her to have all to herself this very beautiful little boy and it suffocated the jealousy that sometimes grabbed ahold of her when she saw friends look as in ecstasy at her husband … the young girls who turned and smiled at him, with offers in their eyes. She was tied to him… she knew that he was good, enamored and thankful. For his love, she had forsaken wealth and she knew that the struggle to reach the destination would be difficult and hard.
The theater has now taken the heart of Rossano and he remained with the Gramatica Company during the entire winter of 1938.
This great actress often listened to him recite: she loved his warm and vibrating voice and that juvenile impetus of his that at times she had to dampen before it spread in exuberance. She molded that internal fire, since she wanted to make of him a measured and composed actor, and often smiled at him benevolently to reassure him in moments of doubt: a sure result promised to him. She wasn’t yet able to convince him that his very beautiful, Apollonesque face was photogenic.
“I will introduce you to Scalera, Rossano, and you will see that they will change their opinion. “You are a certain cinematic actor — you have everything to succeed: beauty, harmonious figure, warm voice, strength and passion!”
She succeeded in fact in arranging a meeting with Scalera, but it seemed that in the cinematographic world the atmosphere was not very benevolent, for he had to first become a favorite actor, before he could be entrusted with important roles, given his young age!
His love for the theater was able to support him in this new disappointment, and in October he was engaged by Ninchi-Dondi, where the roles of first young actors almost immediately were entrusted to him. In that brief period the personal success of Rossano was intense, especially in “Cena delle beffe” (“Supper of the Pranks”), where he created a deceitful and tragic Giannetto, from the powerful mask to the spasmodic anguish and the humanity. The temperament of the artist was revealed, that same temperament that Gramatica had seen in him.
But life was very hard for Rossano, accustomed as he was to the ease of a well-off family and… adored.
Lidía had lived in an elegant and intellectual environment, did not find the new life to be an uneasy one, between the artists and the friends her husband met in his work. She encouraged him in moments of desolation, in the times of sacrifice, in the stormy periods known to every actor, from the beginnings of his career, through the love he bore for the arts. She was his affectionate companion, comprehensively maternal at times, because she didn’t want anything but that the boy, easily enthusiastic as well as anguished, didn’t remain defeated in his struggle, but eager to reach his desired destination.
His contract with Ninchi-Dondi ended, Brazzi was selected by Forzano for the role of Brutus in «Caesar», an important work that he welcomed for the chance to work with many famous actors, from Scelzo to Maltagliati.
Renato Simoni, the most famous Italian critic, saw Rossano in this wonderful role and selected him to create the character of Aminta in the similar work by Torquato Tasso. This was a beautiful revenge for the young Rossano: the biggest actress of Italy and the greatest critic both saw in him a promise for our theater. This promise became reality.
The success of Rossano in Aminta exceeded his own expectations, his dreams became more luminous: both the public and the critics, unanimously, understood themselves to be in front of a revelation, of a truthful and strong artistic temperament, of an impassioned and ardent youth who wanted to say something in the world of the art. It was only then that Scalera understood that he had paid little notice of the boy who, timid and bashful from every form of promoting himself, had not imposed.
While he was taking part (always for Simoni’s behalf) in the Venetian performance in Campiello of “Ventaglio” (“The Fan”), he was called by Corrado d’Errico for the part of one of the disciples in the film drawn from “I dialogo di Plato’ (“Plato’s dialogues”). Finally his photogenic qualities had finally been noticed by the executives of Scalera, and Alexandrini wanted him for a beautiful part in his film “Il ponte di vetro” (“The Bridge Of Glass”) with Isa Pola and Filippo Scelzo.
Already in his first films, Rossano appeared sure of himself as an actor, and interesting, in the expressions of his mobile and attractive face. It’s difficult for a young actor to be noticed and liked by the public after only one film … even in America, only stars like Gable and Cooper are known after their first performances … Rossano, who had had so many disappointments and bitterness in his life as an actor, had however the great joy of immediately becoming well known after “Il ponte di vetro”.
Letters in the hundreds came to him from the crowd of admirers: what was attractive about him was not only his physical beauty, but the strength and the measure of his interpretation. It would be said that Rossano remembered, in these interpretations of his, the teachings of his great teacher [Gramatica], that a low and somber tone can convey so well the lines of a character. The nobility of his recitation and the intelligence with which he gave life to his characters were comparable to the [skill and experience of] Pola Isa and Filippo Scelzo.
As a result, when Brignone, after his success with Dumas’s “Kean” in the theater wanted to make a movie of the play, he didn’t hesitate in offering this huge role (which had frightened well known and famous actors) to Rossano Brazzi, who was not yet twenty-four years old. Rossano’s choice for the role had already been discussed, although perhaps more for entertainment than seriously. To the critics, it seemed impossible that this youth, this little boy, with the face almost of a baby, could give life to the difficult part of Kean. But the public, with its sincere, spontaneous reaction that gives the soul of any artist the strength to give passionate life to his characters, shouted their enthusiasm, proclaiming Rossano to be one of the most sensitive, intelligent and perfect actors in the Italian cinema.
After “Kean”, Rossano’s mail increased (a method of evaluation that will seem childish, but it is that exacting figure that can give an evaluation of the artist) to hundreds of letters a week. Thrilled women had almost reached a state of … delirium … Rossano laughs at this, almost timidly surprised, that it happened to him.
Lidia, intelligent and sympathetic, even if in her heart she suffers a little [from the delirium of other women] exhorts her youthful husband to always answer all the people who write to him: she knows, this wise wife, that it is the public that creates, with their enthusiasm, the fame of the actor.
In the calm house, whose windows open out on the silent and perfumed pines, the letters that Lidia hands him are piled up in the thousands, as are the Scalera portraits that Rossano has accumulated to send to his admirers … and all this after only his second film!
Now that Rossano has filmed «Ritorno» with Marta Harrel, under the direction of Geza von Bolvary, and «Tosca» (another of his strong performances) his calm house is invaded by the mail that it reaches him in bundles. What will happen after his new films are released: «La forza bruta» (with Paolieri, Mercador, Juan de Moor); «E’caduta una donna» qith Miranda; “Il bravo di Venezia” (with the great German actor Gustav Diessl, Paola Barbara and Cortese) and “Il re si diverte” (drawn from «Rigoletto»), with Michel Simon, Dori Duranti, Elli Paivo)?
How can he divide his time between the intense and feverish work (consider that he makes two movies at the same time without taking an instant of rest, stealing time mostly from his sleep) and the work of answering and signing photos for his admirers of Italy, and for his admirers from every country?
His ardent soul has now found his food: the art! It is his joy: affectionate admiration, one would say almost impassioned admiration, from so many human creatures that adore his face, from the pure features and from the intelligent and sweet expression, through his interpretations, also his soul, filled with poetry and enthusiasm. This latter aspect touches Rossano more (for someone of an exalted spiritual nature, it is not his shining, magic beauty, the color of his eyes or his attractive figure: but the daily expression of endless goodness and of sweetness that one sees in his clear, blue eyes, the intelligent ardor of that expressive face suffused, sometimes, with a veil of melancholy that makes him all the more interesting.) Everything beautiful that he loves is there in life: the flowers, his children (that he dreams all the time of having), the animals, the blueness of the sea and the endless silence of the mountains.
With his strong hands he has conquered a lot of things in the world: the glory, the success, the great love of his Lidia, the admiration of so many people … and yet he remains a simple boy, who doesn’t know to conceal his feelings; who cannot hide an antipathy towards someone, or to suppress a long-lived fondness for them. His life is simple and his work is intense: his affections are few, but deep.
He has an adoration for his mother who lives in Florence, in a beautiful house with his father and a brother Oscar, currently an airman, and a delicious little sister, Franca, who studies a lot and has an idolatry for her kind older brother. She is almost a little “gypsy” with almond black eyes and rich dark hair, who is happy when she can come to Rome, to Rossano’s quiet house, where she remains “the small one”, even if she is almost a teacher.
Lidia is the lady of this nest that is filled with serenity and love: the big trees of Via Nomentana, the gardens of the nearby streets throw their shade toward the sweet abode and it is here that Rossano finds his oasis of peace, after the tiring work to which he gives all of his ardent soul.
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