Rossano Brazzi: Complete Actor (1942)
Written in 1942, this is the second of the two only known published biographies of Rossano Brazzi. Written in the exuberant and flowery style of the period, it may seem somewhat effusive by current standards, but contains a great deal of information, particularly about his theater work and the period prior to his first film. It also describes his earliest disappointments (i.e., the director who took one look at his first screen test and told him to find another line of work!) and his first filming experience, the object of which foundered on location when the producer’s funds failed to arrive. (Knowing that, you might find his strange cameo role in Werner Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore — on the set of a film crew whose funds have disappeared — rather amusing.) At the time of its publication, Rossano had only finished filming “Carovana” — later released as Una signora dell’ovest. Written in the style of an open letter to Rossano’s many (and obviously passionate) admirers, the particular group Osso was addressing was still in school.
“To the dear letter-writer representing that group of students from Parma that I found every month between the numerous correspondences awaiting my return from my trips, today I answer in delayed sensitivity, sure that the joy of being able to read the life of Rossano, will have on you the effect of putting aside your grudges.
Since the month of June, these dear friends awaited impatiently while the formidable typographic complex of the House of Albore printed the pages of this issue of Brazzi. I was in continuous contact with these dear friends. They wrote me in July, from beloved Liguria, and in August from the tops of the mountains of Aosta, a long letter in September from Parma and one in grey and tenebrous October on the blue letter paper that announced to me the torture of the re-opening of school. In November, this group of five, while learning geography, joined for a clandestine written conversation during the lesson, under the stern eye of the bearded teacher whose name I couldn’t decipher.
At Christmas, in a beautiful letter wishing me happiness for the new year and reproaching me for having forgotten them, I found a group photo. I answered with a small humble note on which I had written in red ink, «it will satisfy you».
Nice young girl of Parma! Every time that the brakes of my train stopped at the station of your city, a delicious breath seemed to emit from the low roofing of the sidewalk to come to greet me, through the rectangle of the open car window of my compartment. Then, when the drink cart passed through the car and the hoarse voice of the attendant in his white jacket howled in the dark of the evening, “Orangeade! Lemons! Trip Baskets!”, I, who don’t have fond memories of Parma, remembered you and saw you, in my ready imagination always racing on the wings of dreams, bent over the books, studying in your room, each in your own home, in a convulsive quiver to learn the lesson for the following morning. I saw your little rooms! Of Lucy, of Sandra, of Giuliana, of Henrietta and of the one who mysteriously signed her name … Toti, to whom you had first introduced me in that expeditious letter in June, full of sensibility. I perceived the walls papered in rose, hung with the pictures, with the photos of Cortese, Villa, Brazzi and particularly of dear Lilia Silvi. Do you remember? These were your words of the postcard of August!
How many images did I gather in a ten-minute stop! Looking the inscription of the bright letters: «Station in Parma», I dreamed and remained with you a good friend. I spoke of the cinema, of my last stay in Rome, of the first interview that I did with Joseph Lugo, with the dear and faithful Monsieur Tenaglia, my subsequent departure from Milan and the first approach of Cinecittà.
All this I thought, considering with some satisfaction the lives preserved here, while the train moved softly on its wheels and the young fellow in the white jacket howled from the sidewalk… for fear that I hadn’t purchased his drink. Then it was gone, out from under the roofing under a dark sky, filled with stars and as my gaze fixed on the station, it recorded the brightly-lit sign, “Parma Station” now seemingly swallowed by obscurity. The last of the houses and the factories all in a line along the main road, and finally the lawns, soothed my eyes and I drowsed on the pillows, holding in my hand the partly-nibbled sandwich, as a small happy baby that sleeps his new innocence in the progress of his life. The inspector came to wake me and smiled to find me in such a childish position. I lifted for an instant the curtain lowered over the glass and perceived the immensity of the country, cut by the shining blade of the brooks in which the trees were reflected. The troubled sound of the locomotive covered the hymn of the enamored crickets. I began eating the sandwich again, I thought of you, as I reclined on the seat that I didn’t find comfortable enough, I thought of my house, of my books, of the joy of resting, of my poetic conversations with Luigi Orsini, of the next book, from the last sports monograph, to the following cinematic biography, of the breakfast with Paola Barbara … and I acknowledged myself not to be the most unhappy of men.
Am I therefore wrong to have forgotten you, dear students of Parma? And as to you, I think about all of the others that I have not yet satisfied in my work, but between one station and another, in the blue light of the lamps, I will carry out my duty and try to make everybody happy, writing with the point of a blunt pen that pours ink from all of its parts, and day by day I repeat to myself: tomorrow I will change!
Rossano Brazzi has achieved absolute celebrity. His interpretations have affirmed him in an incontestable manner, without leaving the least doubt about his evident quality. His artistic ascent in the cinema world has been formidable, and as a result he has reached supreme popularity among our most highly rated and preferred actors.
A soul who feels the part, and aware of his own resources, he is considered today an artist of exceptional dowry, upon which he can confidently depend. His effectiveness in the performances of different roles, has proven the worth of his value.
He was born September 18, 1916 in Bologna, but his education is purely Florentine, where his parents were transferred when he had barely reached the age of four. As a child he appeared to have multiple inclinations, all of which, without exception, reflected in an evident manner a determined instinct. At the age of five he recited a small comedy in the kindergarten for the recurrence of the Christmas celebration, although no one yet was thinking or predicting him an actor, little convinced as they all were by that willing performance. He studied with diligence in the elementary schools, but didn’t show a particular fury in studying. His parents, who wanted him to graduate in the field of law, exhorted him to devote himself more fully and willingly to his studies, the sort in those first years of school. Rossano, however, preferred the reading of plays, the sports practiced with friends and the choirs behind the organ in the chapel of the oratory, since in his early years he showed a particular love for music. He considered studying a form of duty, and therefore forcibly applied himself; while he felt it necessary to learn new things for his life, he also perceived with an inner sense that one day he would assert himself in these studies. When he tried to explain this perception of his future to his parents, he received two clouts on the head which convinced him to study NOW. But from the age of twelve his artistic passion had been determined and already he felt himself a child of the arts, and the seeds of that first awareness never dissipated.
At the Teatro Verdi in Florence he performed an operetta, and it was here that he experienced the first glow of actual success. The yearning for the theater began to crystalize his aspirations, to become his only dream, his wishes and his hopes, to become mirages of light and triumphs. In his studies he instinctively found within himself more ample conviction of ideas, and he felt that without the necessary study and preparation, his Art would remain an amusement without any seriousness of intent. The long sleepless nights he spent reading plays and the comedies exercised on him an irresistible fascination. As a result of the operetta performed at the Teatro Verdi, his participation grew, following the interest of a friend, in a comedy in the Tuscan vernacular, and he was introduced to the Dopolavoro Ferroviario [literally, “after-work railway”, the name referring to an amateur (“after-work”) group of performers who toured by train throughout the region].
This second try seemed to collapse the pyramid of day-dreams that had anchored Brazzi’s hopes. The dialog in Tuscan dialect was for him contrary to his natural form of expression, lacking consistency. But in him was animated a certain wish to succeed, like the aged and beaten artist who spends time trembling and anxious in the yearning to vindicate his Art.
He had definitely completed his studies, bringing to a close this portion of his life. No more! A necessity and a duty, not a need anymore! He forgot all for the art that had disappointed him and for which the game was still open. At that young age, a revenge was needed to satisfy his scorching greed, as the card player at the green table feels the blood racing to his brain and hammering at his temples and he plays the last expensive card in the folly to repurchase everything enfeebled and lost, as dry leaves are transported to other destinies by the stormy November winds.
The friend that had introduced him to the Dopolavoro Ferroviario exhorted him to participate in a play outside of Florence, which had an available part in one of their artistic dramas. After five months from his earlier defeat, and to end the relentless insistence of his friend, he accepted the invitation, out of the reality of that assignment.
But the revenge had to satisfy him fully and the applause of the spectators rendered a rush of such clear spontaneity, that the boy considered the second try a victory. The artist that had already spread within him a vast pressure of feelings and virtue, didn’t give him peace. The feverish nights tortured his mind and in the incessant turbulence of the exaltations he looked for some rest between the strangeness of the thoughts, looking to remain clear and suspended in serenity.
Finally, a new performance at the Dopolavoro was able to reinstate his triumph, which subsequently led to an adventurous circumstance that for the brevity of the space, we will tell in a few brief lines.
A companion in a scene became ill, resulting in an important part being free for those characterized in the words of the Company as «first young actors». First, difficulties arose. Rossano counted on being offered the role, but after a series of recommendations five candidates were found. It was a time of great anxiety but eventually Rossano was selected for the representation of «La Trovatella», thanks to his dear friend Carapelli, who directed the Company with enthusiasm.
The thunderous applause of success crowned the show, and Rossano was reinstated as an actor of undisputed means, winning the prize aspired to by some… money. He interpreted “The Vein of Gold” that constituted the selection of the amateur actor society contest in Rome, for which he was selected. While performing in “Campo di Maggio”, Rossano obtained the coveted attention of Emma Gramatica, who had attended the performance.
Participating in the Regional Contest the young actor won first prize and took part in some performances of the G.U.F. of Florence, interpreting works of particular importance such as: «La maschera di carne” and » and «La casa». Other suchrecognitions constituted the first notoriety of Rossano Brazzi in Florence, increasing his activity in the amateur drama centers.
However the youth also considered other destinations and departed for Rome, looking for more arduous risks and more concrete challenges. In the capital city he was introduced to a director, who Rossano doesn’t desire to name, and suffered through his first screen-test. The result was unfortunate and the young man was advised to devote himself to other forms of art.
In these disappointments, in the atmosphere of those dismal days, Rossano knew that Emma Gramatica, remembering the good performance made by the youth in the amateur actor contest, wanted him in her own Company and so the first veil of sadness was dissipated. The youth performed with her Company for a long tour of Germany, and they missed no opportunity to encourage him. Newly returned home, he longed for the opportunity to prove himself equally well in the cinema. He tried taking screen-tests again with great determination, but the producers seemed inflexible and the directors little convinced of his possibilities, nor did he succeed in persuading them with his success achieved in the theater. When Brazzi finally thought that every attempt he could make would be in vain, a patron appeared: a producer that entrusted to him a small part in a film.
He departed enthusiastically with a small nest-egg, but here another disappointment awaited him, and, without having filmed even a meter of film, he returned to Rome, tired of awaiting the unrealized promises of the producer.
His first return to the theater brought him to the Gramatica company, where he renewed his successes. But there wasn’t enough applause that could let him forget the cinema, to which he was attracted by an inexplicable force.
He moved on, after other repeated attempts to be able to reconcile with the cinema, to the company of Annibale Ninchi, and it was here that he sharpened, under the direction of the manager, his own ability to acquire that absolute mastery of any scene.
Leaving the company, Rossano returned to Rome, but as soon as it reached the ears of Gioacchino Forzano that the young man was free of his engagements, he hired him for a presentation of ” Caesar “. The critics regarded as a revelation the new actor in the part of Brutus, a role he accented with a lot of virility. This was followed by an invitation from Renato Simoni, who entrusted to him, aware of his value, the role of the protagonist in ” Aminta “, with a group of famous actors like: Gino Cervi, la Paganini, Ninchi and la Morelli. It was a stupendous success for the Garden of Boboli in Florence!! Every doubt had by now faded away and Rossano was considered one of the best hopes of our theater.
At the end of the season, after returning to Rome for some rest, a telegram of invitation reached him from Scalera. After all of the uncertainties through which the young actor had passed, he had become instinctively pessimistic and started toward the establishment on the Via Appia with little conviction and a lot of disinterest.
This time, however, after all of the punishments he had suffered, cheerful news greeted him. Conrad Di Errico had discovered the future star, and had spoken to Michel Scalerà about him. Without any time wasted time, Rossano was performing in «I dialoghi di Plato”, [Editor’s note: actually, we’re pretty sure that was supposed to be “Il processo e morte di Socrate” … ] at the side of Ermete Zacconi who had shown such enthusiasm towards the young newcomer. The criticism (to which a true artist would never pay any attention) that was returned was favorable: with the producers, the directors, the co-workers — and a bright cinema future was prophesied for him.
Rossano was bashful when it came to every form of reward he received, after the suffered affronts and the disappointing attempts. He thought only about the new Art that made him happy to have achieved his purpose. Alessandrini repeated the success of his first film, directing Rossano, with Isa Pola and Filippo Scelzo in “Il ponte di vetro/The Bridge of Glass”, even if it was interrupted, in the first phase of production, by a falling reflector that fell on the head of the young actor, forcing him into the hospital for a week.
He exceeded excellently the second screen test when Guido Brignone entrusted to him the part «Kean», and it was indeed a big revelation! The recitative and dramatic artistry of Rossano, which by now was hastening quickly toward the supreme peak of his triumph, convinced them fully. Next to Berlin, where he was called to accept a «Tobis» for his interpretation of ‘Ritorno’ with Benjamin Gigli, and where he was welcomed festively by technicians and producers, while the press was following with pleasure our actor’s visit. Returning home he filmed «La forza bruta» for Lux-films with Juan de Moor, Germana Paolieri, Maria Mercader. Again to Scalera where he interpreted another series of notable films: «É caduta una donna» with Isa Miranda under the direction of Guarini; «Il bravo di Venezia» with Paola Barbara and Gustavo Diessl, under the direction of Campogalliani.
“Il re si diverte”, with Michel Simon, Paola Barbara, Maria Mercader, Doris Duranti, Elli Pawo and Carlo Ninchi, under the direction of Mario Bonnard, constituted a big reconfirmation of Brazzi, a complete actor endowed with every resource.
Recently he finished filming «Carovana” (“Carovan”) with Isa Pola and Michel Simon, a film exceptionally researched and realized with ample technical and artistic views, the parish priest particularly. Rossano Brazzi figures in a role suited for his exuberant temperament, as he is physically prepared to take hard risks.
He lives a simple and measured life. He runs away from the popularity and tries to avoid, as much as is possible for him, the interviews. He receives hundreds of letters a week, which he doesn’t always answer punctually due to an absolute lack of time. He is strong. Weighs 70 kg., and is 1.75 m. tall. He has a warm and vibrating voice. He practices many sports in his free time, even if the theater takes up most of his time and innate athletic tendencies.
At the present, despite the invitation of Ermete Zacconi, he won’t be returning to the dramatic theater, wanting to devote himself to the cinema that by now has become part of his life, and toward which he feels an unwillingness to abandon anymore, as the Poet within him has been able to make in his own rhyme the music of delicious melodies, dictated by an art favored by an otherworldly influence!
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