The “Latin Lover”

The “Latin Lover”

The “Latin Lover”

This topic is one of my favorites … I’ve been reading about the subject off and on since I first became aware that Italians truly blamed Hollywood for the rise of the “Latin Lover” characterization — one of the reasons I questioned the perception was the 10-volume autobiography written by Casanova – personally, I strongly hold the opinion that the original “Latin Lover” was indisputably Italian, while Hollywood merely took the previously existing ‘character type” and put a face and a name to it – first Rudolfo Valentino, and later, of course, Rossano Brazzi. As part of the “Brazzi Fans’ Thoughts on …” section, I’ve added this one on “The Latin Lover”, with one of Rossano’s wonderful comments first, and Dorotea Marciak’s initial thoughts on the subject – I will definitely be adding my own comments on this!

Rossano Brazzi

“You know, the expression “Latin Lover” was invented for me by some journalists in New York. Louella Parsons once asked Lydia, my wife, if she wasn’t jealous of all these onscreen affairs I was having, and Lydia, who had a great sense of humor, said, “You know, I married Rossano when he was only nineteen years old, so if he didn’t go to bed with someone else since then how would he know that I am so good?”

I realize now that I was quite handsome, but forty years ago I didn’t know it. I remember going to Venice one year, and at the Danieli Hotel four thousand girls broke every window in the place, trying to get to me. I had to have bodyguards just to walk down the street. In my heyday I received twenty-five thousand letters each month.”

Hollywood Royalty: Hepburn, Davis, Stewart and Friends at the Dinner Party of the Century, Gregory Speck, 1992

Dorotea Marciak, France

“He should have never gone to America! I read in the same interview he says that he has made some mistakes in his life, one mistake would be when he went to America where they made him do the “Latin Lover”. I think he had something of that already in his first Italian roles, and he himself said that Scalera had in a way cast him to be some sort of a “diva”. But you said, and that’s so obvious, that acting in Italy required so much more feelings and expression than in America in the 50’s. Even as a lover, which he obviously was in Tosca as in Noi Vivi, “le jeune premier” is a part much more rich and interesting to play in Italy than in Hollywood. Maybe because the scenarios themselves are more rich and the characters more complex. I’m very surprised that being directed by great directors such as Hathaway, Lean, Negulesco, they didn’t get out of him more! He was capable of such psychological complexity in his acting, that I’m always much surprised of the poorness of the characters he had then to play. Is that a question of culture, of society?

I’ve read in a David Lean biography, that Lean disliked Brazzi as soon as he met him (why?). Yet he admited that he was perfect for the role. I’m struck by Brazzi’s will to always find out some psychological complexity even in the poorest character he had to play. He said about the part of De Rossi that it was not the part of a complete idiot, because ‘the lover had yet some psychological reality and a real relation would be built between his and Hepburn’s parts. I guess, as you once wrote to me, that there were two different cultures, two different conceptions of acting, of feelings and of virility. I would say that Brazzi at Hollywood should have been a woman at that time, maybe he could have made more extreme choices, have taken more risks, just as Katherine Hepburn (which he seemed to appreciate a lot) for instance did. She was not only a beautiful woman, but would break that image whenever and as soon as possible. I know few examples of actresses behaving that way and succeeding in their carreer, but I know no example of an actor who would break the image and go on acting. First, Italian movies just after the war began to play on the double sense, and put their great actors in embarassing comic situations, knowing that their virility or sex-appeal wouldn’t be lost in the laughter. But not in America. Acting is a serious thing in America, it seems to me. Whereas in Italy, it has still always something to do with the original Comedia dell’arte! One can be at the same time funny, ridiculous, and sensible and beautiful. Because feelings, like in life, cannot be strictly separated, nor analysed. Life is so far of that manicheism we see in the American movies of that time, and in a certain way still today. I’ve taken numerous pictures of Rossano acting in Tosca and Noi Vivi, this is for me the best Rossano, and I’m having there lessons of acting.”

Dorotea Marciak, France

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