March 5, 1955
ITALY FINDS A HEART THROB
The country that made its screen name with girls is now exporting a great “Screen lover” says Henry Toby
AFTER showering a harvest of luscious, sun-ripe glamour girls upon the world’s picturegoers, the bustling Italian film industry has now produced for export its first male heart-throb. He is blue-eyed, handsome six-footer Rossano Brazzi, co-star of Three Coins In The Fountain and one of Ava Gardner’s posse of leading men in The Baretoot Contessa.
Since Three Coins In The Fountain, Rossano has been deluged by 40,000 letters from girls, many of them British. Now his latest picture, David Lean’s One Summertime, with Katharine Hepburn, will shortly be shown over your side. After Ilya Lopert, producer of One Summertime, saw the first viewing of the film in America, he excitedly called Brazzi over the transatlantic phone to shout: “Brother, you’re now one of the screen’s great lovers.”
Athletic, broad-shouldered, thirty-six year old Brazzi (say it Brat-zee) has that air of Continental charm with which Charles Boyer made his name.
Although only just “discovered” by Hollywood, he has been a European stage and screen favourite for fifteen years. He used to be a lawyer in Rome, but actor friends persuaded him that his rich voice, so useful in swaying a jury, would be more profitably employed swaying female audiences.
He quit law for good in 1937. Film work quickly followed. He actually went to Hollywood in 1949, but was given an unromantic role as the professor in Little Women –“They made me wear glasses and even talked of a beard!” he says.
I asked this man who has received swoon letters from 40,000 foreign women what he thinks of non-Italian girls.
“I must confess, I enjoy playing opposite foreign actresses, and the company of foreign women, ” he began, with a frank, engaging smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes.
“For me, foreign girls are mysterious. A constant surprise, a challenge. Our Italian actresses are lovely creatures – but I know exactly how they will tackle their roles. I know exactly what they will say, and how they will act. “There is nothing Lollobrigida could do that would surprise me. But Ava Gardner. I never know what she will do from one moment to another. With a foreign actress, I am always on my toes. It’s like a fencing duel with an unknown, but highly skilled opponent.”
Brazzi’s impressions of his foreign leading ladies?
JEAN PETERS — What a perfect wife she would make.”
AVA GARDNER — “An exciting girl, but not one I can see myself married to. Actually I feel sorry for her. Such a beautiful girl, but has she always been happy?”
KATHARINE HEPBURN– “She would make a wonderful friend- but a friend a man could easily fall in love with.”
The actresses he would like as his future leading ladies?
MARILYN MONROE — “I met her many times when I was in Hollywood making Three Coins in the Fountain. I think she’s a misunderstood girl. I found her to be smart and intelligent. Anything but a superficial type. She has been badly typed. She could act, if given the opportunity.”
CELIA JOHNSON — “I shall never forget her in Brief Encounter. That is a type of woman I have never met in my life.”
And now, has this bright young heart-throb any screen ambitions for the future?
“To play opposite a lovely lady who is, without doubt, the finest actress in the world today – VIVIAN LEIGH.”
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