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11 February 2012

Ruggero Ruggeri

Ruggero Ruggeri (1871 - 1953) was one of the most important Italian stage actors of the first half of the twentieth century. He also appeared in eleven silent and ten sound films.

Ruggero Ruggeri
Italian postcard by Ed. Vettori, Bologna, no. 245.

Multi Colored Voice
Ruggero Ruggeri was born in Fano, Italy in 1871. As an actor he broke with the histrionic acting style, so typical for 19th century theater and instead opted for a more restrained, sober style, only with some stylization of his gestures. His multi-colored voice was very popular. He was famous for his role in La figlia di Jorio/The Daughter of Jorio by Gabriele D'Annunzio, but he was also the most important performer of Luigi Pirandello's stage plays, such as Enrico IV/Henry IV, purposely written for Ruggeri. He was leader of various theatre companies, with actresses such as Emma Grammatica, Lyda Borelli, and Wanda Capodaglio with whom he was also glorified abroad, because of their frequent tours.

Rome, Teatro Valle, facade
Teatro Valle, Rome. Ruggero Ruggeri & Lyda Borelli often performed in this prominent Roman theatre. The Teatro Valle was built in 1727 as a wooden structure by Tommaso Morelli, enlarged and turned into stone in 1765 by architect Francesco Fiori and radically transformed, embellished and enlarged in 1821 by architect Giuseppe Valadier. Photo by Jan.

Silent Era
From 1914 on Ruggero Ruggeri played in eleven silent films. First he was seen in a series of dramas and comedies for the Cines company, like Veli di giovinezza/Veils of Youth (1914, Nino Oxilia) and Papa (1915, Nino Oxilia). At Cines Ruggeri was often paired with diva Pina Menicheli. Director Nino Oxilia was killed in service during the First World War, shortly after Italy joined the Allied forces. In 1917 Ruggeri followed this with a memorable filmic adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet: Amleto (1917, Eleuterio Rodolfi), with Helena Makowska as Ophelia and Mercedes Brignone as Gertrude. Outside of Italy the film was released only after the war. In the mid-1920's, Ruggeri would perform in films by Amleto Palermi and Augusto Genina, and in 1930 he appeared opposite Francesca Bertini in La donna di una notte/The Woman of A Night, the Italian version of Königin der Nacht, directed by Marcel L'Herbier, who demanded his name be to be removed, because the film was edited without his consent.

Lyda Borelli
Lyda Borelli. Italian postcard. Photo: Cine AGF.

The Voice of Jesus
In the late 1930's and early 1940's, when Ruggero Ruggeri was already in his sixties and seventies, he performed in ten Italian films, often as the lead, for companies as Scalera and Lux in films like La vedova/The Widow (1939, Goffredo Alessandrini), Il documento/The Document (1939, Mario Camerini) with María Denis, I promesi sposi/The Spirit and the Flesh (1941, Mario Camerini) with Gino Cervi, Gelosia/Jealousy (1942, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli), and as Napoleon in Sant'Elena, piccola isola/Daint Helens - Small Island (1943, Umberto Scarpelli, Renato Simoni). Ruggeri's best known performance today is only oral. Most older Italians will know him as the voice of Jesus in Don Camillo (1952) and in Le retour de Don Camillo/The Return of Don Camillo (1953), both directed by Julien Duvivier. Ruggero Ruggeri died in Milano in 1953.

Ruggero Ruggeri in La gerla di papà Martin
Italian postcard by Rotocalco Dagnino, Torino. Photo: Lux. Ruggero Ruggeri as Papà Martin in the drama La gerla di papà Martin (1940, Mario Bonnard), an adaptation by the Italian Lux company of the popular drama Les crochets du père Martin by Eugène Cormon and Eugène Grangé. Among Ruggeri's co-actors in this film were Germana Paolieri, Roberto Villa, Enrico Glori and Maria Mercader.

Sources: Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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