Polish actress Soava Gallone (1880 - 1957) was directed in one silent film after another by her husband, Carmine Gallone. From the mid-1910's onwards, the diva starred in many Italian films as the 'femme fragile'.
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano. Photo: publicity still for La cavalcata ardente (1925).
Soava Gallone was born Stanislawa Winawerówna in 1880 in Warsaw, Poland. She left Poland for Italy, together with her mother and brother, in order to forget the bitterness of her previous marriage. In Sorento, Stanislawa, known as Soave, met a young man with high hopes: Carmine Gallone. While he wrote her poems, she hoped to perform in his stage plays. The two married in 1911 and left for Rome. Their start was not a success, as Gallone’s Coriolano was not well received. Soava was a stunning beauty but lacked correct Italian diction, so the two started to work at the Cines film company. The couple managed to shoot a series of films, set on their beloved coast around Amalfi, Sorrento and Capri. Soava played the fiancée of a sailor, a fisherman, a coastguard, a pirate etc., all with the local scenery as asset. Cines exported these films which international critics praised for their scenic beauty. However the films didn’t have a big success within Italy. In 1916, she finally became a big success in her own country, both critical and in audience response with Avatar (1916, Carmine Gallone) and subsequently with La chiamavano Cosetta/They Call Her Cosetta (1917, Eugenio Perego), for which the script was especially written for Soava by Lucio d’Ambra. A copy of La chiamavano Cosetta/They Call Her Cosetta has been traced by the film archive of Bologna, but still waits restoration. The dramatic story is about the writer Marco (Amleto Novelli), deluded by his rich girlfriend, who dreams of being Pygmalion. He meets his Galatea when he sees Cosetta (Soava), a wild girl from the woods, and makes her his model, becoming a sculptor himself. Matters run out of hand when Soava falls in love with Marco, who still loves his old girlfriend, while instead Marco’s son loves Cosetta and kills himself out of love for her when she refuses him. The devastated father kills his model with the marble.
Italian Postcard by G.B. Falci Editori, Milano. Photo: still from La Cavalcata Ardente (1925).
Carmine Gallone had the intelligence to pick films that fully sustained the image of Soava Gallone as refined, delicate soul. He limited her performances to no more than two per year. Among her best films are La storia di un peccato/The story of a sin (1918), Il bacio di Cirano/Cyrano's Kiss (1919), and in particular Madame Poupée/A Doll Wife (1919), based on an original script by Washington Borg. In the latter Soava plays a young mother whose happiness is destroyed by the evil scheming of a rival; a touching and delicate portrait by Gallone as 'femme fragile'. Memorable as well are Amleto e il suo clown/Hamlet and His Clown (1920) and La cavalcata ardente/The Man of Conquest (1925). This a highly successful melodrama was set against the background of the conquest of Naples by Garibaldi's volunteers. Soava is an aristocratic forced into marriage with an old prince (Emilio Ghione) but secretly in love with a patriot (Gabriel de Gravone). Masked, the lover leads a cavalry to save the girl during the betrothal party (hence the arduous cavalcade of the title), which leads to the girl hiding in a convent and the lover reaching for the troupes of Garibaldi. He is arrested, however, and the girl can only save his life by accepting marriage with the old prince. For the second time she is saved, however, when Garibaldi’s troupes are before Naples, the old prince dies in the following fight, and the two lovers are finally reunited. The crisis in the Italian cinema in the late 1920's forced Soava and Carmine Gallone to work abroad. Carmine worked in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, but Soava only played in one final silent film in France, Celle qui domine/Crossroad of Love (1927), which her husband co-directed with French director Léon Mathot, who also played the lead. In 1930, Soava Gallone played in an early sound film, Il segreto del dottore/The Doctor's Secret, directed by Jack Salvatori and shot at the Paramount Studios in Joinville, Paris. It was her last film. While her husband pursued a succesful career in sound cinema, she remained a star from the silent era. Soava Gallone died in 1957 in Rome, Italy.
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci Editori, Milano. Photo: still from La Cavalcata Ardente (1925) with Jeanne Brindeau.
Sources: Vittorio Martinelli (Le dive del silenzio), Vittorio Martinelli (Il cinema muto italiano), and IMDb.