26 October 2011

Amleto Novelli

Amleto Novelli (1881 - 1924) was a star actor of the Italian silent cinema. He appeared in many biblical epics and starred with all the divas of the Italian film. During the shooting of a film, he suddenly died, only 38.

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard. Photo: Civirani, Rome.

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard by E. Vettori, Bologna, no. 224. Photo: Civirani, Rome.

Virile Italian Man
Amleto Novelli was born in Bologna in 1891. He became an orphan at age 12, but he remained at home. He took care of his sisters and worked as a civil servant until he was 22. Stagestruck, he fled to Rome in 1906 to become a theatre actor. He acted there amidst young and old stage actors at the Teatro Tiberino. From 1908 on he performed at the Roman Cines film company. First he appeared in numerous shorts, including such historical films as Marco Visconti (1909, Mario Caserini), Agrippina (1911, Enrico Guazzoni) and San Sebastiano/By Order of the Emperor (1911, Enrique Santos) and contemporary tales such as In pasto ai leono/The Lion Tamer's Revenge (1912, Enrique Santos), Il trabocchetto punitore/Fatal Trap Door (1912) with Emilio Ghione, and La rupe del Malconsiglio/Blow for Blow (1913). He was soon singled out for his ardent and honest performance, which despite his lack of classical beauty huguely attracted audiences. Reportedly, his passion and inflammibility also showed up when people living from the cinema would despise it. When feature films came along, he starred as the virile Italian man in many epics by Enrico Guazzoni. He was the warm, sincere and passionate Roman hero Vinicius opposite Gustavo Serena in Quo vadis? (1912-1913, Enrico Guazzoni). The film and the star became an international triumph, so he soon repeated this successful performance as Marc Anthony in Marcantonio e Cleopatra/Antony and Cleopatra (1914, Enrico Guazzoni) and as Julius Caesar in Caio Giulio Cesare/ (1914, Enrico Guazzoni) with Bruto Castellani.

Amleto Novelli in Il fornaretto di Venezia
Italian postcard by casa Editrice G. Ballerini & C. (Ballerini & Fratini), Firenze, no. 256. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still of Amleto Novelli and Nini Dinelli in Il fornaretto di Venezia (1923). The caption translates: The nobleman Lorenzo says farewell to his wife, pretending he is called outside of Venice.

Amleto Novelli also had a large share in the diva films. He was the male antagonist of Lyda Borelli in La Marcia nuziale/The Wedding March (1915, Carmine Gallone), Madame Tallien/Madame Guillotine (1916, Enrico Guazzoni, Mario Caserini) and Malombra (1916, Carmine Gallone). He starred with Pina Menichelli in Papà (1915, Nino Oxilia) and Il padrone delle ferriere/The master of the foundries (1919, Eugenio Perego). He also appeared with Francesca Bertini in Spiritismo/His Friend's Wife (1919, Camillo De Riso) and La piovra/The Octopus (1919, Edoardo Bencivenga), and with Soava Gallone in Avatar/The Magician (1916, Carmine Gallone) and La chiamavano 'Cosetta'/They called her 'Cosetta' (1917, Eugenio Perego). With Maria Jacobini, he appeared in La casa di vetro/The house of glass (1920, Gennaro Righelli) and La preda/The prey (1921, Guglielmo Zorzi). He played also in films with Italia Almirante, Diana Karenne and other divas. Novelli continued to work in historical epics as well: Christus (1915, Giuseppe Antamoro), Fabiola (1918, Enrico Guazzoni), La Gerusalemme liberata/Jerusalem Liberated (1918, Enrico Guazzoni), Dante nella vita e nei tempi suoi/Dante, his life and his times (1922, Domenico Gaido), and Il fornaretto di Venezia/The Baker Boy of Venice (1923, Mario Almirante). The story of Il fornaretto di Venezia (aka Il povero fornaretto and Il povero fornaretto di Venezia) is situated in the 15th century. Pietro Tasca, a poor baker boy who is unjustly sentenced to death by the Venetian Council of Ten. The boy is is suspected of murder in a trial that becomes a struggle between aristocracy and the people. The defender in court is Lorenzo, who himself has killed the victim, a notorious womanizer who was the lover of Lorenzo's wife. When Lorenzo is finally willing to confess, it is too late: the boy has been executed. (So the postcard above refers to the start of the story.) During the shooting of La casa dei pulcini/The House of Pulcini (1924, Mario Camerini) in Turin, Amleto Novelli suddenly died. He was only 38. After his death, two other historical films with him were also released: La congiura di San Marco/The Conspiracy of San Marco (1924, Domenico Gaido) and Marco Visconti (1925, Aldo De Benedetti) - a sequel to his first film. Novelli had played in over a 100 silent films. He was married to Adalgisa Orlandini.

Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La casa di vetro (1920)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 13. Photo: publicity still for La casa di vetro (1920) with Maria Jacobini.

Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La preda (1921)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano. Photo: publicity still for La preda (1921) with Maria Jacobini.

Source: Sempre in penombra (Italian), Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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