Beautiful and intelligent actress Vittoria Lepanto (1885 - 1965) was active in the Italian silent cinema. She became one of the first film divas but now she seems to be forgotten.
Italian postcard, no. 50. Collection: Didier Hanson.
Film d'Arte Italiana
Vittoria Lepanto was born as Victoria Clementina Proietti in Saracinesco in 1885. She was the fourth of five children of Fortunato and Virginia Proietti. When her father died, her mother sold the house and moved to Rome to work in a wealthy family. She placed her children in institutional care. Vittoria's stage name was chosen by the author Gabriele D'Annunzio, who was probably inspired by the battle of Lepanto of 1571. From 1909 on she appeared in the silent cinema. Among her early films were the short Film d'Arte Italiana productions Carmen (1909, Gerolamo Lo Savio) in which she played the title role opposite Dante Cappelli as don José, and Otello/Othello (1909, Ugo Falena, Gerolamo Lo Savio), in which she played Desdemona opposite Ferruccio Garavaglia as the Moor of Venice. She also appeared in La signora dalle camelie/Camille (1909, Gerolamo Lo Savio) with Lepanto as Marguerite Gauthier and Alberto Nepoti as Armand, based on Alexandre Dumas fils' classic stage play La dame aux camélias, which in its turn was the basis for Verdi's classic opera La traviata. In the next years followed more leading roles in Film d'Arte Italiana productions such as Salomé (1910, Ugo Falena) with Lepanto in the title role and with future film diva Francesca Bertini as supporting actress, Rigoletto (1910, Gerolamo Lo Savio), Lucrezia Borgia (1910, Ugo Falena) with Lepanto in the title role and Gustavo Serena as the man who first hates then loves her, Marozia (1911, Gerolamo Lo Savio) with Lepanto as a scheming princess in medieval Rome, and I carbonari/The Carbonari (1912, Gustavo Serena) with again Francesca Bertini in a supporting part.
Francesca Bertini. Italian postcard, no. 323. Collection: Didier Hanson.
Crisis in the Italian Film Industry
During the First World War, Vittoria Lepanto continued her career in the Italian silent cinema. Among her roles were Fiorella in L'avvenire in agguato/The future in ambush (1916, Giulio Antamoro), and Berta Tregnier in L'ombra/The shadow (1917, Mario Caserini). In 1918, she played the role of Elena Muti in the film Il piacere/The pleasure (1918, Amleto Palermi) opposite Enrico Roma as Andrea Sperelli. The plot of the film was based on the novel by Gabriele D'Annunzio. In this film she was credited as Vittorina Lepanto. Her later films included La signora delle perle/Camille (1919, Gennaro Righelli), Per aver visto/The Villa Next Door (1919, Enrico Roma), Israël (1919, André Antoine) as the duchessa di Crouchy, Il rosso e il nero/ The red and the black (1920, Mario Bonnard) based on the novel by Stendhal, and L'amica/Her Friend (1920, Mario Bonnard). In the 1920’s there was a crisis in the Italian film industry and Vittoria Lepanto retired from the cinema. In 1964, she died in Rome.
Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena in La signora delle camelie. Italian postcard by Ed. Vettori, Bologna. Photo: publicity still for La signora delle camelie/Camille (1915, Gustavo Serena), starring Francesca Bertini as Marguerite Gauthier and Gustavo Serena as Armand Duval.
Sources: Wikipedia (Italian), Sempre in Penombra (Italian) and IMDb.