21 February 2013

Alessandra Panaro

Alessandra Panaro (1939) is an Italian film actress of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. She is best known for Luchino Visconti's crime drama Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960).

Alessandra Panaro
Italian postcard by Rotalphoto, Milano, no. 723.

The Young Love Interest
Alessandra Panaro was born in Rome, Italy in 1939. Panaro began her film career in 1954 with Il barcaiole di Amalfi/The boatman of Amalfi (1954, Mino Roli) starring Mario Vitale. One of her next films was the Italian drama Gli innamorati/Wild Love (1955) directed by Mauro Bolognini. The film, starring Antonella Lualdi and Franco Interlenghi, was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. In a considerable number of romantic comedies she played the young love interest. Examples are the big hit Poveri ma belli/Girl in a Bikini (1956) and the sequels Belle ma povere/Poor Girl, Pretty Girl (1957) and Poveri milionari/Poor Millionaires (1959). All were directed by Dino Risi and starred Marisa Allasio, Maurizio Arena, Renato Salvatori, Lorella De Luca and Panaro. On TV she co-hosted with Lorella De Luca the show Il Musichiere (The musicians) in 1957. That year she also played the leading role in the comedy Lazzarella by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, a film based on a popular song written by Domenico Modugno and Riccardo Pazzaglia. She played Totò’s daughter in the satire Totò, Peppino e le fanatiche/Toto, Peppino and the Fanatics (1958, Mario Mattoli) with Peppino De Filippo. And she played Nora, the girlfriend of Bruno (Mario Girotti - the future Terence Hill) in the film Cerasella (1959, Raffaello Matarazzo) featuring Claudia Mori.

Alessandra Panaro
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 805.

Inflames Passions
Alessandra Panaro’s best known film is the beautiful drama Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960, Luchino Visconti). Set in Milan, it tells the story of an immigrant family from the South, led to the industrial North by the matriarch (Katina Paxinou). Presented in five distinct sections, the film weaves the story of Vincenzo (Spiros Fócas), Simone (Renato Salvatori), Rocco (Alain Delon), Ciro (Max Cartier) and Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi) as they struggle to adapt to life in the large and impersonal city of Milan. In typical fashion for a director known for helping build Italian neo-realism, the film ends with no substantive resolution, but with clouds of doom hanging over the family. Pannaro played Ciro’s fiancée Franca. Elbert Ventura at AllMovie: “Painted with bold strokes and marked by inflamed passions, Rocco and His Brothers holds you in rapt attention despite its sprawling story. Visconti punctuates the Parondis' struggles with two harrowing scenes of ritualized violence that profoundly change the family and underscore the operatic determinism of Visconti's vision. The movie's visceral intensity is matched only by the elegance and intelligence of the mise-en-scène, with its fine compositions, graceful camera moves, and evocative black-and-white cinematography. A work of overpowering power and stark beauty, Rocco and His Brothers stands as a vivid masterpiece from one of cinema's great artists.”

Alessandra Panaro
Italian postcard, no. 464.

Sword and Sandal Adventures
During the golden age of the European genre film, Alessandra Panaro played roles in each popular genre. She often used the more American sounding pseudonym Topsy Collins. She co-starred in peplums – the Italian sword-and-sandal adventure films - like Le Baccanti/The Bacchantes (1960, Giorgio Ferroni) with Pierre Brice, and Ulisse contro Ercole/Ulysses Against Hercules (1962, Mario Caiano) starring Georges Marchal. She played the beautiful virgin Queen Medea, Gordon Scott's love interest, in Ercole contro Molock/Hercules Against Moloch (1963, Giorgio Ferroni). In Germany she appeared in the Karl May western Der Schatz der Azteken/The Treasure of the Aztecs (1965, Robert Siodmak) with Lex Barker. One of her last films was the spaghetti western 30 Winchester per El Diablo/30 Winchesters for El Diablo (1965, Gianfranco Baldanello) starring Carl Möhner. After finishing her film career she returned to the screen with her old colleague Lorella de Luca in La madama (1976, Duccio Tessari) starring Christian De Sica. And 33 years later she made one more guest appearance in an episode of the Brazilian TV series A Grande Família/The Large Family (2009). Panaro was married twice, first to banker Jean-Pierre Sabet who died in 1983, and then to actor Giancarlo Sbragia, who died in 1994. Alessandra Pannaro lives in Geneva.

Trailer for Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960). Source: OurManInHavanna (YouTube).

Leader for 30 Winchester per El Diablo/30 Winchesters for El Diablo (1965). Source: JohnHuston1 (YouTube).

Sources: Elbert Ventura (AllMovie), Wikipedia (Italian, German and English), and IMDb.

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