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04 August 2013

Camillo De Riso

Camillo De Riso (1854-1924) was an Italian actor and director of the Italian stage and silent screen. He was famous for his comic acting and directing at the film companies Ambrosio, Gloria and Caesar.

Camillo De Riso
Italian postcard by Magazine Film - Corriere dei cinematografici, Napoli/Roma. Photo: L. Roseo & Co, Naples / Caesar Film.

Fin de Siècle Pochades
Camillo De Riso was born in Naples in 1854. He was the son of Alfonso De Riso, a stage actor who was most popular in the 19th century. Camillo started in the theatre company of his father in the early years of the 20th century, after which he created his own company together with Giuseppe Sichel and Giuseppe Brignone. In 1912 he was hired by Ambrosio Film in Turin, where he formed a successful trio with Gigetta Morano and Eleuterio Rodolfi, contributing with his rotund face, small size and generous look of bourgeois bonhomme. Examples are Un successo diplomatico and L’oca alla Colbert, both 1913 and both directed by Rodolfi. The films of the trio were often based on Italian and French fin de siecle pochades and grew in length over the years. In late 1913, De Riso started at the Gloria company. Here he created the gay epicure and shameless libertine character of ‘Camillo’, and directed himself in a series of comical shorts between 1913 and 1914. He also performed in feature films, a.o. as the theatre impresario Schaudard in Lyda Borelli’s debut film Ma l’amor mio non muore/Love Everlasting (Mario Caserini, 1913), and as the infortunate Giuliano Barbet in Florette e Patapon (Mario Caserini, 1913), an adaptation of the famous pochade by Maurice Hennequin and Pierre Véber. While De Riso also acted in epics and thrillers such as Caserini’s films Nerone e Agrippina/Nero and Agrippina (Mario Caserini, 1913) and Il treno degli spettri/The ghost train (Mario Caserini, 1913) starring Mario Bonnard, he more and more specialised in comedy. As the comedian, he played either the lead in comedies or the sidekick in dramas. At Gloria he was also director, starting with the comedies Somnambulismo/Sleepwalking (1913) and Romanticismo/Romance (1913), and stayed there until 1915. In 1914, De Riso shortly worked for the small Rome based company Latium Film, where he a.o. directed and acted in an adaptation of Émile Zola’s Nana (1914).

Camillo De Riso
Italian postcard by Magazine Film - Corriere dei cinematografici, Napoli/Roma. Photo: L. Roseo & Co, Naples / Caesar Film.

A New Turn
From 1915 on, Camillo De Riso’s career took a new turn, when he started working at the Roman Caesar Film company. Here he continued his Camillo comedies, well into the early 1920s. He also acted in a long series of films with diva Francesca Bertini. At Caesar, Bertini had a quite fixed cast around her, including De Riso, Gustavo Serena, Olga and Carlo Benetti, Alfredo De Antoni, and Giuseppe De Liguoro. The men of this group often also functioned as director as well, including De Riso. Titles include: La signora delle camelie/Lady of the Camellias (Gustavo Serena, 1915), La perla del cinema/The Cinema Star (Giuseppe De Liguoro, 1916), Baby l'indiavolata/My little baby (Giuseppe De Liguoro, 1916), Odette (Giuseppe De Liguoro, 1916), Andreina (Gustavo Serena, 1917), the series of I sette peccati capitali/The Seven Moral Sins (several directors, 1918-1919) for which De Riso directed the episode La gola/The throat (1918), Mariute (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1918), and Spiritismo/Spiritism (Camillo De Riso, 1919). De Riso also directed other popular actresses of the late 1910s such as Leda Gys (La principessa/The Princess, 1917, which he also scripted), Tilde Kassay (Niniche, 1918; I nostri buoni villici/Our good villagers, 1918; La figlia unica/The only child, 1919; Una donna funesta/Nanà, 1919), and Elena Lunda (Una donna, una mummia, un diplomatico/A woman, a mummy, a diplomat, 1920), but in the early 1920s De Riso mostly directed his own Camillo comical shorts, and he even did a parody of William Shakespeare’s Otello in 1920, which the press didn’t like. Memorable parts De Riso played in A San Francisco (Gustavo Serena, 1915), Don Giovanni (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1916), the Victorien Sardou adaptation Ferréol (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1916), and lastly, in Occupati d’Amelia/Occupied by Amelia (Telemaco Ruggeri, 1923), an adaptation of a famous Georges Feydeau boulevard comedy, starring Pina Menichelli and Marcel Levesque. Camillo De Riso contributed to over a 100 films, mostly comedies, and directed some 65 films, until his premature death in Rome in 1924.

Gustavo Serena
Italian postcard by by the Magazine Film, Naples/Rome. Photo: Caesar Film.

Sources: Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, Wikipedia (Italian), and IMDb.

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