02 October 2013

Giuliano Gemma is dead

On 1 October 2013, Italian film actor Giuliano Gemma (1938-2013) died following a car accident near Rome. During the 1960s, he enjoyed great success as one of the heroes of the Spaghetti Western. Gemma was 75.

Giuliano Gemma is dead
Yugoslavian postcard by Cik Razglednica.


Giuliano Gemma was born in Rome in 1938. While he was playing as a kid, he found a WW II bomb that exploded and the signs of injury stayed visible on his face.

He practiced many sports like boxing, gymnastics, and tennis. Gemma first worked as a stuntman, then was offered real acting parts. His first parts included bit roles in the comedies Venezia, la luna e tu/Venice, the Moon and You (Dino Risi, 1958), starring Alberto Sordi and the ‘Italian Jayne Mansfield’, Marisa Allasio, and Arrangiatevi!/You're on Your Own (Mauro Bolognini, 1959) with Peppino De Filippo and Totò.

Director Duccio Tessari offered him his first leading part in the Peplum satire Arrivano i titani/My Son, the Hero (Duccio Tessari, 1962), co-starring Jacqueline Sassard, Pedro Armendáriz and Antonella Lualdi.

He also appeared as Garibaldi’s General in Luchino Visconti's classic Il Gattopardo/The Leopard (1963), based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same name.

Encouraged by the success of Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars the previous year, Duccio Tessari decided to produce his own Spaghetti Western, Una pistola per Ringo/A Pistol for Ringo (1965). The score was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Giuliano Gemma billed as Montgomery Wood starred as the gunfighter Ringo aka Angel Face. Gemma portrayed his character, loosely based on gunfighter Johnny Ringo, as the antithesis of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Ringo is talkative, well dressed, clean-shaven and preferring milk to whiskey.

A Pistol for Ringo was an Italian-Spanish coproduction, shot on location in Almeria, Spain. The film was a huge success on the domestic market following its release in Italy and Spain and a year later it also did well in the other West-European countries and in the US.

The success of A Pistol for Ringo inspired numerous sequels, most notably Il ritorno di Ringo/The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965) with Lorella De Luca (aka Hally Hammond). Gemma went on to star in Spaghetti Westerns like Un dollaro bucato/Blood for a Silver Dollar (Giorgio Ferroni, 1965), Adios, Gringo (Giorgio Stegani, 1965) and I giorni dell'ira/Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967) opposite Lee van Cleef.

He also appeared in non-Westerns, like the French historical romantic adventure film Angélique et le Roy/Angelique and the King (Bernard Borderie, 1966), the third part in the Angélique series featuring Michèle Mercier. Other example were the Euro-Spy film Kiss Kiss... Bang Bang (Duccio Tessari, 1966), and the crime film I bastardi/Sons of Satan (Duccio Tessari), starring Rita Hayworth.

Giuliano Gemma is dead
Italian postcard by Forte. Photo: publicity still for Amico, stammi lontano almeno un palmo/Ben and Charlie (Michele Lupo, 1972).

Desert Of Tartars

Giuliano Gemma's career survived the demise of the Spaghetti Western genre. In 1970 he had a huge success with the comedy Quando le Donne Avevano la Coda/When Women Had Tails (Pasquale Festa Campanile, 1970), set in pre-historic times when ‘women had tails’ and were hunted by cavemen.

Another box office hit was the action comedy Anche gli angeli mangiano fagioli/Even Angels Eat Beans (Enzo Barboni, 1973) opposite Bud Spencer. In Germany, it was awarded with the Goldene Leinwand (Golden Screen) Award in 1974. He returned in the sequel, Anche gli angeli tirano di destro/Charleston (Enzo Barboni, 1974) with Ricky Bruch (at his debut) who replaced Bud Spencer.

Gemma also played in a variety of art-house offerings, such as the drama Delitto d'amore/Somewhere Beyond Love (Luigi Comencini, 1974) with Stefania Sandrelli, and Il deserto dei tartari/Desert of Tartars (Valerio Zurlini, 1976) for which he won a David di Donatello, the Italian equivalent of the Oscar.

Three years later, he won the Grolla d'oro award for Best Actor for his part in the crime-drama Un uomo in ginocchio/A Man on His Knees (Damiano Damiani, 1979) with Michele Placido. He also worked with Damiani on the Giallo (Italian horror thriller) L'avvertimento/The Warning (Damiano Damiani, 1980), co-starring Martin Balsam.

He also played in the Giallo Tenebrae/Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982), starring Anthony Franciosa. In 1985 he reunited with Ducio Tessari for Tex e il signore degli abissi/Tex And The Lord Of The Deep (1985), based on the Italian comic series about ranger Tex Willer, written by Gian Luigi Bonelli. The film was meant to be the pilot of a TV Series but had very little success.

More successful was the comedy Speriamo che sia femmina/Let's Hope It's a Girl (Mario Monicelli, 1986), which won the David di Donatello for Best Film and many other awards.

Gemma remained active on Italian television and incidentally appeared in interesting films like Un bel dì vedremo/One fine day we'll see (Tonino Valerii, 1997) and the period drama Juana la Loca/Mad Love (Vicente Aranda, 2001) which received 3 Goya awards. Pilar López de Ayala starred as the tragic Queen Joanna of Castile madly in love to an unfaithful husband, Philip the Handsome, Archduke of Austria.

Gemma also worked as a sculptor. Recently, he starred in a web comic named Man Born Again (2012) by Eclypsed Word, and he had a role in Woody Allen’s magical realist comedy To Rome with Love (2012).

On 1 October 2013, Giuliano Gemma died following a car accident near Rome. He was taken to a hospital in Civitavecchia and pronounced dead shortly after his arrival. He was 75. Two other passengers, a man and his son, were also injured in the accident.

Giuliano Gemma was married to Baba Richerme. They had two daughters, Vera and Giuliana Gemma. Vera Gemma is also an actress.

Trailer for Il ritorno di Ringo/The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965). Source: Neverlando74 (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

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