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31 March 2015

Kally Sambucini

Kally Sambucini was an Italian actress of the silent film. She was the companion of the well-known actor-director Emilio Ghione, and appeared as Za-La-Vie in his film series on the dark anti-hero Za-La-Mort. Her favourite film was Lo scaldino (Augusto Genina, 1920) based on a novel by Luigi Pirandello.

Kally Sambucini
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano. Kally Sambucini's first name is misspelled here as Ely, but there was no actress Ely Sambucini.

Dark anti-hero


Kally Sambucini was a pseudonym of Calliope Sambucini, who was born in Rome in 1892.

Accredited as Kally Sam and Kelly Sambucini, she was the companion of the well-known Emilio Ghione. The couple had a son, Emilio Ghione jr., who was also an actor.

From 1915 Sambucini and her husband were also a couple on screen. They starred in the film series on the dark anti-hero Za-La-Mort, which was directed by Ghione himself.

Their films include Za-la-Mort (1915), L’imboscata/The ambush (1916), Il numero 121/Number 121 (1917) with Diana D'Amore, I topi grigi/The gray mice (1918), Dollari e fracks/Dollars and fracks (1919), Il castello di bronzo/The bronze castle (1920), Quale dei due?/Which one? (1922), Un frak e un apache/A frak and an apache (1923) with Rita D'Harcourt, and Ultimissime della note/News of the night (1924).

They also made a Za-la-Mort film in Germany: Za-la-mort/Die Traum der Za-la-Vie (1924), co-starring Fern Andra.

Sambucini's role in these films was the antithesis of Ghione’s character, his fragile wife Za-la-Vie.

Emilio Ghione
Emilio Ghione. Italian postcard.

Emilio Ghione as Za-la-Mort
Emilio Ghione as Za-la-Mort. Italian postcard by Vettori, Bologna, no. 2011.

Taking Revenge


Kally Sambucini also acted in other films directed by Ghione, such as Anime buie/Dark souls (1915) with Hesperia.

She also played the female lead opposite Ghione in Senza padre/Fatherless (shot in 1924, but released in 1927), also with Maria Carmi.

Their last film together was La casa errante/The wandering house (1925).

She also acted in a few films by other directors. When asked in an interview in the 1950s what her favourite film performance had been, Sambucini debunked her Za-la-Vie parts.

She mentioned instead Lo scaldino/The warmer (1920) by Augusto Genina, based on a novel by Luigi Pirandello. In this film she co-starred with Franz Sala.

A shabby resale of cigars and newspapers is run every night by old Papa-Re (King Daddy), played by Alfonso Cassini, heated by an old clay warmer, which falls to pieces one day. That night the old man finds in his kiosk a singer (Sambucini) from the café-concert next door with a baby. The woman goes to shoot her lover, who dumped her. She takes revenge, flees and leaves her baby with the old man. The old man and the baby warm each other.

While Emilio Ghione earlier on had mentioned that the collaboration between director Augusto Genina and Sambucini had been very difficult because of Genina's cold, rational behaviour, Denis Lotti writes in his biography of Ghione that professional jealousy might have played a part in Ghione's statement.

Luigi Pirandello was glad with Sambucini's performance in Lo scaldino. The film press also raved about this realist tragedy and its true emotions.

After Ghione's death in 1930, Sambucini acted only in one sound film, Notte di fiamme/Night of flames (Ladislao Kish, 1942).

In 1947 Emilio Ghione Junior tried to bring to the fore the characters who had brought his parents their biggest success. He starred in the film La fumeria d’oppio/The Opium Den (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1947), but the film did not have the desired success.

Kally Sambucini died in Rome in 1969. She was 77.

Emilio Ghione
Emilio Ghione. Italian postcard by Fotocelere.

Sources: Denis Lotti (Emilio Ghione, l'ultimo apache - Italian), IMDb and Wikipedia (English and Italian).

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