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02 May 2015

L'arzigogolo (1924)

Today's film special is about the Italian silent film L'arzigogolo/The Court Jester (Mario Almirante, 1924). The successful costume drama starred diva Italia Almirante Manzini, Annibale Betrone and Oreste Bilancia.

Italia Almirante
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 529. Photo: Scoffone. Italia Almirante Manzini in L'Arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924), an adaptation of the play by Sem Benelli.

Italia Almirante in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 528. Photo: Scoffone. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924), with Italia Almirante Manzini.

Annibale Betrone in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano. Photo: publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Annibale Betrone.

Oreste Bilancia in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 202. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Oreste Bilancia.

An Attractive Cast


The costume drama L'arzigogolo/The Court Jester (Mario Almirante, 1924) has an attractive cast.

Leading lady is Italia Almirante Manzini (1890-1941), wife of director Mario Almirante. Italia had starred in the classic epic Cabiria (1914) and was one of the divas of the Italian silent cinema.

The court jester of the title was played by Annibale Betrone (1883-1950). He was an important figure of the Italian theatre of the first half of the 20th century. Betrone also appeared in several silent and sound films.

Oreste Bilancia (1881-1945) was another well known face of the Italian silent cinema. As in L'arzigogolo, he mostly worked as supporting actor, but occasionally he played the main character.

Italia Almirante and Oreste Bilancia in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 197. Photo: publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Oreste Bilancia and and Italia Almirante Manzini.

Italia Almirante
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 203. Photo: publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Italia Almirante Manzini and Alberto Collo.

Italia Almirante in L'Arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 204. Photo: publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Italia Almirante Manzini.

Italia Almirante and Alberto Collo in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 209. Photo: publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924) with Italia Almirante Manzini and Alberto Collo.

Classic Love Story


L'arzigogolo is a classic love story in the vain of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The story was a liberal adaptation of a popular 1922 stage play by Sem Benelli. The sets were designed by Luigi Sapelli, better known as Caramba, who specialized in costume dramas. Director of photography was Ubaldo Arata, who was one of Italy's most famous cinematographers.

Italia Almirante plays Monna Violante, daughter of the Prince of Capri, who is wed by her father to the rich merchant Floridoro (Oreste Bilancia), a fat and wealthy merchant, confident and convinced of being protected by good fortune.

Monna Violante falls in love with Spallatonda (Annibale Betrone), the court jester and servant of count Giano (Alberto Collo), one of her suitors. After Giano has been killed by the hand of Spallatonda, Monna Violante and Spallatonda run away.

After the premiere, the critic of Il Roma della Domenica wrote: "L'arzigogolo did not delude the high expectations, because it is the result on screen of an original and interesting work. Therefore the poet (Sem Benelli) can be satisfied."

The critic of La Vita Cinematografica adds: "We never saw Italia Almirante so perfect in place. She exquisitely figures as an intelligent woman. Her plastic beauty, preserved by exuberant costumes, makes the complex and enigmatic character of Violante more fascinating and suggestive."

L'arzigogolo became one of the most successful films in Italy of 1924.

Annibale Betrone in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 211. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924). Caption: The arrival of the buffoon at the castle of Giano.

Italia Almirante and Annibale Betrone in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 216. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924), with Italia Almirante Manzini and Annibale Betrone. Caption: In the calm moonlight the buffoon sees Violante and declares her his love.

Italia Almirante in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 227. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924), with Annibale Betrone and Italia Almirante Manzini . Caption: True love...attained in vain... He is dead!

Annibale Betrone and Oreste Bilancia in L'arzigogolo
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 228. Photo: Alba Film. Publicity still for L'arzigogolo (Mario Almirante, 1924), with Annibale Betrone and Oreste Bilancia. Caption: The buffoon resurrected to the great terror of Floridoro.

Sources: Vittorio Martinelli (Il Cinema Muto Italiano 1923-1931 - Italian), Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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