30 September 2020

Luisa Ferida

Luisa Ferida (1914-1945) was an Italian stage and screen film, who was a popular leading actress in the late 1930s and 1940s Italian sound film. She was married to actor Osvaldo Valenti. Because of his close links with the fascist regime, the couple was shot by partisans in April 1945.

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit. (Casa Editr. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze), no. 3894. Photo: Bragaglia.

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard, no. 69. Photo: Bragaglia.

Luisa Ferida in La corona di ferro (1941)
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit. (Ballerini & Fratini, Florence), no. 4266. Photo: Pesce / E.N.I.C. Luisa Ferida in La corona di ferro (Alessandro Blasetti, 1941). Collection: Marlène Pilaete.

An early attempt at realism in Italian cinema


Luisa Ferida was born Luigia Manfrini Frané in Castel San Pietro Terme, near Bologna, in 1914. Her father Luigi, a rich lander owner, died when she was a child.
She was then sent to a convent school.

Ferida started her career as a stage actress. In 1935 she made her first film appearance with a supporting role in the crime film La Freccia d'oro/Golden Arrow (Piero Ballerini, Corrado D'Errico, 1935). Because of her photogenic looks and talent as an actress, she soon graduated to leading roles in such films as the historical comedy Il re Burlone/The Joker King (Enrico Guazzoni, 1935) with Armando Falconi.

The following year, she appeared in the comedy Lo smemorato/The Amnesiac (Gennaro Righelli, 1936) starring Angelo Musco, the screwball comedy Amazzoni bianche/White Amazons (Gennaro Righelli, 1936) starring Paola Barbara, and the historical comedy L'ambasciatore/The Ambassador (Baldassarre Negroni, 1936) starring Leda Gloria.

She starred opposite Antonio Centa in the romantic comedy I tre desideri/The Three Wishes (Giorgio Ferroni, Kurt Gerron, 1937) of which also a Dutch-language version was made - without Ferida.

Next, she appeared opposite Amedeo Nazzari in the drama La fossa degli angeli/Tomb of the Angels (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1937). Roberto Rossellini co-wrote the screenplay and served as assistant director. It was shot on location in the Apuan Alps in Liguria and is set amidst the marble quarries of the area. It marked an early attempt at realism in Italian cinema, anticipating neorealism of the postwar era, and it celebrated Italy's industrial strength in line with the propaganda of the Mussolini regime.

She co-starred with Totò in the comedy Animali pazzi/Mad Animals (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1939). In 1939, while working on the Swashbuckler Un Avventura di Salvator Rosa/An Adventure of Salvator Rosa (Alessandro Blasetti, 1940), Luisa Ferida met the actor Osvaldo Valenti. The pair became romantically involved and had a son, Kim, who died 4 days after his birth. Valenti had been linked with many Fascist officials and personalities for years and he eventually joined the Italian Social Republic, and for these reasons, he was on the partisans' hit list.

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by Superbrom / Alterocca, Terni, no. 2425. Photo: E.I.A. Columbia. Luisa Ferida as Princess Elisabeth of Russia in Amore imperiale/Imperial love (Alexandre Volkoff, 1941).

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by DITTA Iris, Terni, no. 34. Photo: Bragaglia. Luisa Ferida in Fedora (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1942).

A screenplay by Federico Fellini


In the first half of the 1940s, Luisa Ferida's career was at its zenith, and she played memorable roles in such films as La fanciulla di Portici/The girl from Portici (Mario Bonnard, 1940), La corona di ferro/The Iron Crown (Alessandro Blasetti, 1941), and the drama Gelosia/Jealousy (Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, 1942).

She had a supporting role in the drama Nozze di sangue/Blood Wedding (Goffredo Alessandrini, 1941) starring Beatrice Mancini, and Fosco Giachetti. The film about an arranged marriage in 19th century South America, is based on the Spanish play by Federico Garcia Lorca.

She played the lead in the historical drama Fedora (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1942) opposite Amedeo Nazzari and Osvaldo Valenti. Opposite Fosco Giacchetti, she starred in the drama Fari nella nebbia/Headlights in the Fog (Gianni Franciolini, 1942). The film about a group of truck drivers is considered to be part of the development of Neorealism, which emerged around this time.

She starred with Osvaldo Valenti in the adventure film I cavalieri del deserto/Knights of the Desert (Gino Talamo, Osvaldo Valenti, 1942) with a screenplay by Federico Fellini and Vittorio Mussolini, the son of Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini. It was produced by the Rome-based ACI which was run by Vittorio Mussolini and shot on location in Libya before the North African Campaign turned decisively against Italy and its Allies. Fellini may have directed some of the Libyan scenes after Gino Talamo was injured in a car accident. The film was ultimately never released due to the defeats suffered in Libya, which meant its plot was now a potential embarrassment to the regime.

She appeared again with Valenti in the extremely popular historical film La cena delle beffe/The Jester's Supper (Alessandro Blasetti, 1942), also starring Amedeo Nazzari and Clara Calamai. The film is set in the 15th century Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificent and portrays a rivalry that leads to a series of increasingly violent jokes.

Fosco Giachetti and Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by Agfa. Fosco Giachetti and Luisa Ferida in Fari nella nebbia/Headlights in the Fog (Gianni Franciolini, 1942). In this dark, sensual and one might even say proto-Neorealist truckdriver's melodrama Cesare (Giachetti) befriends a wild girl (Ferida) after his wife (Mariella Lotti) has run away.

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by Rizzoli & C., Milano, 1937. Photo: Bragaglia.

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by Rizzoli & C., Milano, 1938. Photo: Bragaglia. Perhaps made for La fossa degli angeli (Curt Alexander, Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1937).

Sentenced to be executed and shot immediately in the street


Luisa Ferida again co-starred with Valenti and Nazzari in the drama Sleeping Beauty (Luigi Chiarini, 1942), which belongs to the films of the Calligrafismo style. Calligrafismo is in sharp contrast to the Telefoni Bianchi-American style comedies and is rather artistic, highly formalistic, expressive in complexity, and deals mainly with contemporary literary material. In 1942 she won the Best Italian Actress award.

In the historical comedy La locandiera/The Innkeeper (Luigi Chiarini, 1944), she co-starred again with Armando Falconi and Osvaldo Valenti. During the last stages of completion, Mussolini was overthrown. The final editing was done in Venice, the film capital of the Italian Social Republic, but without the presence of Chiarini.

At the end of 1943, the fascist government of the Republic of Salo decided to create an Italian cinematographic center in the north of the country. Luisa Ferida and Valenti agreed to go there. They made Un fatto di cronaca/A Chronicle (Piero Ballerini, 1945), which was released in February 1945.

Two months later, Valenti was finally arrested in Milan, alongside a pregnant Ferida. They were both sentenced to be executed and shot immediately in the street, without a proper trial. The pregnant Ferida had a blue shoe of her deceased son Kim in her hand when she was killed. Opinions are divided as to whether the couple deserved this fatal fate.

The twelve suitcases of the couple, full of clothes, furs, money, and jewels were stolen that day. Her Milanese house was burglarised a few days later. The partisan chief who organised the execution, Giuseppe 'Vero' Marozin, declared years later that one of the partisan leaders that ordered the two actors to be executed was Sandro Pertini, who decades later became president of the Italian republic. No other source, however, supports Marozin's version of the incident.

Her mother Lucia asked for support from the Italian government since her daughter was her only support. After the actress was cleared of charges during the 1950s, Lucia received a small monthly pension. She died in poverty. Both lovers' graves are side to side in Cimitero Maggiore di Musocco in Milan. The film Sanguepazzo/Wild Blood (Marco Tullio Giordana, 2008) starring Monica Bellucci and Luca Zingaretti, discusses Luisa Ferida's relationship with Osvaldo Valenti.

Luisa Ferida in Amore imperiale (1941)
Spanish collectors card by I.G. Viladot, Barcelona. Image: Cifesa. Luisa Ferida as Princess Elisabeth of Russia in Amore imperiale/Imperial Love (Alexandre Volkoff, 1941).

Luisa Ferida
Italian postcard by NMM. Photo: Bragaglia.

Sources: Marlene Pilaete (La collectionneuse - French), Hugo Bartoli (IMDb), Find-A-Grave, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

29 September 2020

City Lights (1931)

Charles Chaplin played the Tramp through dozens of short films and, later, feature-length productions. In only a handful of films, he played characters other than the little tramp. The Tramp was closely identified with the silent era and was considered an international character. When the sound era began in the late 1920s, Chaplin refused to make a talkie featuring the character. City Lights (1931) featured no dialogue.

Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5709/1, 1930-1931. Photo: SF / United Artists. Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Harry Myers and Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (1931)
French postcard in the 'Centenaire de la Naissance de Charlie Chaplin 1889-1989' series by Bubbles Inc., Star 150, 1989. Photo: United Artists. Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (1931)
French postcard in the 'Centenaire de la Naissance de Charlie Chaplin 1889-1989' series by Bubbles Inc., Star 175, 1989. Photo: United Artists. Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Finally, a living, breathing human being


Charles Chaplin called his last 'silent' film a 'Comedy Romance in Pantomime'. City Lights (1931) opens in the early morning where the mayor is dedicating a statue to the citizens of the city. After the unveiling, the crowd finds a little tramp (Charlie Chaplin) sleeping on the lap of one of the figures. As he tries to climb down, he encounters one problem after another.

City Lights (1931) tells the story of the beloved little tramp who falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) on the sidewalk. Charlie meets her when waddling down the street with his cane and derby hat, and that tiny moustache. While examining a nude statue in a shop, he is annoyed by some newsboys making fun of his tattered clothing. Then he sees the beautiful, blonde flower girl sitting at the sidewalk. After she drops the flower, Charlie notices her feeling about the sidewalk for it, thus, realising she's blind. She assumes he is a wealthy man and offers him a flower. He attentively accepts the flower with his last penny.

The noble little fellow fancies himself as a well-mannered gentleman in spite of all the circumstances that bring him down. One night by chance he meets a depressed and drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) who attempts to commit suicide by drowning. Just as Charlie is about to save him, he in turn falls into the river. The suicide attempt at the canal is one of the many comic highlights in the film.

The drunk, in gratitude for saving his life, takes Charlie under his wing to accompany him to various night clubs until dawn. By morning, the millionaire, now sober, fails to recognise or remember Charlie and orders his butler to escort this stranger out of his mansion. However, when drunk, the wealthy businessman continues to try to commit suicide. The tramp persuades the drunken millionaire not to go through with it, making himself a devoted friend. The rich gentleman becomes a generous friend.

To impress the flower girl the poor tramp uses his friend's wealth to make her fall in love with him. The only problem is that when the millionaire is sober he doesn't recognise the tramp any more. The flower girl has to pay 22 dollars of rent or she will be thrown out of her apartment. Now the tramp desperately seeks for jobs in the city to help his love to pay the rent and to get money for eye surgery. He works as a street cleaner but loses this and various other jobs. His desperate attempt to win money with boxing leads to a magical, hilariously funny boxing match.

Reading in a newspaper of a European doctor who restores sight for the blind, Charlie gives the girl $1,000 for an operation, the money offered to him by the drunken millionaire, who, after sober, accuses Charlie of robbing him, has his arrested and serving jail time.

The last five minutes of the film are heartbreaking. When the little tramp is out of prison, he meets the formerly blind girl again. She offers him a flower and when she finally says "Yes, I can see now", she realises that the little tramp is the 'wealthy' gentleman who paid for the restoration of her sight.

City Lights is a timeless classic. It displays the Tramp at his funniest, his bravest, his most romantic, and his most sympathetic. He blends into everyday life and is more or less ignored by many, laughed at by others. And only when the millionaire is drunk does he 'see' the tramp as a friend. In the final scene, when the flower girl finally sees him, Chaplin's former slapstick character has become a living, breathing human being.

Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in City Lights (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 129/4. Photo: United Artists / SF. Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Charlie Chaplin, Eddie Baker and Hank Mann in City Lights (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 129/5, 1930-1931. Photo: SF / United Artists. Charlie Chaplin, Eddie Baker, and Hank Mann in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers in City Lights (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 129/6. Photo: United Artists / SF. Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers in City Lights (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 129/7. Photo: United Artists. Charlie Chaplin and Harry Myers in City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931).

Source: IMDb.

28 September 2020

Wallace Reid

Wallace Reid (1891–1923) was an American actor in the silent film referred to as "the screen's most perfect lover". He debuted at Selig but soon rose to popularity at Vitagraph and Universal. Later he moved to Paramount, where he starred as a dashing daredevil in popular race-car films. A morphine addiction killed him, at the age of only 31.

Wallace Reid
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 36. Photo: Evans, L.A.

Wallace Reid
British postcard by 'Pictures' Portrait Gallery, London, by Pictures Ltd. London, no. 145.

Wallace Reid
French postcard by Editions Paramount, Paris.

Wallace Reid
French postcard in the Les Vedettes du Cinéma series by Editions Filma, no. 58. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Wallace Reid
French postcard in the Les Vedettes de Cinéma series by A.N., Paris, no. 33. Photo: Film Paramount.

En route to becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs


William Wallace Halleck Reid was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in a vaudeville family in 1891. His mother, Bertha Westbrook, was an actress, and his father, James Halleck "Hal" Reid, worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, mainly as playwright and actor, traveling the country.

As a boy, Wallace Reid was performing on stage at the age of four in the act with his parents, but the acting was put on hold while he obtained his education at Freehold Military School in Freehold Township, New Jersey. He managed a football team and ran the school newspaper. He later graduated from Perkiomen Seminary in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1909. Wallace was now an all-around athlete and gifted musician.

When his father entered the film business in 1910, he brought along his teenage son who wanted to be a cameraman. However, with his athletic good looks, he was often put in front of the camera instead of behind. In 1910, Reid appeared as a reporter in his first film, The Phoenix (N.N., 1910), an adaptation of a Milton Nobles play, filmed at Selig Polyscope Studios in Chicago.

He was soon acting and directing with and for early film mogul Allan Dwan. Reid played in some 100 shorts. Although Reid's good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect matinée idol, he was equally happy with the roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director.

In 1913, while at Universal Pictures, Reid met and married actress Dorothy Davenport. She was only seventeen, but already a veteran of the stage and screen. Davenport was one of the stars that he both directed and starred with.

Reid had parts in such famous feature films like Birth of a nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) by D. W. Griffith. He also starred opposite leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar en route to becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs.

Wallace Reid and dog
Vintage postcard. Photo: Hoover Art Co.

Wallace Reid
Italian postcard by B & G B, no. 83. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Wallace Reid
Italian postcard by G. Vettori, Bologna, no. 80. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Wallace Reid
Swedish postcard by Förlag Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 978. Photo: Skandinavisk Filmcentral, Stockholm.

Daredevil auto thrillers


Then Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky for some 60 more films at Lasky's Famous Players film company, which later became Paramount Pictures. Wallace went on to star in a series of pictures in which he represented all that was best of the ideal American.

His action-hero role as the dashing race-car driver drew young girls and older women alike to theatres to see his daredevil auto thrillers such as The Roaring Road (James Cruze, 1919) with Ann Little, Double Speed (Sam Wood, 1920), Excuse My Dust (Sam Wood, 1920), and Too Much Speed (Frank Urson, 1921). Reid was so fond of racing that he even joined an Indianapolis race in 1922.

En route to Oregon for the filming of The Valley of the Giants (James Cruze, 1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck near Arcata, California, and needed six stitches to close a three-inch scalp wound. He was prescribed morphine for relief of his excruciating pain so he could continue filming. Reid soon became addicted but kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding and changing from 15–20 minutes in duration to as much as an hour.

Reid became depressed and his alcohol use got out of control, even though he was young, fit, and strong. Reid's morphine addiction worsened at a time when drug rehabilitation programs were nonexistent. Coupled with the alcohol, Wallace never had a chance and by 1922, he started entering a succession of hospitals and sanitariums as his health began to deteriorate rapidly.

Making his last film for the studio, Thirty Days (James Cruze, 1922), Wallace was barely able to stand, let alone act. Wallace Reid died in his wife's arms in a sanitarium in Los Angeles while attempting recovery in 1923. He was only 31. Wallace was the third major Paramount personality to be involved in a scandal in 1922.

His wife, Dorothy Davenport, co-produced and appeared (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid) in Human Wreckage (John Griffith Wray, 1923). She did a national tour with the film to warn against the dangers of drugs. She and Reid had two children: a son, Wallace Reid Jr., born in 1917; and a daughter, Betty Mummert, whom they adopted in 1922 as a three-year-old. Allegedly Reid had fathered her during an affair. Davenport never remarried.

Wallace Reid's contribution to the film industry has been recognised with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2007, the biography 'Wallace Reid: Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol' by author E. J. Fleming appeared.

Wallace Reid
Spanish collector's card by Amatller Marca Luna, series 11, no. 20. Photo: Evans, L.A.

Wallace Reid and Harrison Ford in Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (1919)
Spanish collectors card by Chocolate Amatller, series CC, artist 35, no. 77. Wallace Reid and Harrison Ford in Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (James Cruze, 1919). It is one of the few surviving films with Reid.

Wallace Reid in The Prison Without Walls (1917)
Spanish cromo (colored collectors card) by Chocolat Imperiale, no. 2 of 6 cards. Photo: Jesse Lasky / Paramount. Myrtle Stedman, Wallace Reid, and William Conklin in The Prison Without Walls (E. Mason Hopper, 1917), written by Beulah Marie Dix and Robert E. MacAlarney. The Spanish title for the film was Prisión sin muros.

Wallace Reid and Myrtle Stedman in The Prison Without Walls (1917)
Spanish cromo (colored collectors card) by Chocolat Imperiale, no. 5 of 6 cards. Photo: Jesse Lasky / Paramount. Myrtle Stedman, and Wallace Reid in The Prison Without Walls (E. Mason Hopper, 1917). The old man may be James Neill.

Wallace Reid and Myrtle Stedman in The Prison Without Walls (1917)
Spanish cromo (colored collectors card) by Chocolat Imperiale, no. 6 of 6 cards. Photo: Jesse Lasky / Paramount. Myrtle Stedman, Wallace Reid, Camille Ankewich, and William Conklin in The Prison Without Walls (E. Mason Hopper, 1917). The old lady could be Lillian Leighton.

Sources: Tony Fontana (IMDb), Marta Monk (Find-A-Grave), Wikipedia, and IMDb.