16 March 2012

Lia Formia

Italian actress Lia Formia appeared in 20 silent films between 1918 and 1925. For years she was the leading actress of director Lucio D'Ambra.

Lia Formia
Italian postcard, no. 226. Collection: Didier Hanson.

A Woman of Easy Virtues

Lia Formia was born in Naples, her birth date is unknown. She probably made her film debut in Le figlie del mare/The daughters of the sea (Luigi Caramba, 1918).

From 1920 on Formia played for years under the direction of Lucio D'Ambra, mostly with Umberto Zanuccoli as her male co-actor. Probably her first film with D'Ambra was La storia della dama dal ventaglio bianco/The story of the lady with the white fan (Lucio D'Ambra, 1920), the story about a woman of easy virtues - as soon as her husband is away. Formia already had the female lead in this film.

She played then another lead role in Due sogni ad occhi aperti/Two dreams with eyes wide open (Lucio D'Ambra, 1921), La fine dell'amore/The End of Love (Gian Bistolfi, 1921), Gli angeli custodi/The guardian angels (Lucio D'Ambra, 1922), Crocetta d'oro/The little golden cross (Lucio D'Ambra, 1922), La sentinella morta/The dead sentinel (Gian Bistolfi, 1922), and L'illustre attrice Cicala Formica/The Illustrious Actress Cicada Ant (Lucio D'Ambra, 1920).

The latter was a short fantasy, perhaps intended to be released together with La favola di La Fontaine/The fable of La Fontaine (Lucio D'Ambra, 1922). The film parodied divismo and still exists, as one of the few films of D'Ambra and Formia that was found and restored. Film historian Angela Dalle Vacche: "The film is a lovely, humorous and action-packed spoof about a young woman (Lia Formia) who wants to be both a director and a diva." In the end she fails and the rebellious daughter is tamed by her father.

Other films Formia made in the same year were Miss Dorothy (Giulio Antamoro, 1921) starring Diana Karenne, and La falsa amante/The false lover (Carmine Gallone, 1921), based on a novel by Honoré de Balzac.

Diana Karenne
Diana Karenne. Italian postcard.


Lia Formia kept very busy in the early 1920s. In 1921 she starred in such silent films as Le confessioni di un figlio del secolo/Confessions of a son of the century (Gian Bistolfi, 1921), Il granatiere di Pomerania/The Pomeranian grenadier (Lucio D'Ambra, 1921), Monique (Lucio D'Ambra, 1921), La favola di La Fontaine/The fable of La Fontaine (Lucio D'Ambra, 1922), Il miraggio/The mirage (Lucio D'Ambra, 1921), and La principessa Bébé/The Baby Princess (Lucio D'Ambra or Carmine Gallone, 1921), all produced by D’Ambra Film.

The following year she appeared for the same studio in S. E. l'Ambasciatrice/S. E. Ambassador (Lucio D'Ambra, Carmine Gallone, 1922) and Tragedia su tre carte/Tragedy in three papers (Lucio D'Ambra, 1922).

Then D’Ambra Film probably went bankrupt in the crisis of the Italian film industry. Lia Formia made only two more films. She played a bit part in La via del peccato/The way of sin (Amleto Palermi, 1925) starring Mario Bonnard, Rina De Liguoro and Soava Gallone.

That year she also appeared in Il tacchino/The turkey (Mario Bonnard, 1925), with as her co-stars Mario Bonnard himself, the French comedian Marcel Levesque and Maryse Dauvray, the actress from J'accuse/I Accuse (Abel Gance, 1919). It was an adaptation of the Georges Feydeau comedy Le Dindon (The Turkey). Though the film was internationally successful, Lia Formia's career stopped after 20 films.

About her later life nor about the place or date of her death, we could not find any information on the net. Do you know more about this Italian actress? Please write a comment, and share.

Lia Formia
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 869. Photo: Fontana.

Sources: Vittorio Martinelli (Il cinema muto italiano), Angela dalle Vacche (Diva: defiance and passion in early Italian cinema), Andrea Meneghelli (Lucio D'Ambra: ipotesi per un'indagine isocronica, Fotogenia, 1997-1998), and IMDb.

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