16 March 2012

Silvio Francesco

Swiss Schlager singer and film actor Silvio Francesco (1927-2000) is, despite his many talents, best known as the brother of Caterina Valente. In several film musicals and TV-shows Silvio sang, danced and played the clarinet, always in the shadow of his famous sister.

Silvio Francesco
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne Eickel, no. F 7. Photo: Lantin.

Caterina Valente, Silvio Francesco
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden (Westf.), no. F 31. Retail price: 25 Pf. Photo: Ringpress / Vogelmann.

Peter Alexander, Caterina Valente, Silvio Francesco
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. F 73. Photo: Lantin.

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Honolulu-Strand-Bikini

Silvio Francesco Valente was born in Paris, France in 1927. He was born in an Italian family of artists. His mother Maria Valente was an internationally successful musical clown, his father Giuseppe Valente was a well known accordion player. Silvio grew up in a world of circus and variety.

At a young age he learned to play the guitar and he became a gifted clarinetist. His four years younger sister was Caterina Valente, with whom he sang many duets, often under pseudonyms like Club Manhattan or Club Italia.

A huge hit was their Schlager 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Honolulu-Strand-Bikini'. Caterina and her record company Decca tried hard to put Silvio in the spotlights. Several records were released as Caterina und Silvio, or there were EPs, with at the one side songs by Caterina Valente and on the flipside songs by Silvio Francesco.

He also sang and danced in Schlagerfilms in which his sister played the leading part, like Liebe, Tanz und 1000 Schlager/Love, Dance, and 1000 Songs (Paul Martin, 1955) also with Peter Alexander, Bonjour Kathrin (Karl Anton, 1956), and Du bist Musik (Paul Martin, 1956) with Paul Hubschmid.

Without Caterina, Francesco starred in the comedy Küß mich noch einmal/Kiss Me Just One More Time (Helmut Weiss, 1956) opposite Laya Raki.

Silvio Francesco
East-German postcard by VEB Volkskunstverlag Reichenbach I.V., no. G 749, 1957. Retail price: 0,15 DM. Photo: Polydor.

Silvio Francesco
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5419. Photo: Hafbo. Publicity still for Du bist wunderbar/You're Wonderful (Paul Martin, 1959).

Silvio Francesco
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4863. Photo: Arthur Grimm / Ufa.

The Best Partner I Ever Had

When Caterina moved over from Decca to Polydor, Silvio Francesco got a new singing partner, Margot Eskens. Among their hits were 'Calypso Italiano' (1957), 'Mondscheinpartie' (1959), and 'Himmelblaue Serenade'.

Silvio appeared in more films like Casino de Paris (André Hunebelle, 1957) starring Gilbert Bécaud, Vittorio De Sica and Caterina, ...und abends in die Scala (Erik Ode, 1958) with Caterina, Du bist wunderbar/You Are Wonderful (Paul Martin, 1959) with Caterina, Rudolf Prack and Dietmar Schönherr, and Marina (Paul Martin, 1960) with Giorgia Moll and Rocco Granata.

In the 1960s brother and sister reunited as a singing duo and had hits like 'Peppermint Twist', 'Madison in Mexiko' and 'Quando quando'. During the world tours of his sister he was often her musical director.

He also appeared in the many TV shows of Caterina, like Caterina from Heidelberg (1969), directed by Michael Pfleghar. Silvio lived in Lugano, Switzerland, where he managed a small hotel.

In 1990 he played as Silvio F. Valente in the horror satire My lovely Monster (Michael Bergmann, 1990) with Ferdy Mayne and Sarah Karloff, the daughter of Boris Karloff. It was his last leading role in a film. Seven years later he made his final TV appearance in the series Wilde Zeiten/Wild Times (Helmut Metzger, 1997).

At the age of 73, Silvio Francesco died of cancer in Lugano in 2000. He was married and had two children. After his death, his sister Caterina retired from show business. She called her brother '"the best partner I ever had".

Caterina Valente, Silvio Francesco, Peter Alexander in Bonjour, Kathrin (1956)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 164, 1956. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Caterina Valente, Silvio Francesco and Peter Alexander in Bonjour, Kathrin (Karl Anton, 1956).

Caterina Valente in Bonjour, Kathrin (1956)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 175, 1956. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: Caterina Valente in Bonjour, Kathrin (Karl Anton, 1956).

Scene from Bonjour Kathrin (1956) with Caterina Valente, Peter Alexander and Dietmar Schönherr. Source: Mr. Musikus67 (YouTube).

Sources: De Duitse Schlager in Nederland en België (Dutch), Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.

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