14 August 2013

Anthony Steffen

Elegant, educated and handsome Anthony Steffen (Antonio Luiz De Teffè, 1929-2004) appeared in over 60 films, many of them in the lead role. The Italian-Brazilian actor had a cult following thanks to his roles in 27 Spaghetti Westerns between 1965 and 1975.

Dan Martin and Anthony Steffen in Der Letzte Mohikaner
German postcard, no. 4 of 64. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Lezte Mohikaner/The Last Tomahawk (1965) with Daniel Martin (right).

Sword and Sandal Epics
Anthony Steffen was born as Antonio Luiz De Teffè von Hoonholtz in 1929, at the Brazilian embassy in Rome. He was the son of Formula 1 champion and Brazilian ambassador Manoel de Teffè. During World War II, teenager Antonio left home to join the partisans against the Nazis. After the war he worked as a messenger boy on Ladri di biciclette/Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) and as a second assistant director on Ci troviamo in galleria/We are in the gallery (Mauro Bolognini, 1953). He started acting in secondary roles in small scale dramas like Gli Sbandati/Abandoned (Francesco Maselli, 1955) starring Lucia Bosé, and Beatrice Cenci/Castle of the Banned Lovers (Riccardo Freda, 1956) with Micheline Presle. In these films he was credited as Antonio de Teffè. He also found gainful employment in the Peplum films, the sword and sandal epics, such as Afrodite, dea dell'amore/Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (Mario Bonnard, 1958) with Isabelle Corey, and played a small role in Sodom and Gomorrah (Robert Aldrich, 1962) starring Stewart Granger.

Dan Martin and Anthony Steffen
German postcard, no. 1 of 64. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Letze Mohikaner (1965).

Anthony Steffen in Der Letzte Mohikaner
German postcard, no. 3. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Lezte Mohikaner (1965).

Under the name Anthony Steffen, he carved a reputation within the Spaghetti Western genre between 1965 and 1975. He featured in such films as Uno Straniero a Paso Bravo/A Stranger in Paso Bravo (Salvatore Rosso, 1968), which created a cult following amongst European Exploitation fans. In the Euro-western Der Letze Mohikaner/The Last Tomahawk (Harald Reinl, 1965), he played the frontiersman Natty Bumppo, also known as Falkenauge (Hawkeye). He is the white ally of Unkas (Daniel Martin), the son of the chief of the Mohicans. They discover that the Huron and a gang of white bandits have destroyed the tribe of the Mohicans, and take revenge. The film was based on the famous novel The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.

Der Letzte Mohikaner
German postcard, no. 12 of 64. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Lezte Mohikaner.

Der Letzte Mohikaner
German postcard, no. 17 of 64. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Lezte Mohikaner.

Steely-faced Gunslinger
According to Matt Blake at European Film Review, Anthony Steffen is often (and unfairly) being detracted as a ‘wooden’ performer, but in many ways he is ideally suited to playing the steely-faced gunslinger synonymous with the Spaghetti Western. Steffen's most memorable role was Django in Pochi dollari per Django/Few Dollars for Django (Léon G. Klimovsky and – uncredited – Enzo G. Castellari, 1966) opposite another icon of the Spaghetti Western, Frank Wolff, and Django il bastardo/Django The Bastard (Sergio Garrone, 1969). In the latter, which he also co-wrote and produced, he played a phantom gunslinger returned from the grave to avenge his own death. According to Wikipedia, it is considered to be an inspiration for Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter (1973). Outside of the Spaghetti Western genre, Steffen also appeared in several Giallo films including La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba/The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Emilio Miraglia, 1971). As with many of his contemporaries, the number of Steffen's roles diminished as the 1970s progressed and the Spaghetti Western genre fell into decline. One of his last films was the Brazilian thriller Momentos de Prazer e Agonia/Moments of pleasure and agony (Adnor Pitanga, 1983). Anthony Steffen eventually retired to Brazil and died in Rio de Janeiro in 2004 of cancer. He was 73 and left two sons from his marriage in Rome, Manuel and Luiz.

Anthony Steffen vs William Berger in Una lunga fila di croci/No Room To Die (Sergio Garrone, 1969). Source: Pasolini85 (YouTube).

Opening Scene of Django il bastardo/Django The Bastard (Sergio Garrone, 1969). Source: Pecosbr (YouTube).

Sources: Matt Blake (European Film Review), Daniel Camargo (IMDb), IMDb and Wikipedia.

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