10 February 2017

Antonio Cifariello

Handsome Antonio Cifariello (1930–1968) was an Italian actor and documentary filmmaker. In his short but intense career he starred in several Italian comedies as a young and seductive Don Giovanni. He worked with several famous directors, including Federico Fellini, Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini and Valerio Zurlini. Cifariello also appeared in a few international films.

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. N. 65.

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 1058. Photo: Diana Cinematografica. Publicity still for Racconti romani/Roman Tales (Gianni Franciolini, 1955).

Antonio Cifariello in I quattro del getto tonante (1955)
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit., no. 3327. Photo: ENIC. Publicity still for I quattro del getto tonante/The four thundering jets (Fernando Cerchio, 1955).


Antonio Cifariello was born in Naples, Italy, in 1930. He was the grandson of the sculptor Filippo Cifariello, notorious for killing his wife out of jealousy in 1905.

Antonio was discovered for the screen while rowing at the Canottieri Savoia club in the seaside village of Saint Lucia in 1950. He auditioned and got the lead part, credited as Fabio Montale, in La sposa che vestiva di bianco/The bride wore white (Mario Baffico, 1950-1957). The film had several production issues and was only released as Amanti senza peccato in 1957.

In the meanwhile Cifariello had enrolled at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, graduating in 1953. Cifariello also appeared in several Fotoromanzi using another stage name, Mauro Vellani. His official film debut was in Italian historical drama Eran trecento... (La spigolatrice di Sapri)/They were 300 (Gian Paolo Callegari, 1953), starring Rossano Brazzi.

Federico Fellini then chose him to play a journalist in Un Agenzia matrimoniale/Marriage Agency, one of six segments of an anthology about love, L’amore in città/Love in the City (Michelangelo Antonioni, Carlo Lizzani, Federico Fellini a.o., 1953). Fellini’s segment is a delight. Bethany Cox at IMDb: “The beautiful visuals, deliberate pacing, nostalgic yet mystical storytelling and colourful music are all there, and Fellini's poetic and quite ambitious style is as distinctive as you would expect.”

In a short time Cifariello then established himself as one of the most requested young actors in the Italian cinema. He starred in the debut of director Valerio Zurlini, Le ragazze di San Frediano/the Girls of San Frediano (1954) as a Florentine mechanic, who romances several women simultaneously and secretly, but they conceive a plot to punish him.

He appeared opposite Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica in the comedy Pane, amore e.../Scandal in Sorrento (Dino Risi, 1955), the third film of the trilogy formed by Pane, amore e fantasia/Bread, Love and Dreams (Luigi Comencini, 1953) and Pane, amore e gelosia/Bread, Love and Jealousy (Luigi Comencini, 1954).

Next he starred with Silvana Pampanini and Alberto Sordi in the comedy La bella di Roma/The Belle of Rome (Luigi Comencini, 1955). He appeared with Anna Magnani in the comedy drama Suor Letizia/The Awakening (Mario Camerini, 1956). He had a supporting part in the comedy Giovani mariti/Young Husbands (Mauro Bolognini, 1958), featuring Gérard Blain.

In the Italian-West German crime-drama-comedy Le bellissme gambe di Sabrina/The Beautiful Legs of Sabrina (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1958), he co-starred with Mamie Van Doren. It was Van Doren's first film made away from Hollywood. The film was a flop and is now largely forgotten.

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard by Turismofoto, no. 93.

Antonio Cifariello in Pane, amore e..... (1955)
Italian postcard by Casa Editr. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (B.F.F. Edit.), no. 3197. Photo: Titanus. Publicity still for Pane, amore e...../Scandal in Sorrento (Dino Risi, 1955).

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard by Bromostampa, Milano, no. 162.

Tired of playing stereotypical characters

Antonio Cifariello became tired of playing stereotypical characters of seducers or boyfriends in comedies. In the 1960s, he appeared in such adventure films as I masnadieri/Rome 1585 (Mario Bonnard, 1961) with Daniela Rocca and Debra Paget, and the Walt Disney Productions feature film In Search of the Castaways (Robert Stevenson, 1962), starring Hayley Mills and Maurice Chevalier.

Cifariello played an Indian Chief in this tale about a worldwide search for a shipwrecked sea captain, based on Jules Verne's novel Captain Grant's Children. Craig Butler at AllMovie: “Castaways has a lovely cast, with Hayley Mills in fine form, whether falling in love or falling down a slope. If Maurice Chevalier and Wilfrid Hyde-White go over the top, they still have charm, and George Sanders's understatement counteracts them nicely. In smaller roles, Antonio Cifariello and Wilfrid Brambell make strong impressions as a stolid Indian and a not-so-crazy lunatic. Advances in screen technology may have reduced Castaways' impact, but most children will still find it entertaining -- as will those parents willing to meet it halfway.”

In Search of the Castaways was worldwide a box office hit and was the 3rd highest grossing film of 1962 in the US. Cifariello also appeared in another American production, Jessica (Jean Negulesco, Oreste Palella, 1962), starring Maurice Chevalier and Angie Dickinson.

He also appeared in the historical musical La bella Lola/The Lovely Lola (Alfonso Balcázar, 1962) starring Sara Montiel. The film, a co-production between France, Italy and Spain, was based on the 1848 novel The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas.

Cifariello gradually moved his career towards journalism and television documentaries. His last feature film was the Polish film Giuseppe w Warszawie/Giuseppe in Warsaw (Stanislaw Lenartowicz, 1964) with Zbigniew Cybulski. Cifariello played an Italian deserter in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943, who moved between the Germans and the Polish resistance.

In 1968 Antonio Cifariello suddenly died. He was on a trip in Zambia, making a documentary for RAI television, when his plane crashed. He was only 38. Between 1954 and 1960, he had been married to actress Patrizia Della Rovere. They had one son, composer Fabio Cifariello Ciardi. At the time of his death, Antonio Cifariello was the partner of actress Annie Gorassini.

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard, no. 296.

Antonio Cifariello
Italian postcard, by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 1072. Photo: Lux Film.

Long scene from Un Agenzia matrimoniale/Marriage Agency (1953). Source: Notengoweb (YouTube). Sorry, no subtitles.

Sources: Craig Butler (AllMovie), Bethany Cox (IMDb), Movieplayer (Italian), Wikipedia (English and Italian), and IMDb.

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