30 July 2017

Folco Lulli

Acclaimed Italian film actor Folco Lulli (1912–1970) appeared in 104 films between 1946 and 1970, mainly in strong character roles. He was very active in both Italian and French cinema. Now he is best known as one of the four nitroglycerin truck drivers in Henri Georges Clouzot‘s classic nail-biter La Salaire de la Peur/The Wages of Fear (1953).

Folco Lulli
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1458. Photo: Arthur Grimm / CCC-Film / Allianz. Publicity still for Stern von Rio/Star from Rio (Kurt Neumann, 1955).

Folco Lulli
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4222. Photo: Arthur Grimm.

Anti-fascist partisan

Folco Lulli was born Florence, Italy, in 1912. He was the son of baritone Gino Lulli and Ada Toccafondi. His brother was actor Piero Lulli.

Folco studied and got degrees in law and philosophy. In 1935 he commanded a group of Ethiopians during the conquest of Abyssinia, where he developed his anti-fascist ideology.

During World War II, he fought with anti-fascist partisans against the Nazis. From September 1943 on, he fought in the brigade I Gruppo Divisioni Alpine, commanded by Enrico Martini. Lulli was captured by the Nazis, and deported in Germany. He escaped and after the war he returned from the Soviet Union to Italy.

In 1946, he was discovered for the screen by filmmaker Alberto Lattuada, who directed him in the crime drama Il bandito/The Bandit (Alberto Lattuada, 1946), starring Anna Magnani and Amedeo Nazzari. Lulli then appeared in Lattuada’s Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo/Flesh will surrender (Alberto Lattuada, 1947), featuring Aldo Fabrizi.

He also appeared in a supporting part in the Neorealist drama Caccia tragica/The Tragic Pursuit (Giuseppe De Santis, 1947), starring Vivi Gioi and Andrea Checchi. The film was awarded with the First Prize at Film Festival of Venice as 'The Best Italian Film of the Year'.

Lulli played his first leading role in the crime drama Fuga in Francia/Flight Into France (Mario Soldati, 1948). He also appeared in Senza pietà/Without Pity (Alberto Lattuada, 1948), starring Carla del Poggio, and the Totò comedy Totò cerca casa/Totò Looks for an Apartment (Mario Monicelli, Steno, 1949).

He reunited with Giuseppe De Santis for the Neorealist drama Non c'è pace tra gli ulivi/No Peace Under the Olive Tree (Giuseppe De Santis, 1950), starring Raf Vallone and Lucia Bosé. It was filmed on natural locations in the mountains of Ciociaria, the homeland of De Santis.

The next year, Lulli appeared in a supporting part in the classic Luci del varietà/Variety Lights (Alberto Lattuada, Federico Fellini, 1951) about a provincial vaudeville troupe, headed by Peppino De Filippo.

Folco Lulli in Polikuschka (1958)
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1457. Photo: Arthur Grimm / CCC-Film / Allianz. Publicity still for Polikuschka (Carmine Gallone, 1958).

Folco Lulli in Polikuschka (1958)
Austrian postcard by Kellner-Fotokarten, Wien, no. 1544. Photo: CCC / Bavaria / Arthur Grimm. Publicity still for Polikuschka/Polikuska (Carmine Gallone, 1958).

Folco Lulli
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4140. Photo: Dieter E. Schmidt / Ufa.

A cat-and-mouse game with death

Folco Lulli had his international breakthrough with the thriller La Salaire de la Peur/Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953), starring Yves Montand, Charles Vanel and Peter van Eyck. They play four men in a decrepit South American village, who are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerin shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.

Howard Schumann at IMDb: "This unlikely group will play a cat-and-mouse game with death for the remainder of the film. Clouzot depicts several incidents that bring the tension to the boiling point." La Salaire de la Peur won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival.

From then on Lulli appeared in both Italian and such international co-productions as the biblical epic Ester e il re/Esther and the King (Raoul Walsh, 1960) featuring Joan Collins, and I Tartari/The Tartars (Richarde Thorpe, 1961) starring Victor Mature and Orson Welles.

Successful Italian films were the war comedy La grande guerra/The Great War (Mario Monicelli, 1959) with Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman, and L'armata Brancaleone/For Love and Gold (Mario Monicelli, 1966) with Vittorio Gassman and Catherine Spaak.

He won the Nastro d'argento award by the Italian National Union of Film Journalists for his role in I Compagni/The Organizer (Mario Monicelli, 1963). All three films were directed by Mario Monicelli and written by the duo Age & Scarpelli.

Lulli played the president of Latin American country in the hilarious comedy-thriller Le Grand Restaurant/The Big Restaurant (Jacques Besnard, 1966), starring Louis de Funès and Bernard Blier. In 1967 he wrote, scripted and directed a film about the Mafia, Gente d‘onore/Honored People (Folco Lulli, 1967) with Leopoldo Trieste.

Folco Lulli suffered from diabetes and respiratory difficulties. He died of a heart attack in 1970 in a hospital in Rome. He was 57. His final film, the comedy Tre nel mille/Three in a thousand (Franco Indovina, 1971), was released after his death.

Scene from Caccia tragica/The Tragic Pursuit (1947). Source: borgorusky (YouTube).

Trailer La Salaire de la Peur/Wages of Fear (1953). Source: neondreams 25 (YouTube).

German trailer for Der Mörder mit dem Seidenschal/The Murderer with the Silk Scarf (Adrian Hoven, 1966). Source: Italo-Cinema Trailer (YouTube). Sorry, no subtitles!

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Find A Grave, Wikipedia (English, French and Italian), and IMDb.

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