28 August 2019

Giani Esposito

Giani Esposito aka Gianni Esposito (1930-1974) was a Belgian actor, singer/songwriter and poet. He appeared in 50 films between 1951 and 1973.

Gianni Esposito
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 697. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Gianni Esposito
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris offered by Les Carbones Korès "Carboplane", no. 1059A. Photo: Sam Lévin.

French Cancan

Giani Esposito was born in Ixelles/Elsene, in the south of Brussels, in 1930. His father was Italian, his mother French. Later, his family moved to Paris and between 1939 and 1949, he grew up in Italy.

In 1951, Esposito became an actor in French cinema, starting with a bit part as a Jewish passenger in Maitre après Dieu/Skipper Next to God (Louis Daquin, 1951) starring Pierre Brasseur.

Around the same time he started a singing career, performing at the cabarets La Rose Rouge and L'Ecluse, and in 1957 he had success with the song Le Clown. From 1958 on he made several records with his texts and songs. He also published some books and made illustrations.

Meanwhile he appeared in supporting parts in such films as the Jean-Paul Sartre adaptation Huis clos/No Exit (Jacqueline Audry, 1954), the musical French Cancan (Jean Renoir, 1955) starring Jean Gabin, Les mauvaises rencontres/Bad Liaisons (Alexandre Astruc, 1955) with Anouk Aimée, and Les misérables/Les Misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1957-1958) based on the book by Victor Hugo.

In 1959 he met Pascale Petit who became his partner. In 1966 their daughter Douchka Esposito was born.

Béatrice Altariba and Gianni Esposito in Les misérables (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress. Photo: DEFA. Béatrice Altariba and Esposito played Cosette and Marius in Les misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1957-1958).

Gianni Esposito and Beatrice Altariba in Les Misérables (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 951, 1958. Photo: DEFA. Publicity still for Les misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1957-1958) with Béatrice Altariba as Cosette and Giani Esposito as Marius. The film was a co-production of DEFA (East-Germany), P.A.C. (France), Serena (Italy) and Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma (France).

The Decameron

Until 1971, Giani Esposito played roles in many French films, including Paris nous appartient/Paris Belongs to Us (Jacques Rivette, 1960), the two-part experiment Françoise ou La vie conjugale/Anatomy of a Marriage (André Cayatte, 1964) featuring Marie-José Nat, and its sequel Jean-Marc ou La vie conjugale/Anatomy of a Marriage (André Cayatte, 1964) featuring Jacques Charrier.

He also worked in Italy and had a part in Il Decameron/The Decameron (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1971), based on the novel Il Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. It was the first film in Pasolini's Trilogy of Life.

Between 1957 and 1973 Esposito played in various telefilms and television series. His final TV film was the romance L'enchantement/The enchantment (Robert Mazoyer, 1974) with Nicole Courcel.

In 1971 Esposito met Ersie Pittas, niece of the Greek director Michael Cacoyannis, and left his wife and daughter. With Pittas he started a show in which he recited poems while she danced, touring around France in 1972-1973.

While having an overload of projects and plans Giani Esposito was struck by a viral hepatitis and a brain tumour in late 1973, and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on New Year's Day 1 January 1974.

Photo of Paris nous appartient/Paris Belongs to Us (Jacques Rivette, 1960). Collection: The Island of Cinema @ Flickr.

Giani Esposito sings Le Clown. Source: Pierre M. Lavallée (YouTube).

Sources: Passage Giani Esposito (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

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