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06 October 2017

Amleto Novelli

EFSP follows Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone this week. A programme that fascinates us is Beginnings of the Western. The European ProductionSurprisingly, all European countries seemed to produce Westerns in the 1910s. The festival poster is based on the original poster for the Italian Western Sulla via dell'oro/The Human Bridge (Baldassarre Negroni, 1913). Star of this film is Amleto Novelli (1885-1924), a famous actor in Italian silent cinema. He appeared in many historical epics and starred with all the divas of the Italian film. During the shooting of a film, he suddenly died, only 38.

EFSP congratulates Richard Abel, the curator of the Beginnings of the Western programme, with winning the Jean Mitry Award 2017. Abel is co-winner of this award, together with John Libbey, publisher on many books on silent cinema. Richard Abel is professor emeritus of International Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Michigan, and author of such groundbreaking studies as French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929 (1984), The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914 (1994) and The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900-1910 (1999). His most recent book is Menus for Movieland: Newspapers and the Emergence of American Film Culture (2015).

36th Pordenone Silent Film Festival 30 sept - 7 oct 2017
Postcard of the poster of the 36th Pordenone Silent Film Festival (Le Gionate del Cinema Muto), 30 sept - 7 oct 2017: Sulla via dell'oro/The Human Bridge (Baldassarre Negroni, 1913).

Amleto Novelli in Madame Tallien
Italian postcard, no. 1069. Photo: publicity still for Madame Tallien/Madame Guillotine (Enrico Guazzoni, Mario Caserini, 1916).

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard by A. Traldi, Milano, no. 14. Photo: Fontana.

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano.

Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli in Madame Tallien
Italian postcard by Ed. Vettori, Bologna. Photo: publicity still of Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli in Madame Tallien (Enrico Guazzoni, 1916).

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard. Photo: Civirani, Rome.

Amleto Novelli
Italian postcard by E. Vettori, Bologna, no. 224. Photo: Civirani, Rome.

Ardent and honest performance


Born in Bologna, Italy, and an orphan at age 12, Amleto Novelli remained home, taking care of his sisters and working as civil servant until he was 22.

Stagestruck Novelli then fled to Rome in 1906 to follow his passion and become a theatre actor. Soon he was acting amidst young and old stage actors at the Teatro Tiberino. He was soon singled out for his ardent and honest performance, which despite his lack of classical beauty hugely attracted audiences. His passion and inflammability would also show when people living from cinema would despise it.

From 1908 he was performing at the Roman company Società Italiana Cines, first in numerous historical shorts such as Marco Visconti (Mario Caserini, 1909) and San Sebastiano/By Order of the Emperor (Enrique Santos, 1911), and contemporary tales such as In pasto ai leoni/The Lion Tamer's Revenge (Enrique Santos, 1912), Il trabocchetto punitore/Fatal Trap Door (1912) with Ermanno Roveri and Emilio Ghione, and La rupe del Malconsiglio/Blow for Blow (1913) with Enna Saredo.

For director Enrico Guazzoni, he appeared in the short historical films Agrippina (Enrico Guazzoni, 1911) about Agrippina the Younger (Adele Bianchi Azzarili) and Bruto/Brutus (Enrico Guazzoni, 1911). In the latter, he portrayed Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. Bruto was moderately successful.

When feature films came along, he starred as the virile Italian man in many epics directed by Guazzoni. He played the warm, sincere and passionate Roman hero Marcus Vinicius in Quo vadis? (Enrico Guazzoni, 1912-1913) and it became a triumph. The film was based on the 1896 novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Wikipedia: "It was arguably the first blockbuster in the history of cinema, with 5,000 extras, lavish sets, and a running time of two hours, setting the standard for 'superspectacles' for decades to come." The Cines production was a major international hit and a personal triumph for Novelli.

So he soon repeated this successful performance as Marc Anthony in Marcantonio e Cleopatra/Antony and Cleopatra (Enrico Guazzoni, 1914) adapted of William Shakespeare's play of the same title, with inspiration also drawn from a poem by Pietro Cossa, and as Julius Caesar in Caio Giulio Cesare/Julius Caesar (Enrico Guazzoni, 1914) with Bruto Castellani and Pina Menichelli. Taking its inspiration from William Shakespeare's 1599 play of the same title, the film portrays the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar. It was produced on an epic scale, including vast sets recreating Ancient Rome and more than 20,000 extras.

Gustavo Serena and Amleto Novelli in Quo vadis?
Italian postcard by Film Cines, Roma, no. 6572. Photo: publicity still of Gustavo Serena as Petronius Arbiter and Amleto Novelli as Marcus Vinicius in Quo vadis? (Enrico Guazzoni, produced 1912, released 1913).

Marcantonio e Cleopatra (1913)
German postcard by BKWI, no. 35. Photo: publicity still for Marcantonio e Cleopatra (Enrico Guazzoni, 1913). Marc Anthony (Amleto Novelli), dressed as an Egyptian pharao, rejects his wife Octavia (Elsa Lenard).

Madame Tallien
Italian postcard by IPA CT Duplex, no. 3272. Photo: Films Cines. Publicity still for Madame Tallien (Enrico Guazzoni, 1916), with Lyda Borelli as Terese de Fontenay/Madame Tallien, and Amleto Novelli as Tallien.

Malombra (1917)
Italian postcard by IPA CT Duplex. Photo: Film Cines. Publicity still for Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1917) starring Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli. Caption: I don't know nothing, I remember nothing. I never lived, never apart from now. I knew only you would come, this moment. I have the frenzy to enjoy it.

Malombra (1917)
Italian postcard by IPA CT Duplex. Photo: Film Cines. Publicity still for Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1917) starring Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli. Caption: ...at that moment she felt her waist held by the powerful hands of Silla, who lifted her back up the stairs.

Malombra (1917)
Italian postcard by IPA CT Duplex. Photo: Film Cines. Publicity still for Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1917) starring Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli. Caption: Here, she said, signing him to sit down on the ground next to her. All your memories...

Fabiola (1918)
Spanish postcard for Amatller Marca Luna chocolate, Series 8, no. 7. Photo: Palatino Film. Publicity still of Augusto Mastripietri and Amleto Novelli in Fabiola (Enrico Guazzoni, 1918).

Male Antagonist of the Divas


Amleto Novelli also had a large share in the diva films as the male antagonist of Lyda Borelli in drama Marcia nuziale/The Wedding March (Carmine Gallone, 1915), Madame Tallien (Enrico Guazzoni, Mario Caserini, 1916) and Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1916), an adaptation of the 1881 novel Malombra by Antonio Fogazzaro.

With Pina Menichelli, he co-starred in Papà (Nino Oxilia, 1915) and Il padrone delle ferriere/The Railway Owner (Eugenio Perego, 1919), and with Francesca Bertini in Spiritismo (Camillo De Riso, 1919), La piovra (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1919) and L'ombra/The Shadow (Roberto Roberti, 1920).

He also was the leading man of Soava Gallone in Avatar/The Magician (Carmine Gallone 1916) and La chiamavano 'Cosetta' (Eugenio Perego, 1917), and of Maria Jacobini in La casa di vetro (Gennaro Righelli, 1920) and La preda (Guglielmo Zorzi, 1921). Other divas with whom he worked were Italia Almirante and Diana Karenne.

Novelli continued to act in historical epics as well. These included Christus (Giuseppe Antamoro 1915), Fabiola (Enrico Guazzoni, 1918) featuring Elena Sangro, La Gerusalemme liberata/The Crusaders (Enrico Guazzoni, 1918) with Elena Sangro, Dante nella vita e nei tempi suoi (Domenico Gaido, 1922), and Il fornaretto di Venezia (Mario Almirante, 1923).

During the shooting of La casa dei pulcini in Turin (Mario Camerini, 1924) in Turin, Novelli suddenly died at age 38 only. The cause was encephalitis, a sudden onset inflammation of the brain. Novelli was married to Adalgisa Orlandini.

Post mortem nine (!) films with him were released, including the historical epics La congiura di San Marco (Domenico Gaido, 1924), a sequel to Il ponte dei sospiri (1921), and Marco Visconti (Aldo De Benedetti, 1925), a remake of his 1909 film. Amleto Novelli had played in over a 100 Italian silent films.

In his study Muscoli e Frac (Muscles and Tails), Italian film historian Denis Lotti is surprised that there is no monograhy on Novelli. Despite the fact that his name pops up in every film historiography.

Francesca Bertini and Amleto Novelli in La piovra
Italian postcard by Ed. G. Vettori, Bologna, no. 525. Photo: publicity stuill of Francesca Bertini and Amleto Novelli in La piovra (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1919).

Amleto Novelli and Pina Menichelli in Il padrone delle ferriere (1919)
Italian postcard by Ed. G. Vettori, Bologna. Publicity still of Amleto Novelli, Pina Menichelli and Luigi Serventi in Il padrone delle ferrriere (Eugenio Perego, 1919), based on Le maitre des forges by Georges Ohnet.

Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La casa di vetro (1920)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 13. Photo: publicity still for La casa di vetro/The glass house (Gennaro Righelli, 1920) with Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli.

Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La casa di vetro
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano. Photo: publicity still of Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La casa di vetro (Gennaro Righelli, 1920).

Claretta Sabatelli and Amleto Novelli il Il voto
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milanono. 367. Photo: Fotominio. Publicity still of Claretta Sabatelli and Amleto Novelli in Il voto (Eugenio Fontana, 1921).

Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli in La preda (1921)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 46. Photo: Fotominio. Publicity still for La preda/The prey (Guglielmo Zorzi, 1921) with Maria Jacobini and Amleto Novelli.

Amleto Novelli in La preda (1921)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 191. Photo: Amleto Novelli and Maria Moreno in La preda/The Prey (Guglielmo Zorzi, 1921).

Maria Jacobini amd Amleto Novelli in Amore rosso (1921)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano. Photo: publicity still of Maria Jacobini, Lido Manetti and Amleto Novelli in Amore rosso/Red Love (Gennaro Righelli, 1921).

Il fornaretto di Venezia 256
Italian postcard by G.B. Salci, Milano, no. 256. Photo: publicity still of Amleto Novelli and Nini Dinelli in Il fornaretto di Venezia (Mario Almirante 1923). Caption: The nobleman Lorenzo says farewell to his wife, pretending he is called outside of Venice.

Il Fornaretto di Venezia 250
Italian postcard by G.B. Salci, Milano. Photo: publicity still for Il fornaretto di Venezia (Mario Almirante, 1923) with Amleto Novelli as the nobleman Lorenzo Barbo.

Amleto Novelli in La congiura di San Marco
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still of Amleto Novelli (as Rolando Candiani) and Teresa Pasquali (la dogaressa) in La congiura di San Marco (Domenico Gaido, 1924), a sequel to Il ponte dei sospiri (Domenico Gaido, 1921) with Luciano Albertini. The plot deals with Rolando (Novelli), who has become the new doge, and married the beautiful Leonora Dandolo (Ria Bruna). Yet, followers of the former, evil Doge, try to raise the people against Rolando. Rolando is not alone, because his loyal friend Scalabrino (Celio Bucchi) and a woman from the people, Zanze (Bianca Stagno-Bellinicioni), help him. The film was very popular in Italy. at the time. Amleto Novelli died before the film was finished, so it was posthumously released.

Sources: Denis Lotti (Muscoli e Frac - Italian), Sempre in penombra (Italian), Wikipedia (Italian and English) and IMDb.

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