Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remembering Oreste Lionello

Oreste Lionello was born on April 18, 1927 in Rhodes, Greece. Lionello’s father had a career in the military and Rhodes was under Italian occupation at the time of Orest’s birth but the family soon moved back to Italy. His school years were spent in Reggio Calabria in the deep south, and he crossed over to Sicily to study law at Palermo University. But acting was already a passion, nurtured in amateur groups while he worked in a notary's office, and finally indulged to the full when he moved to Rome in 1954. He began his career as a radio comedian and gag-writer in a city whose entertainment scene was still dominated by the cabaret theatres that so inspired another recent émigré from the provinces, Federico Fellini. Like Fellini (who would later offer him his dubbing pièce de résistance - voicing eight separate actors in his 1978 film Prova d'Orchestra), Lionello did a bit of everything in his early years, lending his voice to Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and making his TV debut in the children’s comedy sci-fi series “Il Marziano Filippo” in 1956. His feature-film dubbing career took off in the early 1960s, when, among other roles, Lionello Italianized Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove” and Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”. Lionello also had a successful acting career outside the dubbing studio. He was a cabaret performer, character actor and TV mimic, whose take-off of the éminence grise of Italian politics, Giulio Andreotti, remained definitive for many years - only supplanted by Toni Servillo's more sinister take on Andreotti in Paolo Sorrentino's kooky political operetta Il Divo. Lionello, although dubbing several Euro-westerns into Italian appeared in only one; “In the Name of the Father” (1969) as Mambo. Lionello died on February 19, 2009 in Rome leaving a wife and four children. Today we remember Oreste Lionello on what would have been his 85th birthday. 

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps Lionello's most enduring fame in Italy was his decades long role as the Italian voice of Woody Allen. He dubbed Allen's voice from "Take The Money And Run" onwards. Just last week at the World premiere (in Rome) of his latest film, "To Rome With Love", Woody Allen quoted at the press conference:"...I don't like dubbing at all...Having said that, the man who dubbed for me for years in Italy made me into a hero. It was his voice everyone liked. I'm not sure if they had heard my own voice they would have been that responsive". It's a pity Allen didn't mention Oreste Lionello by name.