Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Susan Terry interview

By Chiara Carna
To welcome me with open arms, as if we had known each other all our lives, is a friendly and affable woman. Her spontaneity and courtesy strike me immediately, so much so that I immediately feel at home. The home of Teresa Terrone, a name that probably will mean little or nothing to the reader, is elegantly furnished and I would say that the lovely lady could be our aunt or grandmother. But the framed pictures on the walls are overflowing with newspaper clippings and photos from film sets depicting a beautiful brunette, which reveal and confirm that I am in front of the actress Susan Terry. That's right: this exquisite and bubbly woman, which insists that I accept a slice of cake and makes me feel absolutely at ease, in the 1960s participated in fabulous parties on the arm of Federico Fellini and appeared in films directed by Sergio Grieco, who did so much that he would to marry her.
But Susan warns me: "I am pleased to tell you my story, but do not expect anything fancy!" A fact I do not agree with at all.
For the young Teresa, it all began one summer evening in Capri: "I was having dinner with my family at La Canzone del Mare where, that evening, was to be held the final of Miss Cinema Pageant. At one point, an unknown gentleman told me that someone wanted to talk to me. I was puzzled and looked at my diners wondering who this man could be. It was Dino de Laurentiis! I did not care much for the entertainment world because of my strict upbringing, so I did not know who he was exactly. The fact is I took part in the competition only at the last minute, by which time the games were finished and I did not even participate in the classic swimsuit parade; which the local audience would use to declare the winner. Well, I was lucky. Following this episode, the weekly Le Ore - which dealt mainly with cinema - I adorned the cover and was the subject of an article. Later, I moved to Rome, despite the reservations of my parents, and I made my debut on the big screen with a small part in “The Mysterious Swordsman” directed by Sergio Grieco. It was there that I met for the first time the man who would become my husband. Soon, I joined as an actress in the touring company of vaudeville performer Nino Lembo - Gino Landi was the choreographer - and we toured all over Italy. My family took it very badly, but it was the best time of my whole career. The opening night, in the province of Viterbo, I was wearing for the first time in my life fishnet stockings and a corset. I did not have the faintest idea how to wear the lingerie, and because of my inexperience and ignorance, did not put on panties! Gino Landi, who was sitting in the audience, saw everything and I had a good dressing down, after the show! "Do you think that the big applause tonight was dependent on your outstanding performance?" He joked.
Another evening, we arrived very late in a small town in Calabria. We were very hungry and a man was just pulling down the shutters of his shop, and did not seem willing to help us. Behind the closed blinds, we could glimpse a thousand pairs of eyes peering curiously on what was happening in the street and it was then that someone unidentified, from a window nearby, shouted to the shopkeeper, alluding to me: "Open up! Give some food to Sofia Loren!"
It was not the first time that I happened to be confused with Loren! This clearly did not bother me, but I did not even feel flattered. However, thanks to my likeness, that evening we ate!"
It's amazing how much she has to tell. The memories of Susan flow like a river in a flood. She tells me about her next tour with Johnny Dorelli and Betty Curtis, her experiences on TV with Guido Notari and Monica Vitti and those on the sets of Bruno Corbucci.
"People stopped me on the street more because I was the one who looked like Sophia Loren but because I was Susan Terry! The name of art, by the way, was chosen by my agent Peppino Perrone. I used my real name at the end of my career, in The Octopus, for example. But I've never watched my films, or even the projections for the crew. I've always been hypercritical with myself, almost ashamed if I was asked for an autograph."
I asked, at this point, of her great love for Sergio Grieco, director on the set, and then in life.
“My first film, and then our meeting, dates back to 1955. We had been friends for many years, even though he had shown no immediate interested in me. But I saw him as a good friend and even talked to him of my relationships. Then, in time and patience, he was able to conquer me. But I must confess that the union with my husband, artistically speaking, it was a disadvantage for me. Sergio was a gentleman, a man extraordinarily cultured and charming. Giuliano Montaldo called him the best, professionally and culturally, of their generation, which counted the likes of Luchino Visconti, Gillo Pontecorvo, Carlo Lizzani etc. But he was shy and lonely I was always speaking for him. I do not blame him, evidently I was so determined to emerge from neglecting his opinion. I wanted more for him than for his career, but cannot deny that today I regret it slightly. Sergio loathed worldly life and did not give much confidence to the actors outside the processing of film. I was much younger than him and I was an extrovert and optimistic. I stopped working to be with him and tried to change it. I organized dinners and evenings in the company, but he did not appreciate it much. I was wrong and I failed. I represented both our work and our private life, things he was accustomed to keeping them clearly separate, and perhaps this was to put it into crisis. In his films in which I played, I was not absolutely valued  and more than the other performers, although between us there was an ongoing story. I was always played the second female role. But I have always given great importance in the years of our life together, our love. Receiving love has always been more important than success.
To hinder the career of actress Susan however, was not only the jealousy of Sergio Grieco, but also an unpleasant episode: "I remember one time when a well-known Italian director and screenwriter, who is still alive, he told me that for me it would be very difficult work just because I was the wife of a colleague. I could tell him the stories of other artists that then he could copy ... However, if I was 'cute' with him, maybe ...This is one of the reasons why I do not love the films of Quentin Tarantino, I knew why he bought the rights of a subject of my husband Sergio, from which then it was made into the film Inglorious Bastards by Enzo G. Castellari. The Tarantino movie, in my opinion, has given resonance to the work of a generation of Italian filmmakers deplorable, from both a professional and personal. "

In Susan coexists sweet memories and bitter regrets. She acknowledges to have been too little enterprising, in the past, but is happy to be able to count, even today, unfogettable friendships of great artists: "Without exaggeration, I can say that I would have to play the role that later went to Claudia Cardinale Un maledetto imbroglio by Pietro Germi. Of course fate is written and apparently mine was very different from hers. Far be it from me to declare that she owes me her good fortune, but perhaps accept for that role it would be mine. But I preferred to leave for Milan, to get my boyfriend back then... Unfortunately! A story that has been repeated with Damiano Damiani, who was also a friend. I was to play the Countess Olga Camastra in The Octopus, that role then went to Florinda Bolkan. In the end, I only recited a scene with Michele Placido, in the final part of the series.

Cristina Gajoni won the Silver Ribbon for her performance in Nella città d’inferno by Renato Castellani; even that role was to be mine. Giulietta Masina was in turn cast in the part, and when I went to Safa Palatino Studios to have the results of the screen test, took my hands, looked into my eyes and said to me: "If you reject the role, you're crazy! If you want a little to do well, do not do it! "But stupidly I gave in to her. The friendship of her and Federico Fellini, after all, was enough to make me happy. His was a true and loyal relationship. I’ve known, in the world of entertainment, wonderful people like Giuliano Montaldo, Pietro Germi, and others, with whom was born a solid and disinterested friendship, which was my victory. And here I was content; honestly, it never crossed my mind to confuse friendship with work. The only exception I made reciting La Dolce Vita, just to Fellini. He has always been a special case ... I introduced him to Maurizio Mein. How many festive evenings spent with him and Franco Rossi (director of The Seducer). Fellini was a fool but a very nice person. Then I often allowed myself to go to parties, Sergio was still only a friend. During one of these evenings, I had long hair blacks in a braid that came down to my buttocks, and Federico made me wear a gorgeous low cut dress, and made me go as an Indian princess who did not speak Italian. He introduced me to all these people, and I could not open my mouth all night!

I left the house of Susan / Teresa, only after I agreed to taste the delicious cake, enthusiastic, thoughtful and incredibly curious. We chatted for nearly two hours; many questions were asked and I left still thinking: I'd like to continue to talk to her, deepening her anecdotes, ask more about her past, exciting, difficult ... authentic. Too bad that our time was up, but Susan, irresistible and an elegant speaker, dismissed me with a promise: "If you want to know more, you can call me whenever you want ..." And I just think that I will...

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