Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Franco Franchi: conversation with his son Massimo

May 19, 2016

Franco Franchi, the stage name of Francesco Benenato (Palermo, Italy, September 18, 1928 - Rome, Italy December 9, 1992), was an Italian actor, comedian and singer. Together with Ciccio Ingrassia (born Francesco Ingrassia) together formed the comedy team ("Franco e Ciccio") and entered by all rights into the history of Italian cinematography.

Franco Franchi, in my opinion, together with Totò was the biggest face of our cinema (especially at the mimic level). In a certain sense, the great Totò was a source of inspiration?

Toto was a great source of inspiration for Dad and when he started performing as a street artist, he always did his imitation, tracing his mimic expressions. I think it was his most beloved character and I remember that when we watched his films together, we laughed like crazy.

How was his relationship with Ciccio Ingrassia: were they so tight even outside the set?

Affection and esteem were at the base of the relationship with Ciccio. They had spent most of their lives together and had really gone through all the colors. Occasionally there was a quarrel, but they were bad mood passengers: in essence they were two great friends. I remember the lost expression of Ciccio when Dad went away: it was clear that something in him had broken irreparably.

What are the films interpreted by your father that he loved in a special way?

Among his favorite films there was surely "Two Marines and a General" due to the presence of Buster Keaton, another sacred movie monster that Dad worshiped. He was also very proud of "Pinocchio" by Comencini and of "Kaos" by the Taviani brothers, where together with Ciccio he interpreted the "Giara" of Pirandello. Finally he liked very much "Ultimo tango a Zagarol", a film acclaimed by both critics and the public.

The director whom he most admired, with whom he wanted to work?

I do not know who his favorite directors were, he had great respect for everyone and never mentioned a specific name. I remember his regret for not having been able to participate in "The Name of the Rose" by Jean Jacques Annaud ... a beautiful lost opportunity. Surely he will have had some secret dreams, but he never revealed them to us.

The film by the famous duo Franchi-Ingrassia that you liked best?

I like almost all his films, those already mentioned definitely. I would add "L'onorata società" by Riccardo Pazzaglia and "Nel sole" by Grimaldi, two very funny films with a cast of great actors.

In the long career of your father, there is there a role, a film that for various reasons he should have interpreted, but that had escaped him?

As I have already mentioned "The Name of the Rose". Unfortunately, Dad had to give up for contractual reasons related to television programs and for the trick they wanted to impose on him for the role of Salvatore: an excessive transformation that made him almost unrecognizable ... Personally I think he committed an error in refusing it...

When he was not busy with the cinema, what did he love to do: what were his passions?

Dad had many pastimes and I'm sure that if he had not been a great actor he would have nevertheless become a great artist. He knew how to do everything, he loved painting, sculpture, music ... maybe his greatest passion was astronomy. He spent whole nights scanning the stars and reading many books. His eyes shone with pleasure as he paused to talk about it with us. He also loved nature and the great outdoors. He often took us to isolated places just for the pleasure of being comfortable with his family and especially with himself.

An unavoidable question: what was he like as a father? Can you tell us about your relationship?

Besides being a loving and caring father, he was also a great friend. With him we could talk openly about everything and solve problems simply. It transmitted joy and serenity with mere presence and hardly got angry at our shortcomings. Being with him was a joy and when he did not work he was involved us in a thousand businesses. He liked to talk about himself at night and I often spent the small hours listening to the hilarious stories about his youthful vicissitudes.

One last curiosity: if he had not undertaken (with great success) his acting career, Franco Franchi what other (professional) dream would he have cultivated?

As I said dad could have done many things and I think he would have stood out in any activity he would have tried, given the great passion he put into what he did. I would like the admirers to know him more deeply as a man and that's why I decided to tell it in a book that I started writing for some time.

Thank you!!!

Massimo Benenato: passionate about literature (he founded a cultural circle in the neighborhood where he lives), has published, among other things, the children's novel Geremia Fiore and the book of Oberon published by Direkta in 2009.

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