Friday, May 31, 2019

Spaghetti Western Trivia ~ 50 years ago Once Upon a Time in the West premiered in New York City on May 28, 1969

New York Times Film Review
By Vincent Canby
May 29, 2019

ONCE upon the time in Italy, there lived a little boy named Sergio Leone who, like all little boys, went to the movies quite a lot, particularly to see Hollywood Westerns. In Italy, people like John Wayne and Gary Cooper spoke Italian slang, which never quite corresponded to their lip movements. As a result, there was always something of a distance between the sound and the image of the movies that enchanted Sergio.When he grew up, Sergio became a movie director. Because Hollywood had more or less abandoned the Western, he went to Spain where he made his own Westerns with a star cast off from American television. "A Fistful of Dollars." "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" made Leone a fortune, Clint Eastwood a first-class movie star, and created what was, in effect, a new movie genre. The world of a Leone Western is just as enchanted as it was in the films the director saw as a child, but the values have become confused. Heroes as well as villains are apt to be motivated by greed and revenge, and the environments in which they operate are desolate and godless, though very beautiful. The Leone Westerns are twice removed from reality, being based on myths that were originally conceived in Hollywood studios in the nineteen-thirties. And, because Leone films are usually shot in Italian and later dubbed into English, there is that same distance between sound and image that existed in the John Wayne movies that Leone watched in his youth. One result of this is that the Leone Western may seem even more arbitrarily violent and brutal than it really is. "Once Upon the Time in the West," which opened yesterday at Loew's State 2 and at Loew's Orpheum, is the biggest, longest, most expensive Leone Western to date, and, in many ways, the most absurd. It is also the first Leone movie to be shot on American locations (Arizona and Utah), although most of it apparently was photographed in Leone's beloved Spain. Granting the fact that it is quite bad, "Once Upon the Time in the West" is almost always interesting, wobbling, as it does, between being an epic lampoon and a serious hommage to the men who created the dreams of Leone's childhood. The movie is eclectic in dramatic detail—it contains the plots of at least a half-dozen movies you've already seen—as well as in origin. Among those who are credited with the story and screenplay are Leone himself and Bernardo Bertolucci, one of the most original of the new crop of Italian moviemakers ("Before The Revolution," "Partner"). Credited with having contributed to the English dialogue is none other than Mickey Knox, best known here as a member of Norman Mailer's rat pack. The movie's narrative outline, which has to do with efforts to grab some land important to the building of a railroad to the West, is simply an elaborate excuse for a series of classic confrontations between classic Western types. Those include Henry Fonda, the kind of killer who will shoot a child at point-blank range; Claudia Cardinale, the hooker from New Orleans (which explains her accent, as it often did when Marlene Dietrich turned up on the frontier); Jason Robards, a gunman with a fondness for widows who look like Miss Cardinale, and Charles Bronson, who plays Leone's favorite Western character, the enigmatic Man With No Name, en route from nowhere to nowhere, a kind of Flying Dutchman of the plains. Although "Once Upon the Time in the West" has moments of genuine impact, such as an early shoot-out between Bronson and three hired killers at a lonely way station, it is mostly fun for the way it cherishes movie styles and attitudes from the past.It's no accident that people like Lionel Stander, Jack Elam and Keenan Wynn turn up in supporting roles, or that when Miss Cardinale, newly arrived in the West, takes the carriage to her husband's farm, the route takes her through John Ford's Monument Valley. I also like the kind of pure movie exchange that takes place when Henry Fonda confronts one of his men for having betrayed a confidence. "You can trust me," says the man. Replies Fonda: "How can I trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? He don't even trust his own pants." "Once Upon the Time in the West" thus is a movie either for the undiscriminating patron or for the buff. If you fall somewhere in between those categories, you had better stay home or go see "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium."

When the Monegros were Arizona: the 'Spaghetti Western' fever that connected Rome, Barcelona and Candasnos

El Diario

For a handful of liras. Or rather, for a few thousand. That was the main reason that led Italian film producers, who had found their peculiar gold in films of the West, to transfer part of their films to Spain. They were the 1960's of the last century, and the spaghetti western lived its golden age. The Iberian connection was carried out by the Balcázar Studios, a furrier company converted into a film industry, which thought that, although Almería was the usual scenario for these films, the Monegros were closer to Barcelona and would be cheaper. Now, the documentary “Goodbye Ringo” recovers part of this little known chapter of Spanish cinema.

Pere Marzo (Barcelona, ​​1988), director of the film, explains how this story reached his hands: "It was pure coincidence, a friend told me about the existence of an actor who shot many westerns, George Martin, who was actually called Paco Martínez and I was from Barcelona, ​​I was pulling that thread and I arrived at the Balcázar Studios, the epicenter of western production in Catalonia and Aragon, how was it possible that something so powerful existed, in which directors known as Duccio Tessari were involved? or Tinto Brass, and that nothing is left of that? "

Out of that frustration arose the challenge of trying to locate the last survivors of that industry and record their story. "Directors, actors, technicians ... people who stopped making films a long time ago, but who still had their eyes sparkling when we asked them how those movies were made," says Marzo. Among those names are the five protagonists of the documentary: Alberto Gadea, who was an actor and head of specialists at Estudios Balcázar; Paco Marín, director of photography; the directors Giorgio Capitani and Romolo Guerrieri, and the producer Maurizio Amati.

Recognizable landscapes

The people disappear - Capitani died shortly after the filming of the documentary - but the landscape remains. “Goodbye Ringo” opens with Alberto Gadea recreating one of the most memorable scenes of “Yankee” (1966), the shooting, shot in the desert of Cardiel. Other still recognizable scenes of that film by Tinto Brass are located in Alcolea de Cinca.

"The spaces tell us many things," says Pere Marzo, "sometimes by opposition, such as the site where the Balcázar Studios were, where nothing remains today, and others, because the landscapes of Fraga, Alcolea, Chalamera or Candasnos are still linked to those films, because they are still recognizable and still allow today to remember the westerns ... With a bit of props, as they did then planting cactus for the scenes, they are still perfect scenarios ".

Among the films shot by the Balcázar in the Monegros and Bajo Cinca, March highlights the well-known as Saga de Ringo: “A Pistol Ringo” and “The Return of Ringo”, 1965 and 1966, respectively; of these, the first was shot in Almería, while the exteriors of the second one have Fraga as their location. "Now these titles do not tell you anything, but at the time they were a bombshell, there are even those who consider them the true initiators of the spaghetti western phenomenon, because although Sergio Leone had already premiered “A Fistful of Dollars” in 1964, these were a great success at the box office. " Likewise, Marzo recommends recovering the aforementioned “El Yankee” and “The Ruthless Four” (Giorgio Capitani, 1969), which he describes as "a little gem".

Much of the history of these shootings in Alto Aragón was also recovered in 2011 by Sergio Belinchón in his Western exhibition, produced by the Diputación de Huesca. In that exhibition, from a perspective closer to art, in addition to the history of the films under the Balcázar label, those produced by the producer of Ignacio F. Iquino were included: between the two, they added almost thirty films in land of Huesca, with such American titles as “Nevada Joe” (1964), “Gunmen of Arizona” (1965), “Five Giants from Texas” (1965), “Dynamite Jim” (1966), “Texas Kid” (1966) or “The Fabulous of Trinidad” (1972).

A legendary ending

The end of the Balcázar Studies was "the fall of an empire", in the words of Pere Marzo. "In a decade, between 500 films of the West were shot between Spain and Italy, a lot of money, so much money that producers closed deals to make movies without even knowing the plot." The public got tired of that, they stopped being successful at the box office and the genre went into decline, "explains the director of “Goodbye Ringo”. This was joined by the crisis in the sector and a change of model in Spanish cinema that made large studios unviable. Esplugas City, the gigantic town built in 1964 on the outskirts of Barcelona, ​​stopped making sense.

Against this background, the Balcázar put The End to their business adventure in a big way. The family tried to get a final performance to turn the set into a theme park, in the style of the existing ones in Almeria. However, the "legend" tells, according to March's own expression, that the Minister of Information and Tourism at the time, Alfredo Sánchez Bella, on a trip to the Catalan capital, observed with horror what from a distance looked like a shanty town , and immediately ordered its demolition, because of the bad image that it transmitted to the tourists who landed in Barcelona.

In this way, the Balcázar’s burned and dynamited the whole town, with its Saloon, its Bank and its place for hangings, and they shot the scene to take advantage of it in their last film: “Now They Call Him Sacramento”. A film-worthy ending to a dream whose memory still runs through the dusty plains of the Monegros.

Special Birthdays

Mario Migliardi (composer) would have been 100 today, he died in 2000. 

Franco Beltramme (actor) would have been 90 today, he died in 2012.

Manfred Ensinger (cinematographer) is 90 today.
Tom Berenger (actor) is 70 today. 

Philip Attmore (actor, dancer) is 35 today.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Voices of the Euro-western ~ Fistful of Dollars

As we know most of the Euro-westerns were co-productions from Italy, Spain, Germany and France which incorporated British and American actors to gain a worldwide audience. The films were shot silent and then dubbed into the various languages where they were sold for distribution. That means Italian, Spanish, German, French and English voice actors were hired to dub the films. Even actors from the countries where the film was to be shown were often dubbed by voice actors for various reasons such as the actors were already busy making another film, they wanted to paid additional salaries for dubbing their voices, the actor’s voice didn’t fit the character they were playing, accidents to the actors and in some cases even death before the film could be dubbed.

I’ll list a Euro-western and the (I) Italian, (S) Spanish, (G) German and (F) French, (E) English voices that I can find and once in a while a bio on a specific voice actor as in Europe these actors are as well-known as the actors they voiced.

We’ll start off with “A Fistful of Dollars”

Clint Eastwood – (I) Enrico Maria Salerno, (S) Jesús Nieto, (G) Klaus Kindler, (F) Jacques Deschamps, (E) Clint Eastwood
John Wells (Gin Maria Volonte) – (I) Nando Gazzolo, (S) Carlos Revilla, (G) Reiner Brandt,  (F) Claude Joseph, (E) Bernard Grant
José Calvo – (I) Luigi Pavese, (S) Francisco Sánchez, (G) Hans Hinrich, (F) Jean Martinelli, (E) Jack Curtis
Margarita Lozano – (I) Anna Miserocchi, (S) MariÁngeles Herranz, (G) ?, (F) Paule Emanuele, (E) Anna Miserocchi
Marianne Koch – (I) Rita Svagnone, (S) Ana María Saizar, (G) Marianne Koch, (F) ?, (E) Joyce Gordon
Benny Reeves (Benito Stefanelli) – (I) Sergio Graziani, (S) ?, (G) Wolfgang Hess, (F) ?, (E) ?
Wolfgang Lukschy – (I) Giorgio Capecchi, (S) Benjamin Domingo, (G) Wolfgang Lukschy, (F) Yves Furet, (E) Bernard Grant
Antonio Prieto – (I) Mario Pisu, (S) Joaquín Vidriales, (G) Klaus W. Krause, (F) Gérard Férat, (E) George Gonneau
Sieghardt Rupp – (I) Bruno Persa, (S) Francisco Arenzana, (G) Sieghardt Rupp, (F) Jacques Balutin, (E) Bernard Grant
Josef Egger – (I) Lauro Gazzolo, (S) Manuel De Juan, (G) Josef Egger, (F) ?, (E) Robert Dryden 
Richard Stuyvesant (Mario Brega) – (I) Rento Turi, (S) Rafael Calvo Revilla, (G) Werner Lieven, (F) Claude Bertrand, (E) Ray Owens

BERNARD GRANT [1920 – 2004]

Bernard Grant was born in The Bronx, New York City, New York October 10, 1920. As a youth he came to acting through church groups. He then attended New York City College while acting for neighborhood theaters. He belonged to a comedy trio that performed at nightclubs and then became a radio announcer at WPAT-AM in New York and studied acting at the American Theater Wing. He served for three years in the United States Army during World War II, entertaining troops and reaching the rank of staff sergeant. In 1947 Bernie started appearing in radio dramas, sometimes as many as four a day. He often played two people in the same show, one with a high voice and one with a low voice.  In the early 1950's he made the transition to television, appearing in shows like ''Kraft Theater'' and ''Omnibus.'' Later he became a soap opera star, for two decades, Mr. Grant was a fixture of daytime dramas on television, most notably as the mellow Dr. Paul Fletcher in ''The Guiding Light'' for 13 years and as Steve Burke, a more brusque type, in ''One Life to Live'' during the 1970's. An acting career that included radio, summer stock and Broadway, Mr. Grant got steady work speaking for stars in foreign films translated into English. He was the voice of Marcello Mastroianni, Yves Montand and Jean Gabin, among many others, and was the English-language heavy voice for all of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns.

Bernard was married to actress and voice dubber Joyce Gordon [1919-2020] who voiced Marianne Koch’s Marisol in “A Fistful of Dollars”. The couple had two children Mark and Melissa.

Bernard Grant died in Manhattan, New York City, New York on June 30, 2004.