Archivio Siciliano del Cinema
By Manuela Maria Giordano
July 7, 2022
In the field of popularization of film culture, ASCinema met Daniela Giordano, an actress in vogue between the sixties and seventies, known in the genres of our cinema, including several Italian-Spanish co-productions, as well as muse in mario Bava's foray into the Italian sexy comedy How many times ... that night (1972), a preclaro example of cinema happily intertwined with scenographic elements full of aesthetics and design.
[Daniela Giordano together with the editor of ASCinema Manuela Maria Giordano at the Hotel Zagarella in Palermo (7 July 2022) (photo by Salvatore Arcarese).]
A multifaceted and brilliant personality, Daniela Giordano, born in 1946, lives in the oblivion that the world of cinema seems to have wrongly assigned to her. She began her career immediately after winning the prestigious Miss Italy contest in 1966, the following year she made her debut on the big screen with the film I barbieri di Sicilia by Marcello Ciorciolini alongside Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. From that moment, and until 1980, she was active in the western, comedy, thriller, detective and horror. Mrs. Giordano has already retired to private life for many years and leads a very quiet life in her native Palermo, devoting herself above all to writing, studies on paranormal phenomena and painting (1, 2), through which she pays homage to her Sicily, but with cinema always in her heart. When our editor Manuela Maria Giordano (no relation to the actress) wrote to her to propose an interview that also touched on unusual aspects, she immediately accepted with enthusiasm. The meeting took place at the Hotel Domina Zagarella on the outskirts of Palermo, on July 7th.
MMG: Hello Daniela and thank you for accepting this interview for ASCinema! Let's start immediately from the beginning of your long journey: from a roundabout on the beach of Mondello to the famous Salsomaggiore competition and, finally, the landing at Cinecittà. How did such a young girl cope with that period full of changes?
DG: Riding the wave, or rather, riding the waves! For my part, the changes would have been greeted with great pleasure if I had not had to face the turmoil of my parents: a favorable father, a contrary mother. That was not easy! However, the beginnings were simplified by the fact that my father's brother worked in Rome and that his family was willing to host me for a while and keep an eye on me – which is very challenging. I had won the car and the money and so I felt independent. And who could tell me anything more?
MMG: The Miss Italy band has meant a great opportunity for you, if you had not made cinema what would you have wanted to do? Did you have dreams?
DG: At that time – we are in 1966 – I already painted, I came from art school and I wanted to be a poster designer. Work that you could only find in Milan. This time, however, my parents agreed. They would never send me to live alone in Milan, so, thinking even then to travel and see the world, I decided that I wanted to learn the English language. This was also a bit difficult. My mother preferred French for a girl. So I also fought for English and ended up at the British College in Palermo. Then I started giving private lessons to the children. It didn't last long because shortly after I won Miss Italy. I was 19 years old and under Italian law I was still a minor.
MMG: From 1967 to 1980 you crossed all film genres, from comedy to westerns, from detective to thriller and even horror. Which one did you feel most comfortable in and enjoyed playing the most?
DG: I've always felt more comfortable with western movies. I already saw them at the Gaudium cinema, the parish hall near my home in Palermo. Doing them then in the first person rewarded me a lot. I liked the horses, I liked the characters to play and I also liked the protagonists. Around the age of 15 I had a crush on Peter Lee Lawrence, a German actor, best known for his many spaghetti westerns and several photonovels. You can imagine how excited I felt when I made a film with him (The Four Gunslingers of the Holy Trinity). Later I had another crush on Peter Graves, the American actor who for years had played the Mission Impossible TV series, where the opening was that of a tape recorder that after the instructions given to the agent self-destructed in a cloud of smoke – at that time Tom Cruise was just born! When I had the opportunity to work with Peter Graves on a western, unfortunately he was already too old for me.
MMG: Speaking of horror... In 1976 you played a rather peculiar one, directed by the Spaniard Paul Naschy, Inquisición. What memories do you have of this film?
DG: Beautiful and less beautiful. It was a physically tiring film, but beautiful to play. I had a character to create: from a simple girl to a witch for love, and I wouldn't really consider it a horror, but rather an almost historical film. I was the protagonist and I really liked that character. Paul Naschy was very happy to have found an actress who resembled the woman whose story he told. He was a historically documented character and of whom Naschy had found a portrait in an ancient book. And I looked like her. The hardest things in the film? Picking up a skull with all the white vermicelli coming in and out of the orbits, killing a hen and plucking it, or forcing me not to flee when they lit the fire all around me to burn me at the stake as a witch. The film, initially distributed only in Spain, was later sold in Europe and the United States. He cashed in a lot. Recently they made it a blu-ray DVD and it is considered a "cult" by fans. Italy was one of the few countries that did not distribute it. In 1976 that kind of film didn't matter (we already had the 'sexy comedy'). In Inquisición, according to the distributors, there was not enough naked, the Spanish actors were not known in Italy, only my name (the only Italian) was not strong enough to pull the whole film and, above all, the dubbing would have cost a lot.
MMG: I know that you did not like having to do the nude scenes, in this regard is it true that once you refused a proposal from none other than Carlo Lizzani?
DG: Yes, it's true. It was the first film that my agency, William Morris, proposed to me, just fresh from Miss Italy. Together with my father, accidentally in Rome at that time, I met Lizzani with whom I had an appointment. For Lizzani I was fine as a little girl who would have a love affair with a man much older than her. Shortly before leaving, he asked me if I was available for the nude scenes in the film. I said no. So he greeted me and we left. Shortly after, William Morris proposed to me I barbieri di Sicilia, with Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. And I agreed. It was my first film!
MMG: You have worked with many directors, including foreigners, even with important names such as Dino Risi (in Vedo nudo, 1969) and Mario Bava (How many times... that night, 1972). What relationship did you have with them on set? Did your point of view matter or did you simply adapt to the needs?
DG: After the period of westerns, the type of films has changed. And I adapted, in the sense that if from my point of view there were scenes that were too risqué or I refused the film or, if there was room for negotiation, I communicated even before signing the contract that I was not available to scenes too pushed. I must say that, according to the directors, I was "a great troublemaker". But if they wanted me, they had to come to an agreement with me. Typically, if they accepted, they either took the stunt double or transferred the nude scenes to other characters. For How many times... that night I started arguing right away. There were too many nude scenes on the script. In the end Mario Bava convinces me by talking about cache-sexe, a plaster that "sticks" on the private parts, light effects of the type I see-I don't see, and other cinematic tricks. He was very fatherly and seemed to understand my problems. In the end, in the scenes that I considered "stronger" you could see almost nothing with all the patches I had glued above, below and behind. Bava would solve the sequences that worried me with providential plants, screens and other effects. The problem, for which I wanted an extra payment, was to remove the patches in the evening at home! As much as the hot bath helped to dissolve the glue, it was certainly not easy to pull it all away. Not even with Dino Risi was a problem, we agreed immediately.
MMG: Mario Bava has been widely re-evaluated by critics over the years and his films have become cult objects among cinephiles. How many times... that night of which you were the protagonist, was even reduced to cinenovel format both in Italy and in France. Do you have any curious anecdotes related to the making of this film? What kind was Bava?
DG: Already from what I told before you can guess that Bava was a very good person. He had patience, at least with me, and was considered a good director. I gave some problems, however, to the American actor Brett Halsey, my partner in the film. In one scene I had to run to meet him, hug him and give him a kiss on the mouth. We do two or three tests (without kissing) for the positions and distances of the small race. Then Bava gives the action. I leave towards Brett and I make a mistake a few millimeters in the position of my mouth. Result: my incisors slam into his and make him jump the capsules that roll somewhere on the floor. Brett shouts, "Stop everyone! You don't start spinning again if you don't find the capsules first!". So, everyone starts looking for them among the light cables, platforms, trolleys and other tools of the set. I was mortified and sorry. I know how much the jobs at the dentist cost, but deep down I feel justified because I am short-sighted and a millimeter more or less for me does not make much difference.
[Daniela Giordano and Brett Halsey in How many times... quella notte (1972), in the cinenovel reduction French Erosfilm, n. 4, March 1977 (Fondo Cineromanzi di ASCinema – Archivio Siciliano del Cinema)]
[To be continued tomorrow]