Harold Bradley

June 20, 2008

Harold Bradley was a familiar face in Italian films from the early sixties, appearing in a number of them uncredited. He was also a mainstay of the Roman scene; a former footballer, singer and club manager who drifted into acting for the amusement of it… and because it was a good way of earnign a bit of easy cash. He started off playing assorted servants and slaves, often uncredited, before moving on to more substantial parts, such as one of The Seven Rebel Gladiators. One of the most interesting films in his cv was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a German / Austrian / Italian adaptation of the classic novel which featured many expat American performers (Johnny Kitzmiller was the star). He also had a substantial part in Alfonso Brescia’s Days of Violence, but his appearences outside of the peplum genre were rather restricted and he returned to America in the late 60s. In recent years, he’s turned up in the occassional Italian production, as well as having a small role in the cinecitta shot Sylvester Stallone film Daylight. I actually interviewed Harold a couple of years ago, and he’s an extremely nice chap!

Bei der letzten Frankfurter Buchmesse haben wir tolle Kontakte geschlossen und sehr viele unserer Kunden persönlich kennen gelernt. Das ist natürlich erst einmal ein überwältigendes Erlebnis, denn vor Start der Messe waren wir uns nicht sicher, wie viele Kunden dort draußen uns kennen und wie viele Besucher wir an einem Messestand überhaupt begrüßen können. Und wir waren mehr als positiv überrascht. Genau wie Conrad der Online Shop für Tekkies ist scheint unser Verlag tatsächlich viele wilde Leser anzusprechen. Neben Lob und Anregungen haben wir auch sehr viele Ideen für kommende Veröffentlichungen bekommen. Zusätzlich haben wir Fachkontakte geknüpft die uns helfen werden, unseren Verlag in Zukunft noch besser zu präsentieren und unsere Bücher in noch mehr Verkaufsstellen präsent zu haben. Vielen Dank an alle Messebesucher!

Here’s a brief profile I found online:

The home of art
Harold Bradley arrived in Italy in January 1959, aged 29, to study art. Just retired from a career at the heights of American football, and with a previous degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa under the belt, he chose the Università per Stanieri di Perugia for his personal re-launch, thanks to a grant awarded for his service with the US Marines.

The young American was interested in drawing, portraiture, graphic art, collage, and other techniques. But besides attending classes and arranging exhibitions in Perugia and Rome, he quickly got the chance to sing in public. “I had almost no experience singing in public, but everyone can sing, you learn that in folk music,” he says. At his first public performance in a Perugia bar he sang ‘Old Man River’, the theme of his “hero”: singer, actor and civil rights activist, Paul Robeson. “With those words I could always communicate who I was,” says Bradley, the son of a black post deliveryman and a half-cast mother who grew up in West Woodlawn, Chicago.

The Folkstudio days
In 1960 Bradley moved to Rome and opened a studio in Trastevere, the local version of New York’s Greenwich Village, with the Canadian sculptor Bob Cowgill. After finishing painting every evening, he would sing folk music and spirituals with a few friends. By word of mouth the studio located at 58 Via Garibaldi became more and more crowded and turned into an open stage for international folk music. It was called the ‘Folkstudio’, a name which would become a legend on the Italian music scene.

“The Folkstudio became the ‘mysterious, wonderful place in Trastevere where this black guy does things with friends’,” says Bradley. “As the crowds got bigger, I borrowed benches from the local church. I would say we did spirituals so they would agree to lend them,” he recalls. “I would try to make the audience participate in call-and-response type compositions and the stage was open to all.” Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and the Trinidad Steel Band were among those who played there, as well as many Italians, including the famed singer and ethnologist Giovanna Marini.

Hollywood-On-The-Tiber
In parallel the Chicagoan continued his artwork, founded the group ‘Folkstudio Singers’ and pursued a career in acting, which allowed him to support himself. Bradley was not a trained actor but, as with singing, he stayed open to the possibilities which presented themselves. He got his first part in ‘Tragica notte di Assissi’ while accompanying friends to the sets even though he had never read a script before. “Give me a chance and I’ll prove myself”, was his approach, helped by a sense of invincibility gained from playing in the NFL – including winning two Superbowl titles with the Cleveland Browns – and by his spiritual upbringing. “I always leaned on the spiritual thing, not the material thing. You can overcome everything with your mind, you can be invincible,” says Bradley, who was nurtured on Christian Science, a religious movement founded in the US in the 1870s.

Lazio-Illinois-Lazio
Bradley was making Italy his new home. “Italy inspired me style-wise. I liked it because of its warm people. I liked the way Italian women look. People made me members of social clubs, something which never would have happened in the US,” he explains. He married a German girl he met at Italian language classes, with whom he had children, deepening his roots in Italy.

Then in 1968 he went back to the US for what was intended as a short visit. But he was given “an offer too big to refuse” as curator for the Illinois Arts Council and ended up staying in the state for 19 years. During this period he also worked as a teacher at the University of Illinois, as an art consultant for a State-run programme, doing and hosting television shows with CBS and NBC affiliates in his free time, teaching in prisons, and even finding time for some acting. “I was burning the candle at both ends,” says Bradley, who admits he only needs a few hours sleep every night. Then at Christmas 1987, the all-round artist, teacher and musician went back to Europe to see family in Germany, planning a stop in Rome, and ended up settling by the Tiber again.

Blues, gospel and jazz
On his return Harold declined an offer to manage the Folkstudio, which had kept going all those years albeit in different locations. But he did get back into music. A few concerts at Folkstudio led to a relationship with the Alexanderplatz, one of Rome’s historic jazz clubs, and the art direction fell into his hands for a few months. Around this time Bradley was also approached by a group of young musicians, Jona’s Blues Band, who asked him to be their frontman. “Blues wasn’t exactly his thing” but he gave it a try. The band would be a great success and toured all around Italy, performing some 120 concerts a year.

“I was more open when I came back to Italy,” recounts the Roman-Chicagoan. “I spread out a lot. I did these innovative things nobody else was doing.” For example, although he didn’t have a background in Gospel, he liked the music, and he believed there was a possibility to introduce it to Italy. He co-founded several spirituals groups: the St John’s Singers of Manziana, Voices of Glory, with Masa Opasha and Annette Meriweather, and its spin-off, the Bronzeville American Gospel, with Meriweather and Jho Jhenkins [another singer / actor]. Voices of Glory, active since the early 90s, sang for five years at the Valdese Church and later at the Church of Saint Paul Within-The-Walls.

Other groups that Bradley performed with after his return to Italy include a jazz-focused quartet named after its great blind pianist, Toto Torquati. He also played with various other musicians for short-term collaborations, including the late Tony Scott, the eccentric and legendary Italian-American jazz clarinettist who died in Rome in March last year (see June 2007 issue of TRF). And on top of this he had his MC job at Palazzo Brancaccio since 1988, with a brief interruption after the 9/11 attacks.

Future plans
These days the local jazz scene is at a low and work in the film industry is very rare, but Harold Bradley is never short of projects. He is collecting material to write a book about the Folkstudio, while planning to put some order into his artwork, at present stored in his Monteverde studio apartment. He dreams of travelling to Africa to find his ‘African roots’ and also playing Shakespeare’s Othello.

Surprisingly for a man with such a prolific career in music, Bradley has only rarely recorded (he did two CDs with Voices of Glory and the single-CD ‘Kumbayah’ with the ‘Matite colorate’ choir as a fundraiser for Darfur children). “I always preferred live to studio techniques. But now I want like to record and I hope to satisfy that in the near future,” he says, citing several works in progress with Bronzeville American Gospel and the Harold Bradley Blues Band. In the meantime Bradley is still a regular on Rome’s music scene, and for those who want to hear him sing, this is probably the only way.

Films

  • Io Semiramide (1962) aka I Am Semiramis …. Semiramide’s coloured Slave
  • Maciste, il gladiatore più forte del mondo (1962) aka Colossus of the Arena …. Tucos
  • Maciste, l’eroe più grande del mondo (1963) aka Goliath and the Sins of Babylon …. Regia’s Servant
  • Eroe di Babilonia, L’ (1963) aka The Beast of Babylon Against the Son of Hercules …. Mursuk
  • Tarzak contro gli uomini leopardo (1964) aka Tarzak Against the Leopard Men (USA)
  • Maciste nell’inferno di Gengis Khan (1964) aka Hercules Against the Barbarians
  • Onkel Toms Hütte (1965) aka Uncle Tom’s Cabin …. Harris
  • Sette contro tutti (1965) aka Seven Rebel Gladiators …. Tucos
  • Missione apocalisse (1966) (as Harold W. Bradley) aka Operation Apocalypse …. King Joe
  • Per amore… per magia… (1967) aka For Love… for Magic
  • Troppo per vivere… poco per morire (1967) aka Your Turn to Die
  • Giorni della violenza, I (1967) aka Days of Violence …. Nathan
  • Daylight (1996) …. Police Chief
  • Memsaab (1996)
  • Pacco, doppio pacco e contropaccotto (1993) aka Package, Double Package and Counterpackage
  • Solo x te (1999) … Angel of the Supermarket

Television

  • “Donna di fiori, La” (1965) TV mini-series …. Il barman
  • “Valeria medico legale” (1 episode) - Bentornata Valeria (????) TV episode

R.I.P. Cyd Charisse

June 18, 2008

Cyd Charisse has died, aged 87, in her home in Hollywood. There’s an obit up on the Telegraph, quote:

Cyd Charisse, the long-legged beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, has died aged 87.

She appeared in dramatic films, but her fame came from the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

Classically trained, she could dance anything, from a pas de deux in 1946’s “Ziegfeld Follies” to the lowdown Mickey Spillane satire of 1956’s “The Band Wagon” (with Astaire).

She also forged a popular song-and-dance partnership on television and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Martin.

What I doubt many of the obituaries will mention is that she also had some contact with the European film industry, appearing in films like Terence Young’s French musical Black Tights (60), Mario Zampi’s now obscure caper Five Golden Hours (61), Gerry O’Hara’s spy flic Maroc 7 (67) and Kevin Connor’s adventure film Warlords of Atlantis (78). Possibly her most interesting of the bunch, though, was the 1965 Italian giallo, Assassinio made in Italy, an early example of genre in which she starred with Hugh O’Brien and Eleonora Rossi Drago.


Il Resto della notte

June 17, 2008

Il resto della notteOnly one new release in Italy this week, the rather melodramatic sounding Il resto della notte, directed by Francesco Munzi, who won several awards for his previous film, Saimir. This is one of several films that seem to be coming out at the moment dealing with the rather touchy subject of immigration and the integration of immigrants; a very timely subject given what’s happening in Rome and elsewhere.

The plot revolves around a young Romanian, Maria (Laura Vasiliu), who’s sacked from her position as a domestic after her employer, neurotic bourgeois Silvana (Sandra Ceccarelli), becomes wrongly convinced that she’s been stealing. Left with no other option, Maria hooks up again with her ex-boyfriend, Ionut, who’s just out of prison and has fallen in with cocaine addict Marco (Stefano Cassetti). Driven to desperation, they begin thinking about robbing Silvana’s house to make some quick cash…

This sounds like another slice of life drama, along the lines of early Bertolucci or even the neo-realists. Might well be worth a look if it makes it to an international release.


Sonia Bennett

June 16, 2008

Sonia Bennett was an actress who appeared in a number of porn films in the early eighties. She was popular enough to have her ‘own’ film, L’amica di Sonia in 1983, but disappeared from view a couple of years later. I don’t really know anything more about her, though…

There’s also an actress called Sônia Benetti, who appeared in Moinhos de Vento (a 1983 tv mini series). Same person?

  • Attenti a quelle due… ninfomani (1981)
  • Bocca golosa (1981) aka Greedy Mouth
  • Carnalitá morbosa (1981)
  • Ereditiere superporno, Le (1981)
  • Goduria (1982)
  • Labbra bagnate (1981)
  • Porno investigatrici, Le (1981)
  • Pornovideo (1981)
  • Orgasmo esotico (1982) aka Orgasmo erotico
  • Orgasmo non-stop (1982)
  • Amica di Sonia, L’ (1983)
  • Amante bisex, L’ (1984)

Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi interview

June 13, 2008

There’s a new interview on the Hell of the Living Dead website, with director Claudio Fragasso and actress Rossella Drudi


Sarah Ross

June 12, 2008

Couldn’t resist posting up this fun picture of Sarah Ross (aka Sonia Romanoff), the actress who appeared in films like The Fuller Report and The Greatest Robbery in the West. It’s by Rino Ballinari, the King of the Paparazzi, and it’s indeed him having an ice cream mashed into his face while grabbing shots on the Via Veneto!

Sarah Ross


Carlo Gaddi

June 12, 2008

Carlo GaddiCarlo Gaddi was one of my favourite Italian character actors, a jaundiced looking fellow who turned up as a variety of hangdog cops, sleazy bandits, mafia henchmen and the like. Suffice to say, he wasn’t exactly someone who ever garavitated towards heroic roles. So, it was interesting to hear this bit of gossip about him on the Gente Di Respetto site:

Carlo Gaddi - who had a great face - was from Montefiascone and died some years ago. In his life - from what I’ve heard - he only acted in his spare time. His officail occupation was of an entirely different type, something you’d never imagine possible for someone who played the kinds of roles he did. Like his illustrious predecessor, the Marchese Onofrio del Grillo, Gaddi was a sediario pontificio, or, to be more precise, one of those responsible for arranging the transport of the pope on his portable throne


Mario Brega interviews on YouTube

June 12, 2008

Here’s a fun little interview in which Mario brega talks about a fight that took place between himself and Gordon Scott on the set of Buffalo Bill l’eroe del Far West: Mario Brega vs Gordon Scott


R.I.P. Dino Risi

June 9, 2008

Yet another bites the dust. Dino Risi - one of the last guard of the classic Italian directors of the 60s and 70s - died on the 7th June. There’s a lengthy obituary in the Guardian, quote:

The title “maestro of Italian film comedy” was one that Dino Risi, who has died aged 91, shared with Mario Monicelli, 18 months older, but still alive. Along with the late Pietro Germi, who made Divorce, Italian Style (1961), they created the genre which became known as “comedy Italian style”, a considerable improvement on the average Italian comic films of the time. Even if Risi’s 1974 film Profumo di Donna (Scent of a Woman), with Vittorio Gassman as man trying to come to terms with his blindness, was perhaps his greatest international success (winning him an Oscar nomination for its screenplay and a Hollywood remake with Al Pacino) it was his 1962 comedy, also starring Gassman, Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life), which was to become a cult movie. It is among the films that most reflected the mood of its times, in this case the social malaise behind the Italian economic “miracle” of the 1960s.

I’ve got to admit that I’ve hardly seen any of Risi’s films, so I can’t really comment… although in my defence the fault’s not intentional. For some reason, despite his name, he’s one of those directors who’s remained sorely under-represented on DVD (the same goes for Monicelli and Comencini).


Wild Country

June 9, 2008

Wild CountryWild Country is a low budget Scottish horror film - costing approximately £1 million - filmed in the late Autumn of 2004. It had a limited release in the UK and played at assorted film festivals around the world so, despite it’s limitations, it has to be hoped that it managed to turn a bit of a profit, especially in the video market.

The story is reminiscent of several bigger, better films: An American Werewolf in London, obviously, but also more recent productions such as Micheal Bassett’s Wilderness & Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers. A small group of troubled Glaswegian teenagers are taken to the middle of the Scottish moors and left to orienteer their way to a rendezvous point the next day. Unfortunately, they manage to get lost, and promptly run into a particularly nasty pair of werewolves, which pick them off one by one.

That’s about it, really. It’s a slim narrative that’s fleshed out by some semi-decent characterisation. Most of the young actors were non-professionals, and there’s a certain realistic, Ken Loach style feel to their interaction. The protagonist, Kelly Ann, is a young girl who has just been encouraged to give her child up for adoption; Lee (Martin Comptson, the most experienced of the younger performers having working on films like Red Road, Sweet Sixteen and Doomsday) is the ducking-and-diving father who’s honest enough to realise that he couldn’t cope with parenthood; David & Mark (Kevin and Jaimie Quinn) a pair of authentically bickering brothers; Louise (Nicola Muldoon) a chavette. Considering their inexperience and age, all of these performers do a decent enough job, without ever really convincing (for a comparison, watch Tony Kebbell - a truly powerful young actor - in Wilderness).

And that’s one of the films problems. Led as it is by the youngsters, it feels rather like one of those old Childrens Film Foundation features. It has a similar restriced running time (66 minutes); variable pacing, shakey production values, plot illogicalities and hokey effects (created by Bob Keen, who also worked on the superior Isolation at around the same time). And, despite the additional gore, it’s hard to imagine it appealing to anybody who isn’t the same age as its characters.

In it’s favour, it does have a winning performance from Peter Capaldi as a shallow trendy vicar and the scenery is absolutely stunning. But, despite Wild Country being an admirable attempt at merging British realism with horror; it doesn’t really work, leaving it feeling insubstantial and rather amateurish. I’ve seen worse, and at least it’s short enough to prevent it from becoming dull, but it’s not one I can highly recommend.

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