An introduction to Italian Actors and Actresses.
Peter Falk, the veteran actor who portrays TV's cunning inspector Colombo, does such an excellent job at imitating the Italian American sleuth that most TV viewers believe Peter Falk to be of Italian decent.
In reality, Falk is Russian and Polish, with a mix of Hungarian and Czech further back in his ancestry. So, contrary to Falk's public image, he is not Italian American but a mixture of very hardy Eastern European stock. On the other hand, there are those actors, who, in real life, are of Italian heritage but because of a changed name and the rolls they choose to play, are rarely linked to their Italian ancestry. For example, actor Allen Alda, "Hawkeye' of TV's M.A.S.H. fame, was born Alfonso D'Abruzzo. When the actor's father, Robert Alda, entered show business he changed his Italian surname to better assimilate into American culture.
Actress Yvonne DeCarlo , "Lilly Munster" of TV's "The Monsters", was born Peggy Middleton, but changed her average sounding name to the more exotic, Italian sounding, Yvonne DeCarlo .
During the 1960s, when Jack Paar was king of late night television, he had, as a regular guest on his show, an Italian born golf pro by the name of "Guido Ponzini". Audiences, especially Italian Americans, fell in love with the handsome and hilarious Italian golf pro from Salerno, Italy. Ponzini returned again and again to the show, week after week, the Italian community embraced the comedian with great affection believing him to be from their native land. Until it was revealed that the whole thing had been a clever ruse and the Italian golf pro was, in reality, Irish American comic Pat Harrington jr. Harrington had all the gestures, mannerisms and the Italian accent down so well he fooled just about everyone, including Italian Americans.
One of TV's most prolific actors, during the golden age of television, was Anthony (Tony) Caruso. During TVs western genre, Caruso, the son of Italian immigrants, was cast in so many Native American rolls, that most TV viewers believed the actor to be a Native American actor.
Anthony Quinn is a vintage Hollywood actor with strong, ethnic, good looks commonly believed to be Italian American, His work with famous director Federico Fellini, and Italian born actresses Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren added to that belief. In realty, Quinn is of Mexican- Irish decent.
Then there's the hit TV sitcom, Everybody loves Raymond, especially Italian American TV viewers who can well relate to Ray's Italian American family, his brother Robert, his wife Debra, his father Frank and mother Marie. However, despite all the realism, Ray Romano is the only actor on the series who's heritage is Italian American.
Henry Winkler did such a convincing job of acting like the cool, motorcycle riding "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on "Happy Days", that fans believed him to be Italian . Truth is, Winkler couldn't ride a motorcycle and he was no more Italian than Richie Conningham.
Actor Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his portrayal of a lonely Italian American bachelor in the academy award winning film, Marty. Borgnine whose family names are Borgnino - Bonselli has his family roots in Italy, but after Marty , perhaps afraid of being typed cast, few of his rolls reflected his Italian heritage. Most fans know him best as the comical Lt. Commander McHale from TV's McHale's Navy (1963-66)
Richard Crenna's looks and name never typed cast him. For that reason, few fans knew the actor was Italian American and that his parents came from Tuscany, Italy. His television character rolls included Luke McCoy on TV's The Real McCoys'. And Walter Denton on the Our miss brooks series. But the role that brought him a unique cult following of fans was his characterization of Lieutenant Trautman in the film series Rambo, starring. Sylvester Stallone. Stallone like many of the current actors chose to light up the marquee with his original ethnic name.
The first famous Italian American actor to change his name for the screen was, of course, the great silent screen star Rudolph Valentino. Whose real name was Rudolpho Guglimi De Valentina. No matter his name, his dark Latin good looks were unmistakable and irresistible to female fans. Movie goers of the 1930s and 40s, put stars like Valentino high on a pedestal, for that reason common names had to be changed to attract fans to the box office .
Years ago, many Italian American actors changed the family surname on the advice of their agents. Oscar winning actress Ann Bancroft was in real life born Anna Marie Louise Italiano. Penny Marshall, Lavern DiFasio, of Lavern and Shirley, was born Penelope Masciarelli, Connie Stevens was Concetta, Rosalie, Engolia, Robert Blake was born Michael Gubitosi, Nicolas Cage- Nicolas Coppola, Vince Edwards was Vincent Zoino , Talia Shire was born Talia Coppola, James Darren- James Ercolani, Rock star Madonna was born Louise Veronica Ciccone , Tony Danza was Anthony Iadanza, Bobby Darrin -Roberto Cossotto and Dean Martin was Dino Crocetti.
Italian Actress Sophia Loren was born Sofia Villani Scicolone, a name that would leave little room for her co-stars on the marquee. Hollywood has a large number of actors of Italian decent who have maintained their ethnic identity and achieved stardom despite having names that are not easily spelled or pronounced. Here are some of the actors who light up the marquee with their ethnicity:
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone , John Travolta, Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Di Vito, Joe Mentegna, Dennis Farrina, Scott Baio Susan Lucci, Annette Funicello, James Galdofini,Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci,. Ben Gazzarra , Tony Franciosa. and Danny Aiello..
Famous Italian Actors Include: - Alessandra Acciai, Stefano Accorsi, Asia Argento, Monica Bellucci, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi, Roberto Benigni, Francesca Bertini, Daniela Bianchi, Margherita Buy, Primo Carnera, Adolfo Celi, Leonardo Cimino, Franco Citti, Valentina Cortese, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Anna Falchi, Valeria Golino, Nicole Grimaudo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Franco Merli, Maurizio Merli, Sandra Milo, Isa Miranda, Yves Montand, Laura Morante, Angelo Muscat, Alessandra Mussolini, Franco Nero, Rossana Podestà, Sabrina Salerno, Renato Salvatori, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Rocco Siffredi, Simonetta Stefanelli, Fabiana Udenio, Alida Valli, Enrico Viarisio, Virna Lisi