Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mario Lanza Documentaries

If you are not into opera or classic movies, you've probably never heard of Mario Lanza.

Mario Lanza (January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an Italian American tenor and Hollywood movie star who enjoyed success in the late 1940s and 1950s.

He has done a handful of movies, some of the most memorable ones are "The Great Caruso" and "That Midnight Kiss".

I love to read and watch things about famous people, and since I'm a Mario Lanza fan, I was happy to hear of a more recent Documentary that was a special feature on the movie "The Toast of New Orleans".

The documentary "Singing to the Gods" was very accurate according to my knowledge. There is a book by the same name, although I have not had the pleasure of reading it yet, but it is on the TBR short list.

"Singing to the Gods" was produced in 2005. Like most documentaries, it touches on his childhood, his rise, his movie career, his singing career, his personal life and tragedies. Interviews with the people who knew him, including one of his daughters and his personal trainer. It was well produced & well put together. When I watched it, I didn't think much of it. I thought it was an accurate portrayal of Mario Lanza.

A few days later I watched "Mario Lanza: The American Caruso", this one is the 1983 documentary (I even watched in on VHS, talk about retro!) Placido Domingo was the narrator.

I'll start by pointing out the parts I enjoyed:

1) I liked the scene where Placido showed us Mario Lanza's childhood notebook, and how he was looking for a 'stage' name at a very young age. How he came up with Mario Lanza (his birth name was Alfred Arnold Cocozza). He took his mothers name - Maria, and masculinized it, and then used her maiden name. I thought that was pretty cool and something I had not known about him.

2) I liked hearing all of his children talk about their parents.

3) I enjoyed the candid shots of the family.

4) The were accurate about his title "The singing truck driver". He was never actually a truck driver, he occasionally backed up the truck near his father's store, but for years they called him that and that is a fallacy.

Now, what I didn't like:

1) I adore Placido, but he should stick to singing and not speak in English. Is accent was so thick, I could hardly understand what he was saying (and I live in THE BRONX), Spanish accents are like second nature, but even I couldn't get all of his words.

2) The started the documentary with his movie career and showing clips. I didn't mind this so much, but it was a half an hour before they got to his childhood, and that was so brief, if you blinked you would have missed it.

3) And the part that got my goat!!!!!!! That he was killed by the mob....C'MON!
They were saying he died of a heart attack, which I believe is false, I believe he really died of a pulmonary embolism caused by his Phlebitis. His Phlebitis is a well known fact, and he having a pulmonary embolism from it is not hard to believe. The conspiracy theories made me angry. That the nurse was paid by the mob to do something to his IV that would make it appear that he had a heart attack.

Mario died in a weight loss center that used a twilight sleep and IV feeding to induce weight loss. Mario had done this time and time again with success. And although his rapid weight fluctuations could have very well caused a heart attack, I doubt it.

So the whole mob story just ticked me off. Why does it have to be the mob? Because he was an Italian American? Why can't he just have died, young and tragically?

See, now I'm in rant mode. LOL!

So the break down is:
Singing to the Gods gets 4 out of 5 stars
Mario Lanza: The American Caruso gets 2 out of 5 stars.

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