Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Giuliano Gemma (1938-2013)

After Franco Nero, Gemma (who died yesterday in a car accident) was probably the most successful Italian star of Italian westerns -- Gianni (Sartana) Garko being his closest rival for runner-up . He rose from stuntman to supporting player in peplum films to starring roles in spaghetti westerns, making his first hit under the pseudonym Montgomery Wood in A Pistol For Ringo and its sequel, The Return of Ringo. His best (or most interesting) spaghettis include Giulio Petroni's A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof  (top) and Tonino Valerii's JFK allegory The Price of Power (below).

He stuck with the genre as long as anyone, appearing in Michele Lupo's California in 1977, but also worked in other genres or outside genre bounds entirely, starring in Pasquale Squaltieri's period cop picture I Am the Law (above) and acquitting himself honorably amid a prestigious international cast in Valerio Zurlini's Desert of the Tartars.  Woody Allen cast him in a small role in last year's To Rome With Love, while Gemma continued to work in Italian television well into the 21st century. Gemma's athleticism sometimes led to more jumping about than might seem appropriate for a western, but his stunting didn't descend into clownishness, at least in the films I've seen. He was a dependable hero type and one of the real faces of the genre for those who bother looking below the Leone-Eastwood surface. His passing, however much before his time, is another reminder that the Spaghetti West is now the Old West too; it belongs to the ages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such sad news, a terrific actor. I'll remember him most for his turn as the 'tec in Tenebre.