Saturday, 10 March 2012

ROBERT RIETTY - The Police Chief

Robert Rietti (born 8th February, 1923 - died 3rd April 2015), usually credited as Robert Rietty, is a Italian actor and Director.
Born of Italian heritage Lucio Rietti was “discovered” at the tender age of 9 by his father Vittorio (Victor Rietti veteran actor of the stage and screen) who had noticed the boy had completely memorized a copy of a script he had given Lucio having wanted help from his son while rehearsing his lines for a play. Vittorio had Lucio join his own acting school (which turned out products such as Ida Lupino-then just a little girl), and taught the boy every thing he knew. Lucio was quickly recognized as a child prodigy and appeared alongside his father in scores of plays. He was handpicked by Alfred Hitchcock to play the boy in Secret Agent (1936), but being so young required schooling by law and had to turn down the part. The early Hollywood motion picture king Darryl F. Zanuck having seen the boy perform, tried to sign him to an extended contract with Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Before having turned 11 years old he had been in over a dozen films the most notable having starred in the classic Emil and the Detectives (1935) as the leader of a gang of kids. He was 15 years old and on tour in the UK when WW2 broke out and being of Italian origin was placed in a detention camp together with his father and brother Ronaldo (Ronald Rietti later a film director and producer). After 8 months he was released upon special request to organize an army unit made up of professional actors to entertain the troops. It was during this time that his stage name was altered to Robert Rietty in an attempt to make it sound less Italian and more Irish (who were neutral during the war). It was under the name Robert Rietty that he would come to be known best by the public. After 5 ½ years of army service Robert returned to public attention picking up where he had left off. Over the next several years he participated in every form of entertainment-in radio, on the stage, through motion pictures and the early days of Television. In radio Robert teamed up with Orson Welles twice for the complete radio crime drama series The Black Museum 1951 broadcast to the US armed forces and The Third Man 1951-1952 (aka Harry Lime)- based on the hit film. This proved to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two and Orson made sure to use Robert in countless films of his. Robert was also a regular on the radio series Horatio Hornblower and Theater Royal with Sir Lawrence Olivier as well as frequent guest appearances on scores of other radio shows of the time. In motion pictures Robert still only 25 years of age continued to work mostly in character parts with the exception of his performances in Call of the Blood (1948), Prelude to Fame (1950) and Stock Car (1955). Also during this time Robert was heavily involved in the Theater starring in dozens and dozens of plays and even writing quite a few and was editor of the drama quarterly Gambit. He once found the script of the Italian play To Live in Peace which his father had translated to English but had no luck convincing anyone to produce it. Despite the fact the story was rejected countless times Robert rewrote the script and found a producer willing to back the project with his father in the lead role as Don Geronimo and himself as Maso. The play became an instant success winning many awards and toured in Europe eventually being made twice as films made for Television in 1951 and 1952. Together with his father Robert was knighted by the Italian Government for their contribution to the Italian entertainment industry in particular from translating a great many Italian plays into English. Roberts knighthood was then upgraded. Early Television took up much of Roberts time guest starring repeatedly in over 100 TV shows many of them being shot live in those days. In Televison he often got the chance to work together with his father again most notably in The Jack Benny Program episode Jack Falls Into Canal in Venice (3/10/57) and in the pilot for the series Harry’s Girls (1960). During the next 15 years most of Roberts acting was confined to TV and Motion Pictures his most memorable performances in The Crooked Road (1965) with Robert Ryan and Steward Granger, Hell Is Empty (1967) produced by his brother Ronald Rietti and co-starring French actress Martine Carol (who died before the end of shooting the film), The Italian Job (1969) and The Omen (1976) with Gregory Peck. During this time he made the change from actor to director (although he continued acting) becoming heavily involved in post production work directing and revoicing and became unquestionably the most sort after director of the kind known throughout Hollywood and Europe as the King Of Dubbers and Man Of A Thousand Voices. His direction was used for practically every film in the James Bond Series (even acting in several) and a never ending list of hundreds of pictures. Through this he came to instruct such stars as Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, John Huston, Rod Steiger, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery and Walter Matthau among others. For his work and direction of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in Sergio Leone’s gangster film Once Upon a Time in America (1984) he was nominated for an Oscar. Although over 85 Robert continues directing and acting today over 75 years after he started.
He is best known as an actor, but is also a writer and director. He has often done voice-overs to replace actors who have died or lost their voices. He did the voiceover for Tim Moxon as John Strangways, a British agent in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, then continued to dub actors in James Bond flims such as Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo in Thunderball, Tetsuro Tamba as Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and John Hollis as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only. He also appeared onscreen in the Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Rietty also provided the voice of the mysterious "Number Two" during the opening credits of several episodes of The Prisoner. Normally, the guest actor playing Number Two would appear in the opening credit sequence reciting some of its signature dialogue; in episodes where Number Two's identity was not revealed until the end, Rietty's voiceover was used.
Robert passed away in London, on 3rd April, 2015, aged 92.

My Robert Rietty autograph display.

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