Francesca Bertini & Mario Parpagnoli in L'Ultimo sogno
Italian postcard. Ed. A. Traldi, Milano. Francesca Bertini and Mario Parpagnoli in L'Ultimo sogno (1921) by Roberto Roberti, father of Sergio Leone.
Content of the film: Maria (Bertini ) is chased from her village after the wife of her lover committed suicide. She starts a new life in a fishermen's village. Here the navy officer Gugliemo (Parpagnoli) falls in love her, dumps his girl, marries Maria and the two sail out for their honeymoon. The former lover Giovanni (Giorgio Bonaiti) shows up, and confronts Guglielmo's with his wife's past. Guglielmo kills Giovanni but his love for Maria has been killed too. When his ship is about leave, Maria throws herself into the sea.
Mario Parpagnoli (?-?) was an Italian actor and director, whose career peaked in the Italian silent cinema of the late 1910s and early 1920s.
Mario Parpagnoli started in career in 1917 in the Italian silent film L’aquila by Mario Gorgiulo, set in the Italian Risorgimento and based on a play by Arturo Colautti. A countess who sleeps with two men has two sons, one pro-Austrian (played by Parpagnoli), the other pro-Italy (Ubaldo Maria del Colle). Parpagnoli then acted in two films by Anton Giulio Bragaglia that made history, even if one is a lost film: Il mio cadavere, which Bragaglia codirected (uncredited) with Riccardo Cassano and based on the novel Francesco Lannas (1851) by Francesco Mastriani. Parpagnoli had the male lead as the penniless composer Daniele who hopes for fortune & fame in Naples, but is refused the hand of a young contess until he earns a million. Emigrated, he meets an old gentleman who nominates him his heir, but in order to speed up things Daniele kills the old man, inherits and runs to Naples to marry his countess, but then discovers he killed his own father and goes berserk. Sets were by the Futurist Enrico Prampolini.
Parpagnoli also acted in another film by Bragaglia and Cassano, Thais, again with sets by Prampolini. Leading actress was Thais Galitzky as an extravagant and cruel femme fatale, who meets her equal in a cold count (Parpagnoli), who rejects both her and her friend Bianca (Ileana Leonidoff). When Thais finally manages to melt the count’s heart and then reject him, she tells so to Bianca, who, madly in love with the count, rides away on her horse in a maddening galop and is killed underway. Thais then repents and kills herself by mortal vapours which exit from strange eye-shaped gaps in her room. A print of Thais was found and restored in Paris, even if incomplete.
After some neglectable dramas (a.o. with Claretta Rosaj) and a propaganda film, Parpagnoli had the male lead again in Cassano’s comedy L’Ultimo dei Cognac (1918), based on a story by the famous Trilussa, and dealing with heirs hunting for the fortune of a bonvivant. After a minor role in Alberto Capozzi’s Martino il trovatello (1919), Parpagnoli played the lover of Diana Karenne in Gennaro Righelli’s La peccatrice casta (1919) and again in La signora delle rose (Diana Karenne 1919) and the lover of Vittoria Lepanto in Per aver visto (Enrico Roma 1920). In 1920 Parpagnoli peaked with some 10 films in one year. While he had a minor part in the Hesperia divafilm Chimere (Baldassarre Negroni 1920), he had the male lead opposite Rina Maggi in La complice muta (1921), directed by star actor Livio Pavanelli, and opposite Pauline Polaire in L’istinto (Negroni 1920), about a rich writer falling in love with a poor thief.
After the neglectable Liberazione (Jacques Creusy 1921) and a supporting part in the divafilm Zoya (Giulio Antamoro 1920) with Diana Karenne, Parpagnoli had the male lead opposite Francesca Bertini in La sfinge (Roberti 1921), based on Feuillet’s Le sphynx (1874), Marion, artista di caffè-concerto (Roberti 1920), based on Annie Vivanti’s novel, and Maddalena Ferat (Roberto Roberti 1921), based on Emile Zola’s Madeleine (1865) and produced by Bertini’s own company. After the Bertini film L’ultimo sogno (Roberti 1921), Parpagnoli was the adventurer who ruins a princess’s family life in La valse ardente (Augusto Genina 1921), with Edy Darclea and Marcella Sabattini. The story was shamelessly copied from the earlier Bertini divafilm Sangue bleu (Nino Oxilia 1914).
In 1922 Parpagnoli was the rival of Sandro Salvini in La fanciulla, il poeta e la laguna by Carmine Gallone. Parpagnoli is a poet, haunted by letters of young Venetian girl. Cynically and proudly, he asks his secretary to respond to the girl… In addition to various films by Toddi starring Vera D’Angara, including the ghost story Al confine della morte (Toddi 1922) - for which Parpagnoli’s performance and the photography by Romagnoli was praised, Fu cosí che… (1922) and L’amore e il codicillo (1923), the actor had a supporting part as bad guy in La rosa di Fortunio (Luciano Doria 1922) with Diomira Jacobini and Lido Manetti, and another one in the Pina Menichelli vehicle L’ospite sconosciuta (Telemaco Ruggeri 1923).
It was probably on the set of Mario Bonnard’s adaptation of I promessi sposi/The Betrothed (1922) that Parpagnoli met his future wife, actress Emilia Vidali - daughter of film producer/director/actor Giovanni Enrico Vidali. She played Lucia while he himself played the evil Don Rodrigo. Italian critics considered the film 'too grey', but audiences loved it and the film was awarded a golden medal at a film festival in Turin in 1923. For Emilia Vidali, who had been away from the film set for several years, it didn’t mean a full comeback, and after one more film, Amore e destino/Love and Fate (1923) directed by Parpagnoli and with both Vidali and Parpagnoli in the leads, she left the Italian screen again. Vidali and Parpagnoli had married in the meantime. Because of the crisis in the Italian cinema, the couple emigrated to Argentine. There they played in the film Galleguita (1924, Julio Irigoyen). In 1930 Parpagnoli scripted and directed in Buenos Aires the musical film Adios Argentina (Goodbye Argentina), in which Mexican star Libertad Lamarque had her debut. The film starred Ada Cornero and Pierina Dealessi. The film was originally made as a silent film, but later a soundtrack was added. While Vidali returned to Europe in 1930, Parpagnoli remained in Argentine, working as official for the Empresas Filmadroas Italianas in the 1950s.
Sources: IMDB, Vittorio Martinelli, Il cinema muto italiano, 1917-1930.
Francesca Bertini (1892-1985), originally Elena Vitiello, had already a prolific career in one-, two- and threereelers for the Italian companies Cines and Celio, before she received diva status from 1914 on. In 1921 she married count Paul Cartier but divorced him. In order to take care of her son, she returned to the film sets, continuing to act with some regularity until 1930. Her last performance in a feature film was that of a nun in Bertolucci's Novecento (1977). She surely was one of the first Italian film stars.
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