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Movie Actor [Attore Cinematografico]

00:00 Introduction by Caroline Yeager, Associate Curator, Moving Image Department
02:52 Movie Actor

Movie Actor [Attore Cinematografico] (US 1932)
Director: Bruno Vallety
Cinematographer: Don Malkames
Sets: Standard Recording Studio
Scores and musical direction: Attilio Giovannelli, Ernest Migliaccio
Sound engineers: Harry Bellock, H. E. Reeves
Cast: Farfariello [Eduardo Migliaccio] (The Movie Actor), Raffaello Bongini (The Manager), Joe L. Saitta (The Assistant Manager), Grace D’Andrea (The Stenographer), Mrs. Raimo (The Wife)
Production company: Roman Pictures Corp.

Production date: 1932
Sound: sound
Color: b/w
Format: 35mm
Length (in feet): 1,375 ft.
Length (in reels): 2
Running time: 14 min., 40 sec.

Generous support for the video introduction provided by Art Bridges.

Preserved at Cinema Arts Laboratory
Digitized at Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services
Preservation funded by the National Endowment for the Arts
This film has been made accessible to the public in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“It is dandy entertainment from start to finish, with a particularly strong comedy windup, and, while it will prove most entertaining to Italians, the action is such that almost anyone can understand and appreciate it.” —Film Daily (October 6, 1932)

Eduardo Migliaccio (1880–1946), whose stage persona of Farfariello entertained countless numbers of Italian immigrants in the United States for over forty years, was born in Cava dei Tirreni (near Naples, Italy). He studied design at the Reale Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples, but also took accounting courses. Immediately after graduation he immigrated to America, where he worked with his father, a bank official in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Migliaccio’s banking career was short lived as his real ambition was to be an actor, and his talent for comedy led him to enter the field of entertainment. He made his professional debut at the Villa Giulia café located at 198 Grand Street in the heart of New York City’s Little Italy. Among the many humorous songs that he sang was “Farfariello” (“little butterfly”), from which he took his stage name. Farfariello’s repertoire of songs and skits, or macchietta coloniale, was a gentle satire of the many characters who like him had immigrated to the United States. Farfariello wrote his scripts and many of his songs, and his sister provided all of his costumes. 

Movie Actor (1932) is a cinematic adaptation of some Farfariello’s most memorable characters and the only known visual record of his work. Shot in New York City and played as it was on stage—in Italian (a number of films for Italian consumption were shot in the United States in the 1930s)—Farfariello is seen trying to catch the attention of an exasperated theatrical manager. Raffaelo Bongini is the manager who dismisses Farfariello’s attempt to gain his representation. Bongini was also a native Italian actor who worked on stage in New York and in another American-made film, Santa Lucia Luntana (1931). Farfariello returned to Naples in 1937 to perform at the Augusteo Theatre where his work received praise from the public, critics, and his fellow artists alike. After his return to New York he organized musical companies and recorded his repertoire of Neapolitan songs for RCA Victor records. Movie Actor remains the only known film record of this unique entertainer/actor/singer’s engaging talent, although industry media mentioned others were forthcoming. 

We are grateful for the assistance of Farfariello’s late son, Arnie Migliaccio, and his grandchildren Adele Abolafia and Rich Migliaccio for continuing to promote and preserve his artistic heritage and to make it available to the public. Special thanks to the American Film Institute and the Oregon Historical Society, Gene Stoeller Collection.