Mario Lanza Edit Profile
Education high school. Studied voice with Irene Williams (Philadelphia), Grant Garnell and Enrico Rosati. Scholarship at Tanglewood (Massachusetts) Festival, 1942.
First was That Midnight Kiss (49, Norman Taurog), in which Mario as a singing truck driver gives us “Celeste Aida,” Kathryn Grayson gives us “Caro Nome,” and Carroll Naish gives us “Santa Lucia.” Next, in The Toast of New Orleans (50, Taurog) he’s a singing fisherman and what he catches is Grayson, and a two-million seller, “Be My Love.“ Then, the climax of his career and a tremendous hit, The Great Caniso (51, Richard Thorpe), with twenty-two songs, Ann Blyth, and a number-one album that convinced some of his doting fans that he was greater than Caruso.
Because You're Mine (52, Alexander Hall) featured the title song and Doretta Morrow; The Student Piince (54, Thorpe) ended up with Mario’s face on the cutting-room floor (actuallv, he was never filmed; after contractual and ovenveight problems, he was replaced onscreen by Edmund Purdom before shooting began), but with his voice as strong as ever on the soundtrack; a tame version of James M. Cain’s Serenade in 1956, with Joan Fontaine, and purportedly directed by Anthony Mann, but surely that’s a dream, too. A “comeback" in 1958 with The Seven Hills of Rome (58, Roy Rowland), in which he impersonates various other singers, including Louis Armstrong. And, finally, For the First Time (59, Rudolph Maté), in which he’s an opera singer in love with a deaf girl. He died that year, in Italy, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, though c learly in terrible health from his extravagant living. But he remains a larger- than-life figure—a weird mixture of Nelson Eddy, John Travolta, and John Gotti, a man with a big musical gift but no taste, restraint, or discipline; a pampered little boy pretending to be a ladies’ man; a truck driver pretending to be an opera star.
In the winter of 1994, the great Spanish tenor José Carreras gave a Mario Lanza Memorial Concert at Radio City Music Hall. The dream sjoes on.
Maybe it was all a dream. Did a corpulent Mamma’s boy from Philadelphia named Alfred grow up to be a remarkable tenor, to perform with Koussevitsky at the Tanglewood Festival, to break into the movies at the age of twenty-eight and make eight films in ten years, to sell tens of millions of records, to die at the age of thirty-eight, and to go on being famous and adored, or famous and derided (or famous and loathed—he had a bizarre habit of urinating in public, on the set, in plain view of Kathryn Gravson decades after his death?
Married Betty Hicks, 1945. Children: Colleen, Elissa, Damon, Mark.