Monday, July 29, 2013

Avanti, Ridolini! (aka Larry Semon, Italian Style)



A television syndicator, La Miniatura Film, sold a package of Larry Semon comedies to Italian television in the 1950s. It is not unusual for a syndicator to make changes to entertainment product as part of their packaging. Usually, though, the changes are limited to the removal of footage or alterations in the closing and opening credits. La Miniatura made a point to add music, sound effects and dialogue to Semon's comedies to make them more palatable to young people unaccustomed to silent comedy. Semon's voice was provided by Tino Scotti, a comedian similar in many ways to Semon. Here is a clip of Scotti in the boxing comedy il tallone di Achille (1952).

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It is appalling to imagine one of Buster Keaton's carefully crafted silent films with dubbed dialogue. It would be an outright desecration to hear Harold Lloyd muttering to himself as he climbed the skyscraper in Safety Last! (1923). But this added feature somehow works in the context of Semon's wild and woolly comedies.


Passing the Buck (1919)

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Semon was credited in these films under his Italian nickname, Ridolini (derived from the Italian word "ridere," which means "to smile"). Scotti's assertive voice complements Semon's swagger. The comedian was certainly a swaggerer. He might be short, ugly and dimwitted, but he always displays an abundance of confidence. He will never shy away from the heftiest villain or the prettiest girl. The villains, heroines and just general bystanders express awe and admiration by calling out "Ridolini!" whenever he shows up. These dubbed cries make the character come across as a celebrity in his own crazy comedy world.


Horseshoes (1923)

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Whether Semon's fans approve of the dubbed dialogue or not, they should be grateful to La Miniatura as the company preserved several Semon comedies that would not otherwise exist today.




Additional note


Italian comedian Febo Conti regularly portrayed Ridolini on his sketch comedy show.

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