Italo fete for H’wood

GOOD MORNING from Lake Como, Italy, and the Villa d’Este, where the fifth edition of “Viva Hollywood’s” stars from both Hollywood and Italy have gathered for the Merit of Achievement Awards. This event is joining international celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. The setting for the showbiz groups of both countries could not be more dramatic. This is a part of the world heralded through the centuries by artists of all of Europe. The towering mountains look down on the mirror-like lake along whose shores are villas of the extravagantly rich. The Villa d’Este, home to the Hollywood stars during this minifestival, is like a movie designer’s dream. It is but one of the sites of the toasting to the visitors from Hollywood. Another location is the Casino Municipale of Campione, a half-hour’s drive from the Villa d’Este and, believe it or not, through a sliver of Switzerland and then back into Italy along yet another gem-like lake, Lugano, where the steepest of mountains form triangular boundaries reaching skyward from the water. The air is clean, the blue, smogless skies painted with clouds in ever-changing designs. The whole lake area is like something from a giant movie, or two. This year’s awardees (alphabetically) are Jacqueline Bisset, Ernest Borgnine, Bo Derek, Richard Harris, Janet Leigh, Karl Malden, Valerie Perrine, Rod Taylor and, from TV’s “The Bold and the Beautiful” (a national pastime here!), Katherine Kelly Lang. This year, producer Pier Quinto Cariaggi, creator of the awards to be aired via RAI-2, also presented “Italian Contributions to American Cinema.” And for a week preceding the awards presentations, their works were screened in the nearby city of Como for the press and public to once again applaud them. These included Rossano Brazzi, cinematographer Carlo di Palma (Woody Allen’s cameraman), Pino Donaggio (sound, “Carrie”), Ruggero Mastroianni (editor, “Certain Smile”), Carlo Rimbaldi (special effects for “E.T.” and “Alien”), Pietro Scalia (editor, “JFK”), Franco Zeffirelli, director. Said producer Cariaggi, “In 1992, we wanted to award certain personalities who have worked in conjunction with the American cinema.”

MAXWELL M. RABB, WHO SERVED as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy for eight years from 1981, is here with his wife, Ruth, and he is serving as chairman of the honorees committee. He is a charming gentleman, now in the private sector, having served presidents dating back to Eisenhower. (During the long tenure, there was an assassination attempt on him by four of Gadhafi’s Libyan hitmen.) He is no stranger to Hollywood and counts among his friends Jack Valenti. The Rabbs and the MPAA’s Valenti installed a screening room in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence (on 12 acres) in the heart of Rome. That way, the ambassador, his wife and dignitaries visiting and stationed in Rome could view the latest Hollywood movies. In those days, Rabb never set foot outside the residence or embassy without armed guards in front of, within and behind the car–some with machine guns. Rabb’s own story during the era when he engineered the release of 11 CIA agents from East Germany in the ’60s was once written as a possible movie to star–Rod Taylor, one of the honorees present here. … Karl Malden told me this is his final term as Academy president–even though Gil Cates said he would again produce the show only if Malden stayed on for another year. “I want to get back to acting,” said Malden–pleased that his tenure leaves a legacy: During the Malden Acad-presidential days, the new library became a reality, the Oscar story on cassette was produced and the theater was updated.

ROSSANO BRAZZI SAID HE IS PLANNING to return to live in L.A. where he worked for many years. He has made 161 movies “as a main character,” more than anyone else, he claims. He laughingly enumerated some of the many actresses he has kissed (onscreen)–from Michele Morgan to Katharine Hepburn–“But I’m no lover,” he insisted. “I’m too lazy.” He urged more American actors to come to Italy and vice versa–“It might help to make a common market.” While here, Brazzi received offers to do two films–one in the Latvian city of Riga, the other in Paris. You know which one he accepted. … Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine said, “There are casting directors in Hollywood who think I died. So, I travel in my motor home and I have the time of my life.” And he looks great! The Italians were happy to learn he lived in Italy several years when a small boy. “The reason I left, I came down with malaria–otherwise I’d still be here!” Borgnine told the Italians, “I made 137 movies and never said a swear word. I will not leave a legacy of bad words for children growing up watching the cinema.” Janet Leigh echoed his remarks to the locals, decrying nudity and violence in films. Even in “Psycho,” she claimed, “You could swear you saw a knife, and you could swear you saw a naked body, but you actually saw neither. It was all left to your imagination (by clever direction by Alfred Hitchcock). I’m afraid children of today will have their imagination atrophied.” Leigh, who did one seg of “Okavango” in Africa, will return for another, she said.

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