Hollywood Embraces Italian Male Actors, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.
Conspicuous by their relative absence in the early decades of the Hollywood movie industry history -approximately to World War II -- Italian names have become common fare within the last two generations. This is not to infer that they were entirely absent previously because in fact there were a number of especially talented Italian and Italian American actors: Esther Minciotti, Eduardo Cianelli, Ruth Roman, Don Ameche (Domenico Felix Amici), Robert Alda (Roberto D'Abruzzo), to name but a handful. Additionally, in mid-twentieth century actors Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine (Ermes Elforon Borgnino) won Best Actor Academy Awards in 1953 and 1955 respectively -probably the first of their nationality to receive such honors for depicting roles portraying Italian Americans. However, it appears that within the last thirty years Italian names have truly become common coin in the film making industry.
Al (Alfred) James Pacino (1940- ) was one of the first Italian Americans to come into his own in this period. Born in New York City in 1940 to Salvatore and Rose Pacino, of Sicilian descent, he was brought up mostly by his mother and grandmother following his father's abandonment of the family. Never the scholarly type, he quit school at age 17 and worked at various odd jobs while attending Actors Studio where he gained experience in Off-Broadway productions. He won an award for acting on that level and in 1969 made his Broadway debut in "Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie?" but otherwise remained another nameless performer. In 1970 he began making movies but it was his role as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's production of "The Godfather" that propelled him to stardom and an Academy Award. He fascinated audiences in that role that involved a transition from a sensitive, feeling individual to an amoral cold-blooded killer. Interestingly he put to good use knowledge about Sicilian culture from his Sicilian grandfather, although he needed a lot of help in speaking Sicilian that the part of Michael required. Pacino received Academy Award nominations for several other roles such as "The Godfather II," "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," and " And Justice for All." He received Best Actor Academy Award for "Scent of a Woman," in 1992.
Born in New York City in 1943, the son of artists, Robert De Niro gravitated toward acting in the 1960s when he appeared in a number of small budget films. His acting in "Bang the Drums Slowly" in 1973 was very well received by critics and served as the precursor to his role in "Mean Streets." An Academy Award winner --in 1973 for Best Supporting Actor for his part in "Godfather II," and Best Actor for his acting in "Raging Bull," in 1980 -he remains a versatile actor capable of playing many demanding roles.
Born Michael Sylvester Stallone in Hell's Kitchen, New York City in 1946 and the product of a broken home, Stallone achieved stardom through perseverance. Writing his own script and playing the lead role, in 1976 he made the film "Rocky" that won an Oscar Award, and became the first of a series of sequels. Not overly multi-dimensioned in his acting performances, he generally plays aggressive and tough parts. Television was the vehicle for stardom for John Travolta. Born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1954 of Italian Irish descent, his television series "Welcome Back Cotter" led to Broadway and Hollywood where he won an Academy Award nomination for "Saturday Night Fever" in 1977. He was nominated for a similar award in 1994 for his part in "Pulp Fiction." Among other Italian Americans of this era are Danny DeVito, Paul Sorvino, Joe Mantegna, Steven Seagal, Nicholas Cage, Chazz Palmintieri, and Danny Aiello.
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