The Marisa Mell Blog is a non-commercial educational blog! If you own copyright protected material and do not wish it to appear on this site it will be promptly removed after contacting us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

... and the photo novella from Lancio!

In this magazine clip from the mid '60's Marisa Mell is reading a magazine called "Sogno" meaning "dream" in Engish. The title of the article is called "Il fotoromanzo e' uno svago sano e legittimo" meaning "the photo novella is a healty and legitimate way of relaxation", which I find a rather strange title for an article. But on second thought it is not! Why? Like almost all pop culture items like comics, pulp novels, televison series, soap opera's... what the general audience likes to relax with after a long day of work, another part of the population had for a very long time a very low estime for. Very often some kind of professor or scholar was behind a certain train of thoughts. The most famous case is probably in America professor Fredric Wertham in 1954 and his attack against the horror comics from publisher EC Comics which in his opinion was "A Secuction of the Innocent". Although more than decade later reading a fotoromanzo in Italy was probably not a naturally thing for a women to do in public who liked to dream away with her romantic heroes and heroines. So this explaines why Marisa Mell is reading this magazine "Sogno" from publisher Lancio and the article is declaring that nothing is wrong when you like to read those kind of stories. Italy had in the mid 60's a very strong pop culture output with fumetti's like Diabolik, Tex, Akim... for the general male audience and Lucifera, Jacula, Bianca Neve... for the porn-horror male fan.

Women on the other hand had their romantic novels and instead of fumetti, being drawn comics, they had their photo novella's with romantic themes. The first photo novella was published in Italy on May 8th 1947 and was called "Il mio sogno" or "My dream". The first issue was an adaption of a novel and due to the success of the photo novella it became quickly a weekly series with in the beginning also adaptations of succesfull movies like "Sissi" with Romy Schneider and later specially written scenario's. The big boom in the photo novella genre came in the sixties with the rise of publisher "Lancio".

Lancio was founded in 1936 in Rome as a publicity company but it's fame started in 1960 when they decided to also publish photo novella's. What was new about them was that they told their stories in a dynamic way, that they used very beautiful men and women as actors and actresses and that the themes of their stories were very modern and nothing was sacred to them. The success was huge and there was no stopping them. Due to the success of their publications with names like Charme, Marina, Letizia... they even went to Paris or New York to shoot their stories and did not stayed in Rome all the time.

At the hight of the photo novella in 1976 all the publishers in Italy sold more than 8 million copies a month and Lancio sold more than 5 million of that number. Another aspect of the succes of the photo novella was the fact that they were the breeding ground for new actors and actresses, often on the brink of breaking in in the movie or television business. A lot of famous actors and actresses today started in the photo novella in Italy like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida and later Ornella Mutti and even genre stars like Franco Gasparri (Mark Il poliziotto), Laura Antonelli, Luc Merenda, Kirk Morris, Ivan Rassimov... and many others made their first steps in showbizz on the stage of the photo novella.

Today the photo novella is still alive in Italy and around the world, especially in the Latino countries. There are now only a few publishers and they are struggling to keep their print run to a profitable level. Thanks to their loyal followers, especially women, the publications are still a steady seller but not anymore the hugh numbers from the 70's. What still is a fact is that they are a stepping stone to a movie and television career. And even the opposite is happening: due to the big succes of reality shows some of their participants like Gilles Rocca were able to cross over into the photo novella and will ultimately thanks to his acting talent and charisma make it to movies and television and so the circle closes for him.

Other photo novella actors and actresses will stay as long as they are wanted by the publishers in the phantasy realm of the photo novella like Francesca R. Filone with occasionally trips to other mass media but she will always come back to her first job! Others will leave forever and start a job outside the mass media.

To close, Marisa Mell by my knowledge, never acted in a photo novella. She knew probably a lot of beginning photo novella stars because they were all living in Rome and some of them worked with her in her movies like Marina Giordana in "La belva col mitra". What did happen is that some of her movies like "Danger: Diabolik!" were made into a photo novella but that is another story.


Keith said...

Great write-up on photo novellas. I had seen where they seemed to be popular in Italy and much of the Spanish speaking world. I think they are awesome. It's a cool way to tell a story.

Mirko di Wallenberg said...

Like a lot of pop culture things they will probably vanish in the future when the reader numbers are going down!