My Cousin –

Edward José

It. tit.: Mio cugino; Sog.: Margaret Turnbull; Scen.: Margaret Turnbull; F.: Hal Young; Int.: Enrico Caruso (Tommaso Longo/Cesare Caroli), Henry Leone (Roberto Lombardi, il ricco droghiere), Carolina White (Rosa Ventura), Joseph Ricciardi (Pietro Ventura, padre di Rosa), A. G. Corbelle (Luigi Veddi), Bruno Zirato (segretario), William Bray (Ludovico); Prod.: Jesse Lasky per Famous Players-Lasky Productions; Pri. pro.: 28 settembre 1918. 16mm. L.or.: 5 bobine. D.: 47’; Bn.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Enrico Caruso made two films in New York in 1918: My Cousin and The Splendid Romance (now lost). My Cousin is “a story of life and love in New York’s Little Italy, and of what happened to a poor young sculptor who claimed to be a relative of the great Caruso”. The singer plays both characters, the famous Metropolitan tenor and the emigrant cousin. He portrays them with amazing effectiveness and naturalness, but in very different ways, not only involving a moustache – which the photos on display prove as a ploy introduced when the film was re-edited. Why, we ask ourselves. My Cousin focuses more on the affairs of the young emigrant craftsman, depicted by Caruso with affectionate humour in his Mulberry Street setting (the cast also includes actors from the emigrant theatre, such as William Ricciardi, and the ‘film personal trainer’ Cesare Gravina, who was later Stroheim’s favourite actor), while those curious about the famous tenor will enjoy the dressing room preparations, a lovely medium full shot where he sings Vesti la Giubba and him sketching out one of his famous caricatures. Nevertheless, some advance details carried by the press regarding the film conjured up the negative Italian stereotype, prevalent in America in that era: jealousy scenes, vendettas, knives, marriages of convenience and even the Black Hand. Hence the film was reedited and partly re-shot, with the addition of this moustache, which still gives Caruso an air of stereotypical affability, but one warmed by the naturalness he brings. Perhaps the entire situation was created upon request by Caruso himself, as he was well aware of media influence and proud of his identity. The press failed to mention the re-editing but was unanimous in pointing out the delay on the scheduled release date, due to the Spanish flu epidemic. Despite the very positive reviews and the success at the première, My Cousin was considered a flop. However, Lasky was entirely to blame, since he did not have clear ideas on how to use the great tenor. Caruso was certainly not responsible, as he revealed himself to be an extraordinary actor, with an expressive gaze veiled in melancholy but with spurts of Neapolitan liveliness. Watching the Caruso cousin is enough to comprehend the exceptional performing talents that this legend is founded on. The screening of the film will be accompanied by the music the tenor selected for the première.

Giuliana Muscio