Auditorium - DAMSLab > 12:00

POLIDOR / Le Cirque de Calder

Marco Giusti
Introduced by

Marco Giusti

Book presentation of Polidor e Polidor by Marco Giusti, published by Cineteca di Bologna (2019).

To follow:
Le Cirque de Calder


Thursday 27/06/2019


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Let’s say that this is the story of Ferdinand Guillaume (Bayonne, 1887 – Viareggio, 1977), the product of six generations of circus performers and a comedy star in the early years of silent cinema. He was known as Tontolini at Cines (1909-1911) and Polidor when he subsequently moved to Pasquali Film (1911-1915). He took the latter name with him when he abandoned cinema for the theatre, and retained it when Federico Fellini called him up for Nights of Cabiria and La dolce vita, relaunching the comic star as an ageing, Fellinian character actor.
However, it is also the story of his brother, Natale (Genova, 1888 – Napoli, 1920), with whom he formed a comedy duo on stage, Les Guill Guill. Natale followed his brother to Cines and subsequently worked for Milano Films (1911) under the names Cocciutelli and Florindo. He died tragically in Naples in 1920 while filming aerial scenes for a feature-length film starring the strongwoman, Astrea, and directed by none other than his brother, Polidor. News spread throughout the world erroneously stating that it was Polidor who had died.
Finally, it is also the story of their younger brother Edouard (Carcassone, 1892 – Trenton, New Jersey, 1965), a great clown for the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus between 1923 and 1950, where his use of the name ‘Polidor the Clown’ generated notable confusion. Édouard, who emigrated to South America in 1913 to avoid taking part in the war, adopted the name Polidor in December 1920 when working for the Cuban circus Santos y Artigas, at exactly the same time that fake news about the death of Polidor was spreading around the world. He then arrived in America under the same name, soon becoming an idol to children everywhere.
However, on October 10th 1961, the name Polidor re-entered the spotlight when Polidor the Clown, now old and ill, murdered his partner, Elena Gabrielle Nelson, who no longer wanted to be with him, with 50 stab wounds and two blows from an axe. Thus Lello Bersani went to interview ‘our’ Polidor, who was in the middle of shooting Boccaccio 70 with Fellini and hadn’t seen his brother for more than 50 years. Thanks to material conserved in the Rai archives, including the documentary that Ennio Flaiano dedicated to him in 1973, it is Ferdinand himself who tells us his story.

Marco Giusti

Cast and Credits

Scen., M.: Marco Giusti, Claudio Del Signore, Alessia Lionello. Prod.: Rai Teche. DCP. D.: 33’ Bn e Col.


Director: Carlos Vilardebó
Year: 1961
Country: Francia
Running time: 29'
Film Version

French version