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Gianni Garko in Don Camillo in Moscow (1965)
July 15, 1935
|Other names||John Garko|
|Known for||Spaghetti westerns|
Gianni Garko (born Giovanni Garcovich July 15, 1935 in Zadar (then part of Italy) and often billed as John Garko) is an Italian actor who found much fame as a leading man in Spaghetti Westerns. He is perhaps best known for his lead role as Sartana, starting with the first official film If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death and starring in three sequels as this character.
Early life and career
Garko moved from Zadar to Trieste, and later Rome to attend University and Drama School. His first prominent film role was a small but important part in the Oscar nominated Kapò (1959). He continued to play parts in several Italian productions including sword and sandal epics such as The Mongols and Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules. His big break came when he had a role in Il Compagno Don Camillo (1965).
Spaghetti Western Era
Garko became an instant breakout star in Europe in 1966 in the successful Spaghetti Western starring alongside Anthony Steffen in Blood at Sundown. In this movie, he played an antagonist named Sartana. He would later play an unrelated protagonist named Sartana in the famous Sartana series of films. Other notable westerns he starred in were $10,000 Blood Money (1967) as an unofficial Django, Vengeance is Mine/$100,000 for a Massacre (1967), They Call Him Cemetery (1971) alongside William Berger as well as a supporting role in Bad Man's River with Lee Van Cleef. During this time he had achieved considerable fame in Germany, Italy, and Spain. Outside of the western genre, Garko starred in Five for Hell (1969) with frequent co-star Klaus Kinski, a small role in Waterloo as the brave and energetic French artillery commander Antoine Drouot, and The Heroes, both with Rod Steiger. He also starred in a highly memorable episode of Space: 1999 in 1975.
Post Spaghetti Western Career
Like many of his contemporaries, his star diminished as Spaghetti Western genre began to decline. He was still able to get roles in several successful Giallo movies, sex comedies, and Poliziotteschi movies. Among these are Il Boss (1971), Sette note in nero (1977 with Jennifer O'Neill, Gli occhi freddi della paura (1971), Hercules (1983 with Lou Ferrigno).
After appearing in Space: 1999 as Tony Cellini in the episode "Dragon's Domain", starting in the 80's Garko concentrated more on television, theatre, and TV commercials as quality roles in film became fewer and farther in between. Popular in Europe but little known in America, in an interview, Garko mentioned that he had turned down the lead role in Pretty Baby (1978 with Brooke Shields).
To this day, Garko has amassed a sizeable cult following of fans for being one of the premiere leading men of Spaghetti Westerns back in the 1960s.
- Pontius Pilate (1962 film)
- Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay (1970)
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