from the trailer for the film
After the Thin Man (1936)
|Born||Giuseppe Maria Spurrin-Calleja
August 4, 1897
Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta
|Died||October 31, 1975
|Spouse(s)||Eleonore Vassallo (1929–1968) (her death)|
Joseph Calleia (August 4, 1897 – October 31, 1975) was a Maltese born American singer, composer, screenwriter and actor, both on Broadway and in film. Calleia played opposite some Hollywood greats, including Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, William Holden, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Myrna Loy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Jane Russell, Alan Ladd, William Powell, Mario Lanza, Charlton Heston, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Tyrone Power, and Anthony Quinn.
Born at Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta, to Pasquale and Elena Calleja, he was educated at St Julian's and St Aloysius colleges in Malta. He organized a harmonica band of boys which earned him enough money to leave Malta in 1914, at age 17, and began his career touring Europe as a teenage singer with a harmonica band, appearing in the cafés and music halls of many war-torn and weary capital cities. He later went to New York as a singer and then turned to drama.
Although Calleia made over 50 films, he always claimed to prefer stage performance to film acting. He was considered a "bright light" on Broadway between 1926 and 1945, and appeared in several hit plays, including:
- Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre, September 16, 1926 to February 11, 1928, as "Joe, a waiter"
- The Front Page at Times Square Theatre, August 14, 1928 to April 1929, as "Kruger (Journal of Commerce)"
- The Last Mile at Sam H. Harris Theatre, February 13, 1930 to circa October 1930, as "Tom D'Amoro"
- Grand Hotel at the National Theatre, November 13, 1930 to December 1931, as "the chauffeur", and general stage manager
- Honeymoon at Little Theatre, December 23, 1932 to circa. February 1933, as "Nicola"
- Ten Minute Alibi at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, October 17, 1933 to January 1934, as "the hunter"
- Small Miracle at John Golden Theatre, September 26, 1934 to January 1935, as "Tony Mako"
By 1931, Calleia had landed an MGM contract in Hollywood, where he successfully pursued a career in the film industry, appearing in a total of 57 movies between then and 1955, frequently playing cops or villains in gangster and western films.
He made his screen debut in 1935 with appearances in two B-films: His Woman (1931) and The Girl in the Cab (1933). He very quickly made his mark, playing the role of a criminal in Public Hero No. 1, followed by Riff Raff (1935) in which he played a womanizer, co-starring with Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. In 1936, Calleia wrote the screenplay for the western take on Robin Hood with The Robin Hood of El Dorado. In 1943, he played El Sordo in For Whom The Bell Tolls.
- Public Hero No. 1 (1935) — Sonny "Dinkie" Black
- Riffraff (1936) — Nick Lewis
- Tough Guy (1936) — Joseph "Joe" Calerno
- His Brother's Wife (1936) — Fish-Eye
- Sinner Take All (1936) — Penny
- After the Thin Man (1936) — Dancer, owner of the Lichee Club
- The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937) — Portuguese Ben
- Marie Antoinette (1938) — Drouet
- Algiers (1938) — Inspector Slimane
- Juarez (1939) — Alejandro Uradi
- Five Came Back (1939) — Vasquez, the anarchist
- Golden Boy (1939) — Eddie Fuseli
- My Little Chickadee (1940) — Jeff Badger
- Sundown (1941)
- The Jungle Book (1942) — Buldeo
- The Glass Key (1942) — Nick Varna
- For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) — El Sordo
- The Cross of Lorraine (1943)
- Gilda (1946) — Detective Maurice Obregon
- Deadline at Dawn (1946) — Val Bartelli
- The Beginning or the End (1947) — Dr. Enrico Fermi
- Lured (1947) — Dr. Nicholas Moryani
- The Noose Hangs High (1948) — Nick Craig
- Four Faces West (1948) — Monte Marquez
- Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950) — Dr. Lunati
- Vendetta (1950) — Mayor Guido Barracini
- Valentino (1951) — Luigi Verducci
- The Light Touch (1952) — Lt. Massiro
- When in Rome (1952) — Aggiunto Bodulli
- Yankee Buccaneer (1952) — Count Domingo Del Prado
- The Iron Mistress (1952) — Juan Moreno
- The Caddy (1953) — Papa Anthony
- Underwater! (1955) — Rico Herrera
- The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955) — Pablo Morales
- The Littlest Outlaw (1955) — Padre
- Serenade (1956) — Maestro Marcatello
- Hot Blood (1956) — Papa Theodore
- Wild Is the Wind (1957) — Alberto
- Touch of Evil (1958) — Police Sergeant Pete Menzies
- The Light in the Forest (1958) — Chief Cuyloga
- Cry Tough (1959)
- The Alamo (1960) — Juan Seguín
- Johnny Cool (1963) — Tourist
Calleia was posthumously honoured by the Malta postal authority with a set of two commemorative stamps issued in his memory in 1997. In October 2005, a monument consisting of a bust of Calleia was erected in front of the house where he was born. The bust was made gratis by sculptor Anton Agius on the initiative of then 15-year-old, Eman Bonnici.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joseph Calleia.|
- Joseph Calleia at the Internet Movie Database
- Joseph Calleia at the Internet Broadway Database
- Joseph Calleia at Find a Grave