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27 June 1906|
8 March 1974 (aged 68)|
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Alberto Rabagliati was born in Milan in 1906 and was the son of piedmontese spouses: her father Leandro Valentino Rabagliati and his mother Delfina Besso were both natives of Casorzo, a common on the hills of the Montferrat in the Province of Asti (Italy). In 1927, he moved to Hollywood as the winner of a Rudolph Valentino look-alike contest. He later recalled: "For someone like me, who had seen no more than Lake Como or Monza Cathedral so far, finding myself on board a luxury steamer with three cases full of clothes, a few rolls of dollars, gran-duchesses and countesses flirting with me was something extraordinary". He remained four years in America, but his career as an actor never took off. During his stay he had however the opportunity to get to know new musical genres such as jazz, swing, and scat singing.
Back in Europe, he became a singer. After a brief experience with Pippo Barzizza's orchestra, he joined the Lecuona Cuban Boys, a Cuban band. He performed with his face painted black and made a hit with the song "Maria la O".
While with the Lecuona Cuban Boys he met Giovanni D'Anzi who proposed him an audition with Italian state radio station EIAR. Rabagliati soon became a radio star, and in 1941 had his own radio show. Every Monday night EIAR (RAI) aired Canta Rabagliati ("Rabagliati sings"), with the singer presenting his most famous songs such as "Ma l'amore no", "Mattinata fiorentina", "Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina", "Silenzioso slow", "Bambina innamorata".
He was so popular that his name was sung in the lyrics of La famiglia canterina, Quando canta Rabagliati, Quando la radio. At a time when anything foreign was banned, the idol Rabagliati was allowed to maintain his American-influenced style. Indeed, the Fascist government decided to make use of his popularity by choosing his song "Sposi (c'è una casetta piccina)" ("Wed (there's a little home)") as their demographic campaign anthem.
His fame as a singer helped his acting career restart. From 1940 to 1965 he acted in some twenty films, including The Barefoot Contessa, Montecarlo and Il vedovo. In 1966, he starred in The Christmas That Almost Wasn't.