Calleia in After the Thin Man (1936)
|Born||Joseph Alexander Caesar Herstall Vincent Calleja
August 4, 1897
|Died||October 31, 1975
Joseph Calleia (// kə-LAY-ə; born Joseph Alexander Caesar Herstall Vincent Calleja, August 4, 1897 – October 31, 1975) was a Maltese-born American actor and singer on the stage and in films, radio and television.
Joseph Alexander Caesar Herstall Vincent Calleja[b] was born in Notabile in the Crown Colony of Malta on August 4, 1897. His father was an architect. Calleia studied at St. Julian's and St. Aloysius Colleges. At age 12 he used the English pound given to him for Christmas to buy two dozen harmonicas, and organized a local band whose performances were soon netting £100 a week. Sent by his father to London to study engineering, Calleia employed his good tenor voice in music halls, performing ballads of the Scottish Highlands in traditional dress. He worked as Joseph Spurin, using his mother's maiden name due to his father's disapproval.
In 1914 Calleia joined the British Transport Service. After cruising the world for two-and-a-half years, his ship was torpedoed in the English Channel. Hospitalized for three months, Calleia was awarded a campaign medal and honorably discharged. He traveled to the United States in 1917. Unemployed, he sang for the Red Cross and armed services, and volunteered for the American Tank Corps.
Calleia began his stage career on Armistice Day. After World War I he found only limited success in vaudeville. He earned his living stoking the furnace at a department store, and got a night job washing and repairing New York City streetcars. By day he haunted theatrical booking offices. The Henry W. Savage agency sent Calleia to Denver, where he made his stage debut singing in the chorus of the musical comedy, Have a Heart. The following season he had a bit part in Pietro (1920), an Otis Skinner vehicle that played six weeks on Broadway and 40 weeks on tour. Calleia supplemented his salary by working as assistant stage manager and repairing trunks at $3 each.
Calleia's first speaking role on the stage was in The Broken Wing (1920), a Broadway comedy starring George Abbott and Louis Wolheim. He understudied all of the parts and appeared as a Mexican peon who played the guitar and sang a song called "Adelai". Calleia composed the tune, and asked Abbott to write the lyrics; the song was published and eventually brought each of them royalties of as much as $2,000 a year.
The Broken Wing was a hit, and after the play's New York run Calleia and Thurston Hall were carried over in a London production. After four months the show closed and Calleia visited Malta, where he and his father reconciled. At his father's request he began using his real surname, and was billed as Joseph Spurin-Calleia.
On February 14, 1925, Calleia made his concert debut at Town Hall in New York City, accompanied by pianist Ferdinand Greenwald. "He proved to be the possessor of an agreeable high voice, which he used with much skill in Italian airs," wrote New York Times music critic Olin Downes, "including that of Rodolfo from Puccini's La Boheme and others from Verdi's Trovatore and Rigoletto." In recital at New York's Steinway Hall on February 21, 1926, Calleia "displayed a voice of pleasant and attractive timbre" in a program that included works by Scarlatti, Paisiello, Schumann, Gounod and Leoncavallo, as well as two of his own compositions.
Calleia was cast as the Spanish ambassador in the Broadway production of Princess Flavia (1925), Sigmund Romberg's musical adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda. While he was waiting for the elaborate production to be mounted he sold pianos, with such success that the store owner offered him a store of his own if he would stay.
In 1926 Calleia was given his first prominent stage role, in George Abbott and Philip Dunning's smash hit, Broadway. He played a shuffling, coin-jingling waiter in the melodrama that New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson later called a "noisy, bustling cyclorama of backstage life [that] remains a landmark in the American theater." Calleia also acted as the company's stage manager and, working for producer Jed Harris, he supervised some ten duplicate productions of Broadway in the U.S. and abroad.
A succession of acclaimed performances in successful Broadway plays followed, including a shiftless newspaper reporter in The Front Page (1928), a convicted murderer in The Last Mile (1930), and the chauffeur in Grand Hotel (1930). Calleia became a star with Small Miracle (1934) — a Broadway production described by The New Yorker as "a very satisfactory melodrama with Joseph Spurin-Calleia as the pleasantest murderer you ever saw."
I fell in love with him as a ten-year-old boy. I saw him in a play in New York[c] … a very well-staged melodrama which was an enormous hit for about a year — it was made as a movie later with somebody else. He had the leading role, and I never forgot him. And through the years I'd seen him in movies — little things. And I could never forget that performance of his. He's always played very stereotyped parts in pictures but is one of the best actors I've ever known. I have such respect for him. You play next to him and you just feel the thing that you do with a big actor — this dynamo going on.:298
Calleia had made three feature films on the East Coast in 1931–32; the acclaim he received from Small Miracle brought him a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He quickly made his mark in Hollywood, playing the role of a criminal in Public Hero No. 1 (1935), followed by Riffraff (1936), with Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy. In 1936, Calleia co-wrote the screenplay for Robin Hood of El Dorado. In 1943, he played El Sordo in For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Naming the theatre's villain of the year for 1934, nationally syndicated columnist Paul Harrison of the Newspaper Enterprise Association selected "Joseph Spurin-Calleia, whose gangster role in Small Miracle provided one of the finest of all performances on Broadway."
|1919||Have a Heart[d]||Chorus member||Joins touring company in Denver|
|January 19–March 1, 1920||Pietro||Miguel||Criterion Theatre, New York|
|1920||Pietro||Miguel||Also assistant stage manager
40-week national tour
|November 29, 1920–April 1, 1921||The Broken Wing||Basilio||48th Street Theatre, New York|
|August 15–November 18, 1922||The Broken Wing||Basilio||Duke of York's Theatre, London|
|April 9–June 1, 1923||Zander the Great||Juan||Empire Theatre, New York|
|November 2, 1925–March 13, 1926||Princess Flavia||Senor Poncho, Wurfner||Century Theatre and (from February 1) Shubert Theatre, New York|
|September 16, 1926–February 11, 1928||Broadway||Joe||Broadhurst Theatre, New York
Also stage manager; also in charge of some ten duplicate productions of the play in the U.S. and abroad
|August 14, 1928–April 13, 1929||The Front Page||Kruger, Journal of Commerce||Times Square Theater, New York|
|February 13–October 1, 1930||The Last Mile||Tom D'Amoro||Sam H. Harris Theatre, New York|
|November 13, 1930–December 5, 1931||Grand Hotel||Chauffeur||Also general stage manager
National Theatre, New York
|September 14–December 3, 1932||Clear All Wires||—||Stage manager
Times Square Theatre, New York
|December 23, 1932–February 1, 1933||Honeymoon||Nicola||Little Theatre, New York|
|October 17–December 30, 1933||Ten Minute Alibi||Hunter||Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York|
|July 9, 1934||The Bride of Torozko||Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut|
|September 26, 1934–January 5, 1935||Small Miracle||Tony Mako||John Golden Theatre and (from November 11) 48th Street Theatre, New York|
|February 7–February 1935||Small Miracle||Tony Mako||El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood, produced by Henry Duffy with original cast members Robert Middlemass and Joseph King|
|May 11–September 18, 1948||All My Sons||Joe Keller||Lyric Theatre and (from June 15) Globe Theatre, London, with Margalo Gillmore and Richard Leech|
Film and television credits
|1932||Divorce Racket, TheThe Divorce Racket|||
|1935||Public Hero No. 1||Sonny Black|||
|1936||Exclusive Story||Ace Acello|||
|1936||Tough Guy||Joe Calerno|||
|1936||Robin Hood of El Dorado||—||Screenplay|
|1936||His Brother's Wife||Fish-Eye|||
|1936||Sworn Enemy||Joe Emerald|||
|1936||Sinner Take All||Frank Penny|||
|1936||After the Thin Man||"Dancer"|||
|1937||Man of the People||Jack Moreno|||
|1937||Bad Man of Brimstone, TheThe Bad Man of Brimstone||Portuguese Ben|||
|1938||Algiers||Inspector Slimane||National Board of Review Award|
|1939||Gorilla, TheThe Gorilla||Stranger|||
|1939||Five Came Back||Vasquez|||
|1939||Golden Boy||Eddie Fuseli|||
|1940||My Little Chickadee||Jeff Badger|||
|1941||Monster and the Girl, TheThe Monster and the Girl||Deacon|||
|1942||Jungle Book, TheThe Jungle Book||Buldeo|||
|1942||Glass Key, TheThe Glass Key||Nick Varna|||
|1943||For Whom the Bell Tolls||El Sordo|||
|1943||Conspirators, TheThe Conspirators||Captain Pereira|||
|1943||Cross of Lorraine, TheThe Cross of Lorraine||Antonio Rodriguez|||
|1946||Deadline at Dawn||Val Bartelli|||
|1947||Beginning or the End, TheThe Beginning or the End||Dr. Enrico Fermi|||
|1948||Noose Hangs High, TheThe Noose Hangs High||Mike Craig|||
|1948||Four Faces West||Monte Marquez|||
|1948||Noose||Sugiani||U.S. title The Silk Noose|
|1950||Palomino, TheThe Palomino||Miguel Gonzales|||
|1950||Captain Carey, U.S.A.||Dr. Lunati|||
|1958||Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (TV)||Don Fernando||"Night Over Taos"|
|1951||Light Touch, TheThe Light Touch||Lt. Massiro|||
|1952||When in Rome||Aggiunto Bodulli|||
|1952||Yankee Buccaneer||Count Domingo Del Prado|||
|1952||Iron Mistress, TheThe Iron Mistress||Juan Moreno|||
|1953||Caddy, TheThe Caddy||Papa Anthony|||
|1955||Treasure of Pancho Villa, TheThe Treasure of Pancho Villa||Capt. Pablo Morales|||
|1955||Littlest Outlaw, TheThe Littlest Outlaw||The Padre|||
|1956||Hot Blood||Papa Theodore Caldash|||
|1957||Wild Is the Wind||Alberto|||
|1958||Touch of Evil||Pete Menzies|||
|1958||Light in the Forest, TheThe Light in the Forest||Chief Cuyloga|||
|1958||Have Gun – Will Travel (TV)||Sheriff Sam Truett||"The Manhunter"|
|1959||Zorro (TV)||Padre Simeon||"The Sergeant Sees Red"|
|1959||Cry Tough||Papa Estrada|||
|1960||Alamo, TheThe Alamo||Juan Seguín|||
|1963||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (TV)||Cagewa||"A Killing at Sundial"|
Select radio credits
|March 2, 1939||Kraft Music Hall||Guest star||Calleia sings "Adelai", the popular song he and George Abbott wrote for Broadway's The Broken Wing (1920–21)|
|February 25, 1940||The Screen Guild Theater||Hal Wilson||"Blind Alley" with Edward G. Robinson|
|November 12, 1943||Stage Door Canteen||Guest star|||
|February 18, 1944||Stage Door Canteen||Guest star|||
|November 24, 1944||Stage Door Canteen||Guest star|||
|November 7, 1948||Theatre Guild on the Air||"Criminal Code" with Pat O'Brien|
Calleia was posthumously honored by the Malta postal authority with a set of two commemorative stamps issued in 1997. In 2005, a bust of Calleia by sculptor Anton Agius was installed at his birthplace in Malta on the initiative of then fifteen year old Eman Bonnici.
- Joseph Calleia and Eleanor Vassallo (born August 19, 1898, Brooklyn, N.Y.) were married December 29, 1929, at Long Island, N.Y. She died in Sliema, Malta, on December 17, 1967.
- Calleia's surname is pronounced "cal-ay-a", with the emphasis on the second syllable.
- The play, titled Small Miracle, ran on Broadway in 1934–35 and was filmed in 1935 as Four Hours to Kill!, starring Richard Barthelmess.
- Written by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse with music by Jerome Kern, Have a Heart was first produced on Broadway in 1917 by Harry W. Savage.
- The National Archives at Riverside; Riverside, California, USA; Petitions for Naturalization, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles), 1940–1991; NAI: 594890; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685–2009; Record Group Number: 21. Ancestry.com, California, Naturalization Records, 1887–1991 [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; General Records of the Department of State; Record Group: RG59-Entry 5166; Box Number: 51; Box Description: 1968 BI - CAZ. Ancestry.com. Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835–1974 [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
- "Across from Malta". The New York Times. October 21, 1934. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- Katz, Ephraim (1998). The Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 208. ISBN 0-06-273492-X.
- York, Cal (December 1939). "Cal York's Gossip of Hollywood; Pronouncing Guide". Photoplay. Vol. 53 no. 12. p. 70. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
- "Film Actor Heads Malta War Relief". Pittsburgh Press. November 22, 1942. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Joseph Calleia's Father Dies". The New York Times. July 4, 1945. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Inside the Playbill: The Front Page". Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Joseph Calleia". Ancestry.com. Web: UK, Campaign Medals Awarded to WWI Merchant Seamen, 1914–1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Joseph Calleia Spurin". Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- The Broken Wing (The Magazine Theatre Program). 48th Street Theatre, New York: New York Theatre Program Corporation. March 21, 1921. p. 23.
- Weiler, A. H. (November 21, 1943). "A True Chip Off the Old Maltese Block". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- Abbott, George (1963). Mister Abbott. New York: Random House. p. 99. OCLC 330940.
- "Double Jointed Film Name Has Unusual Story". Chicago Tribune. April 28, 1935. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
- Downes, Olin (February 15, 1925). "Opera: Joseph Calleia, Tenor, in Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
- "Joseph Calleia, Tenor, Pleases". The New York Times. February 22, 1926. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
- Berger, Marilyn (February 2, 1995). "George Abbott, Broadway Giant With Hit After Hit, Is Dead at 107". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- "A Solid Year of Broadway". The New York Times. September 18, 1927. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- Berger, Marilyn (July 22, 1968). "Philip Dunning, Playwright, 76, Co-Author of 'Broadway,' Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- "Plan 10 Companies to Act 'Broadway'". The New York Times. March 22, 1927. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- "Goings On About Town". The New Yorker X (46): 2. December 29, 1934.
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9.
- "My Sin". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
- "His Woman". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
- "The Divorce Racket". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
- Harrison, Paul (December 30, 1934). "Variety of Broadway Plays Are Listed Among Dying Year's Best Stage Fare". The Pittsburgh Press.
- Sennwald, Andre (January 5, 1936). "Best Ten, More or Less". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- Sennwald, Andre (June 8, 1935). "Movie Review: Public Hero No. 1". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- "The Year's Best". National Board of Review Magazine (National Board of Review) 14 (1): 12. January 1939. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
- "Have a Heart". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "It Pleased in Denver". The Hutchinson News. February 12, 1919.
- "Pietro". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Pietro". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Broken Wing". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Broken Wing". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1920–1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 179. ISBN 9780810893023.
- "Zander the Great". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Zander the Great". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Princess Flavia". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Princess Flavia". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "'Princess Flavia' is Rich and Captivating". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- "Broadway". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Inside the Playbill: Broadway". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Front Page". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Last Mile". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Last Mile". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Grand Hotel". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Grand Hotel". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Clear All Wires". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Honeymoon". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Honeymoon". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Ten Minute Alibi". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Ten Minute Alibi". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "'Bride of Torozko' Scores at Opening". The New York Times. July 10, 1934. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Small Miracle". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Small Miracle". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "News of the Stage". The New York Times. February 8, 1935. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
- Hart, Enid (February 15, 1935). "Theatrical Chi-Chat". The San Marino Tribune.
Mr. Spurin-Calleia justifies the advance news of his ability. The rest of the cast also is first class. Small Miracle should have a record run.
- Soanes, Wood (February 22, 1935). "Curtain Calls". Oakland Tribune.
Spurin-Calleia … has started a run for Henry Duffy at El Capitan in his original role in Small Miracle.
- "'All My Sons' a Hit". The New York Times. May 12, 1948. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1940–1949: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 368. ISBN 9780810893061.
- "Joseph Calleia". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "Robin Hood of El Dorado". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- "The Silk Noose". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Noose (1948)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Night Over Taos". Pulitzer Prize Playhouse. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "The Manhunter". Have Gun — Will Travel. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "The Sergeant Sees Red". Zorro. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Zorro, Season Two". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "A Killing at Sundial". Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Season One". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "TV Previews". Milwaukee Journal. October 4, 1963.
- "Ethel Waters and Joe Cook Will be Guests of Vallee; Crosby Signs Joan Bennett and Joseph Calleia". The Lima News. March 2, 1939.
Joan Bennett and Joseph Calleia, heroine and villain of many cinema productions … are the visiting celebrities in the Music Hall with Bing Crosby ….
- "The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- "Screen Guild Theater". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- "Sunday Caller". Harrisburg Telegraph. February 24, 1940. p. 17. Retrieved 2015-11-16 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Stage Door Canteen". Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- "Theatre Guild on the Air". Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- "Anniversaries 1997 - 6c Joseph Calleia and film reel". Malta Post. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
- "Anniversaries 1997 - 6c Joseph Calleia and film camera". Malta Post. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
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