8 February 1923
Paddington, London, England
|Died||3 April 2015
|Other names||Bobby Rietti, Robert Rietty|
Robert Rietti, born Lucio Rietti and usually credited as Robert Rietty (8 February 1923 – 3 April 2015), was an actor and director of Italian heritage. He was knighted by the Italian government.
Born in 1923, Rietti was the younger of two sons of the Italian actor Victor Rietti and Rachel Rosenay. In 1932, at the age of nine, he joined his father's company Teatro Italiano, making his stage debut in Mysterious Currents. His father (under whom Ida Lupino and June Duprez had studied acting) developed his son’s acting career under the name Bobby Rietti. He made his motion picture debut as Fattorino in Monty Banks' comedy Heads We Go (1933). He soon caught the eye of David O. Selznick, who offered him an extended film contract. Despite letting down Alfred Hitchcock, who handpicked him to play the lead in Sabotage (1936), he made 17 motion pictures during the 1930s, remaining a popular child actor throughout that decade. They would later work together in Hitchcock’s film Frenzy.
Second World War
His successful career on the stage and in motion pictures was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. At first he joined the Rifle Brigade, but accepted the army’s request for him to head “Stars in Battledress”, a group of young actors, which included the young Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas, who were flown throughout Europe to entertain the Allied troops. In 1945, he was invited by John Gielgud to join his production of Hamlet for troops in the Far East. After the war, he returned to work in the theatre, films, radio, and the latest medium, early television.
In radio, he teamed up with Orson Welles in the radio series The Third Man (1951), and then again on the popular series The Black Museum (1952), which was broadcast to the US Armed Forces. This was to be the beginning of many collaborations between Rietti and Orson Welles, who remained close friends. He was also a regular on the radio series Horatio Hornblower (1952) with Michael Redgrave, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1952), Theatre Royal (1954) with Sir Laurence Olivier, and the classic Sherlock Holmes (1954) with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
His frequent work in television and many guest appearances made him a familiar face in the 1950s and 1960s. He is credited with 164 television appearances. He guest starred together with his father in The Jack Benny Program (1957) and in Harry's Girls (1960), which were both directed by his friend Ralph Levy, director of The Burns and Allen Show. They also performed together in three versions of his father’s television success To Live in Peace and his father's television play Against the Stream (1959). In 1958, George Sanders presented Candle for the Madonna, an original television play Robert had written, in which Robert also played the lead.
Rietti also frequently guest starred in television programmes such as The Jack Benny Program, The Buccaneers with Robert Shaw, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders! with Tony Curtis, and The New Avengers.
Among the earliest of his film appearances were with Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel and with Douglas Fairbanks in The Private Life of Don Juan (both 1934). Of his 77 film appearances throughout his career, he is best remembered for his contribution to the original James Bond pictures. Besides Sean Connery, he was the only actor who appeared in both Thunderball (1965) and the re-make Never Say Never Again (1983). Other performances include The Italian Job (1969), Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), The Omen (1976), as well as a cameo in Hannibal (2001). He played Robert Grant in Hell is Empty (1967) for his brother, the producer Ronald Rietti.
With the growing popularity of epic international films in the 1960s, Rietti gained a reputation for directing the English versions of films like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and El Cid (1961). From the 1970s, this work took priority in Rietti's career, over acting; since the process of ADR, and sometimes dubbing, characters were unpopular to audiences, Rietti's work generally went uncredited.
His own voice was used to re-voice Gregory Peck’s German dialogue in Guns of Navarone (1961), and Orson Welles in Treasure Island (1972), as well as some scenes in Casino Royale (1967). His voice was used in eight of the James Bond films, for which he directed the ADR; his best known work in the series was doing the voice of Adolfo Celi in Thunderball (1965) and Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice (1967). In the last ten films of Jack Hawkins, who had lost his voice to throat cancer, Hawkins was dubbed by Rietti. He was nominated for the Golden Reel Award (a technical Oscar) for his direction of the English version of Once Upon a Time in America (1984), in which he directed Robert De Niro’s post syncing. He often cast a young Catherine Zeta Jones as a re-voicing artist. Impressed with her talent, he pushed Samuel Goldwyn Jr. to cast her at a time when the actress was unknown.
Rietti was also a prolific playwright who has translated and adapted many popular Italian plays, from his native Italian into English. He also wrote several original plays which were produced on the stage, for television, and for radio. He served as executive editor for 18 years of Gambit, a theatre quarterly which published international plays, including many of his own. In recognition of their contribution to the arts, he was knighted together with his father, Victor Rietti, by the Italian government in 1959. Rietti’s title Cavaliere was upgraded in 1988 to Cavaliere Ufficiale.
Later life and death
In 2012, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Florida for his lifetime achievements and contribution to the Arts. The year also marked an 80-year milestone for the then 89-year-old actor. Rietti remained active as a playwright throughout his career. He lectured to film students at film academies and universities, and was an active member of BAFTA.
- Heads We Go (1933)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
- In Town Tonight (1935)
- Emil and the Detectives (1935)
- A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
- Call of the Blood (1949)
- Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons (1960)
- Conspiracy of Hearts (1960)
- The Story of Joseph and His Brethren (1961)
- Middle Course (1961)
- The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)
- The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966)
- The Italian Job (1969)
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
- Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
- The Hiding Place (1975)
- The Omen (1976)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Madame Sousatzka (1988)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991)
- Hannibal (2001)
- Robert Rietti at the Internet Movie Database
- "Robert Rietti", obituary in the Daily Telegraph 22 April 2015
- Empire (UK) April 1994, Iss. 58, pp. 56-58, by: Jeff Dawson, "And This Is Me"
- Brian McFarlane Encyclopedia of British Film, London: BFI/Methuen, 2003, p.566
- Robert Rietti, "A Forehead Pressed Against a Window", New York 2009, p. 314
- "Obituary:Robert Rietti". Times Newspapers Limited. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015. (subscription required (. ))