La Stampa is reporting that Italian actor Giuliano Gemma was killed last night in a car crash in Cerveteri, a town just to the west of Rome. He was 75.
A passionate boxer, Gemma was regular on Cinecittà sets in the 50s, working as an extra, performing stunts, alongside the likes of Charlton Heston in Ben Hur (1959). Eventually, Duccio Tessari gave him a speaking role in My Son, the Hero (Arrivano i titani, 1962). Cinephiles will more likely remember him as Garibaldi’s General in Luchino Visconti‘s The Leopard (1962), but he became a real star in Italy for his lead roles in spaghetti westerns such as A Pistol for Ringo (Una pistola per Ringo, 1964), Blood for a Silver Dollar (Un dollaro bucato, 1965) and Day of Anger (I giorni dell’ira, 1967). He also worked with Dario Argento on Tenebre (1982).
In 1976, Gemma won the David di Donatello, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscar, for his performance as Major Matiss in Valerio Zurlini’s Desert of Tartars. In his later years, Gemma primarily appeared on television, and the IMDb lists over a hundred performances in all.
Update, 10/3: A couple of nice details from Phil Dyess-Nugent at the AV Club. First, Gemma’s “distinctive features included a scar on his cheek, which he received after an explosive device he found while playing as a child during World War II went off in his face.” And second: “Last year, he was seen in one of his rare English-language films, playing a hotel manager in Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love.”