Renato Rascel

Renato Rascel (Italian pronunciation: [reˈnaːto ˈraʃʃel]), stage name of Renato Ranucci (pronounced [raˈnuttʃi]; 27 April 1912 2 January 1991), was an Italian film actor, singer, and songwriter. He appeared in 50 films between 1942 and 1972. He represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1960 with the song "Romantica" which was placed equal eighth out of thirteen entries.

Renato Rascel
Rascel in The Overcoat (1952)
Renato Ranucci

(1912-04-27)27 April 1912
Died2 January 1991(1991-01-02) (aged 78)
OccupationActor, singer, songwriter
Years active1942–1972


He was born to Cesare and Paola Ranucci in Turin (he always regretted the fact that he was not born in Rome). It was in Turin where his parents, who were opera singers, were performing a show at the time Renato could really say that he was born in the back stage of the theater and that’s where he spent all of his life. His father tried to make it up to him by having him baptized at Saint Peter's in Rome and apparently it worked because growing up in that neighborhood he ended up singing for the “white voices choir” of Saint Peter with the leadership of composer-conductor Lorenzo Perosi.

At the age of 14 Renato started to play drums in ballrooms around Rome. Soon after, he joined the Di Fiorenza Sisters as an actor, dancer and clown and in 1934 he was hired for his first big role by the Schwarts Brothers in the operetta “Al Cavallino bianco”. In 1935, he joined Elena Gray for his first foreign tour in Africa.

In 1941 he created his own theater company and he began to develop his distinctive kind of humor that in the following years will crown him as the inventor of the “non-sense” with phrases like “two friends that didn’t know each other”. He decides to make his small size work for him, being only 5’2” tall, one of his major assets becoming known as the “Tiny Italian” (il piccoletto nazionale) and in his show he accentuates his stature by wearing huge extravagant coats, his most famous one had a large pocket on the back.

In this time he created some of his most famous characters such as “Napoleon” and “Il Corazziere” (a parody on his size since the Corazziere is a military division that employs only soldiers over 6 feet tall) that bring him to an extraordinary popularity in Italy. In 1942 he shoots the first of a long series of films Pazzo d’amore (Crazy For Love) developing and establishing his very peculiar kind of humor. Among the sixty plus films he worked in one of the most relevant was Il Cappotto (The Overcoat) by Gogol, winner of the Golden Palm in Cannes.

He also had a leading role in The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani, Seven Hills of Rome with Mario Lanza, Questi fantasmi with Eduardo De Filippo and Figaro qua Figaro là with Totò. In 1977, he appeared in the Zeffirelli film Jesus of Nazareth as the blind man.

His post second World War success is due mainly to his leading roles in the musicals by Pietro Garinei and Sandro Giovannini. The artistic trio is responsible for the existence of the “musical” in Italy with Attanasio cavallo vanesio in 1952 (featuring the American trio Peter Sisters, Alvaro piuttosto corsaro (1953), Tobia la candida spia (1955), Un paio d'ali (1957), Rascelinaria (1958), Enrico '61 (1961), also performed for an entire year in London at the Piccadilly Theater in 1962), Il giorno della tartaruga (1965) and Alleluja, brava gente (1970).

In his career, Rascel had established himself as a comic and dramatic actor, dancer, singer and songwriter. His most famous song, "Arrivederci Roma," is among the three most famous Italian songs of all time. He also wrote a number of internationally famous songs such as "Venticello de Roma", "Con un po' di fantasia", "Vogliamoci tanto bene", "Romantica", and "Te voglio bene tanto tanto]".

With the arrival of the television set in the Italian household, RAI (the national Italian Television) entrusts Rascel with the role of entertaining the country in the very first live Saturday night show. Among his most memorable performances are “Rascel la nuit“ in 1956 and “Stasera Rascel City” in 1964. His performance in “Father Brown” in 1970, where he interprets a priest that solves crimes in his community, was one of the biggest television successes of the decade. He represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest 1960 with the song "Romantica".

Selected filmography

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