The voice of Snow White in the first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937 belonged to Adriana Caselotti. The 21-year-old coloratura soprano beat out 148 other candidates for the role. Her father Guido Caselotti, an immigrant from Italy, was a teacher of music and a vocal coach. Her mother, Maria Orefice (from Naples), was a singer in the Royal Opera. Her older sister, Louise, sang opera and gave voice lessons. When Caselotti was seven, the family went to Italy while her mother toured with an opera company. Caselotti was educated at an Italian convent, San Getulio, near Rome, while her mother performed in the opera. When they returned to New York three years later, Caselotti relearned English and studied singing with her father. After a brief stint as a chorus girl at MGM, Walt Disney hired Caselotti as the voice of his heroine, Snow White. She was paid a total of $970 for working on the film (now worth approximately $15,751). She was under contract with Disney and Disney prevented her from appearing in further films and other media, even for Disney, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released. Jack Benny specifically mentioned that he had asked Disney for permission to use her on his radio show and was told, “I’m sorry, but that voice can’t be used anywhere. I don’t want to spoil the illusion of Snow White.” She was named as a Disney Legend in 1994, making her the first woman to receive the award in the voice category. She died in 1997 at age 80.
Neapolitan Baked Tomatoes
Makes: 4 servings
- 4 ripe but firm beefsteak tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped, or other Italian olives, pitted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a serrated knife to cut about 1 inch off the stem end of each tomato. Using a small spoon, carefully hollow out the tomatoes, leaving 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shells and being careful not to puncture the sides. Save the pulp for a sauce. Sprinkle cavities with salt. Place tomatoes, upside down, on a double thickness of paper towels to drain.
In a small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and 1 clove of the minced garlic. Add panko, stirring until coated with the oil mixture. Set aside.
In a large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook about 1 minute more or until spinach begins to wilt. Uncover; stir. Cook, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic, the oregano and pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl; cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the vegetables have cooled slightly, stir in mozzarella and olives. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly into tomato shells. Arrange filled tomatoes in a 2-quart square baking dish. Sprinkle panko mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake about 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and topping is crisp and golden brown. Serve warm.
Among the many Italian Americans in Hollywood is the legendary, Francis Ford Coppola, who won four Oscars in 1975 for The Godfather, Part II. He was born April 7, 1939 and In 1970, he won the Oscar for best original screenplay as a co-writer with Edmund H. North for the movie, Patton. His directorial fame came with the release, of The Godfather, in 1972, a film which revolutionized movie-making in the gangster genre, earning praise from both critics and the public before winning three Academy Awards—including his second Oscar (Best Adapted Screenplay with Mario Puzo), Best Picture and his first nomination for Best Director. He followed with The Godfather Part II in 1974, which became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Highly regarded by critics, it brought him three more Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture and made him the second director, after Billy Wilder, to be honored three times for the same film. The Conversation, which he directed, produced and wrote, was released that same year, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. He next directed, Apocalypse Now in 1979, which was critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. Coppola is one of only eight filmmakers to win two Palme d’Or awards.
Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan. His father was Carmine Coppola, a flautist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and his mother was Italia (née Pennino). Coppola is the second of three children: his older brother was August Coppola and his younger sister is actress, Talia Shire. Born into a family of Italian immigrant ancestry, his paternal grandparents came to the United States from Bernalda, Basilicata. Coppola received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford, not only because he was born in the Henry Ford Hospital but because of his musician-father’s association with the automobile manufacturer. At the time of Coppola’s birth, his father was a flautist, as well as arranger and assistant orchestra director for The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, an hour-long concert music radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Two years after Coppola’s birth, his father was named principal flautist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the family moved to New York, settling in Woodside, Queens, where Coppola spent the remainder of his childhood. Contracting polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood, allowing him to indulge his imagination with homemade puppet theater productions. Reading, A Streetcar Named Desire, at age 15 was instrumental in developing his interest in theater. Eager to be involved in film-craft, he created 8 mm features edited from home movies with such titles as, The Rich Millionaire and The Lost Wallet. As a child, Coppola trained initially for a career in music. He became proficient on the tuba and won a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy. However, Coppola entered Hofstra University in 1955 and majored in theater arts. There he was awarded a scholarship in playwriting. This furthered his interest in directing despite the disapproval of his father, who wanted him to study engineering. Coppola decided he would go into cinema, instead.
Apulian Fedda Rossa
Makes 8 servings
- 1 large loaf 2-day-old round Italian country, cut in half
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, chopped and drained
Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Put the bread halves on the grill and cook until they brown, then turn and brown the other side, 5 to 10 minutes.
Dip the grilled bread into a shallow baking pan filled with water for 2 seconds on each side, then return to the grill until the bread dries out, 5 to 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the bread with olive oil, salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and cover the bread with the tomatoes.
The producer of all but one of the first 17 James Bond movies was Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. (1909 – 1996). Broccoli launched the 007 film series in 1962 with Dr. No. His last film was Golden Eye in 1995. Most of the films were made in the United Kingdom and they were often filmed at Pinewood Studios.
Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was born in the borough of Queens, New York City, the younger of two children of immigrants from the Calabria region of Italy, Giovanni Broccoli and Christina Vence. He acquired his nickname after his cousin, Pat DiCicco, began calling him “Kabibble,” eventually shortened to “Kubbie” and adopted by Broccoli as “Cubby. Broccoli married three times. In 1940, at the age of 31, he married actress Gloria Blondell (the younger sister of Joan Blondell); they divorced in 1945 without having had children. In 1951, he married Nedra Clark, and the couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli, after which Nedra became pregnant. She died in 1958, soon after giving birth to their daughter, Tina Broccoli. In 1959, Broccoli married actress and novelist, Dana Wilson (née Dana Natol) (1922 – 29 February 2004). They had a daughter together, Barbara Broccoli, and Albert Broccoli became a mentor to Dana’s teenage son, Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli insisted on keeping his family close to him when possible. Consequently the children grew up around the Bond film sets and his wife’s influence on various production decisions is alluded to in many informal accounts. Michael Wilson worked his way up through the production company to co-write and co-produce. Barbara Broccoli served in several capacities under her father’s tutelage from the 1980s on. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have co-produced the films since the elder Broccoli’s death.
Calabrian Eggplant and Spaghetti Timballo
A timballo is a pasta pie.
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 lb. thin spaghetti
- 16 oz can Italian whole tomatoes
- 6 ounces salted ricotta, shredded (Salata Ricotta is a firm cheese and should be available in a well stocked delicatessen — If it is not, use a mild pecorino romano
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20 basil leaves, shredded
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Wash the eggplant and cut them lengthwise into thin slices. Put the slices in a colander, salting each layer, and set the colander in the sink for an hour to allow the salt to draw the juices from the eggplant.
Sauté the garlic in 3 tablespoons of oil until it begins to turn golden, then remove and discard it. Chop the tomatoes in the pan and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes, mixing often. Remove pan from the and let the sauce cool.
Pat the slices of eggplant dry and broil or grill them, turning them so both sides are golden.
Cook the pasta in abundant salted water until it reaches the al dente stage and drain it.
Combine the pasta with the tomato sauce, 4 ounces of the grated ricotta and half the basil leaves.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a greased 8-inch springform pan arrange the eggplant slices to cover the bottom and come up over the sides of the pan. Fill the eggplant “crust” with the pasta, fold the eggplant slices over the top of the pie and use the remaining slices to form a top crust.
Press down firmly with your finger tips to level the surface of the pie, drizzle the remaining oil over it and bake the pie for 20 minutes.
Let the timballo cool covered with aluminum foil. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the pan ring. Turn it out onto a serving dish, slice it, and sprinkle the remaining shredded ricotta and basil over the top.
The man behind Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Smurfs and Scooby-Doo is Joseph Barbera, director, producer and co-founder of Hanna-Barbera Film Studios. A banker and free-lance cartoonist, Barbera met Bill Hanna at MGM in 1937. The team created Puss Gets the Boots, which was nominated for an Oscar and inspired the Tom and Jerry cartoons. In 1957, they started their own animation studio and went on to win seven Oscars during their long collaboration.
Joseph Barbera was born on Delancey Street in the Little Italy (Lower East Side) section of Manhattan, New York, to immigrants, Vincent Barbera and Francesca Calvacca, both born in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy and he grew up speaking Italian. His family moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York when he was four months old. He had two younger brothers, Larry and Ted. Barbera’s father, Vincent, was the prosperous owner of three barbershops who squandered the family fortunes on gambling and, by the time, Barbera was 15, his father had abandoned the family. Barbera displayed a talent for drawing as early as the first grade.
During the Great Depression, he tried unsuccessfully to become a cartoonist for a magazine called, The NY Hits Magazine. He supported himself with a job at a bank and continued to pursue publication for his cartoons. His magazine drawings of single cartoons, not comic strips, were published in Redbook, Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s—the magazine with which he had the most success. Barbera took art classes at the Art Students League of New York and the Pratt Institute and was hired to work in the ink and paint department of Fleischer Studios. In 1932, he joined the Van Beuren Studios as an animator and storyboard artist. When Van Beuren closed down in 1936, Barbera moved over to Paul Terry’s Terrytoons studio. Lured by a substantial salary increase, Barbera left Terrytoons and New York for the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) cartoon unit in California in 1937. Barbera’s desk was opposite that of William Hanna. The two quickly realized they would make a good team. By 1939, they had solidified a partnership that would last over 60 years. Most of the cartoons Barbera and Hanna created revolved around close friendship or partnership; this theme is evident with Fred and Barney, Tom & Jerry, Scooby and Shaggy, The Jetson family and Yogi & Boo-Boo. These may have been a reflection of the close business friendship and partnership that Barbera and Hanna shared.
Sicilian Grilled Swordfish with Citrus and Saffron
Makes: 4 servings
- 4 – 5 ounce swordfish or tuna steaks, cut 1 inch thick
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 blood oranges or pink grapefruit
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh mint
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Olive oil
Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a small saucepan cook the green onions and garlic in the 2 tablespoons of oil for 1 to 2 minutes or until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Remove saucepan from heat. Crumble saffron threads into oil mixture; stir. Let stand to infuse the saffron.
Meanwhile, cut a thin slice from one end of each orange and the lemon, so fruit will sit level. Working on a cutting board, cut down from the top of the fruit to remove peel and white part of the rind. Working over a bowl to catch juices, remove the sections by cutting into the center of the fruit between one section and the membrane; cut along the other side of each section next to the membrane to free the section. Remove seeds.
Add saffron oil to the bowl with the fruit sections and juices. Stir in mint, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
Lightly brush both sides of the swordfish steaks with additional olive oil; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill fish on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish flakes when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Gently stir fruit-mint mixture to combine; spoon over fish. Serve immediately.
One of Hollywood’s most gifted directors, Frank Capra, was born in Sicily in 1897 and spent his sixth birthday in steerage on a 13-day ocean voyage to America. Although he is perhaps most famous for his film, It’s A Wonderful Life, his film portfolio includes Mack Sennett and Our Gang comedies; American Madness (1932), based on the life of banker, A.P. Giannini; It Happened One Night (1934) with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, (1939) starring Jimmy Stewart. Capra won three Academy Awards for Best Director during his career.
Capra was born Francesco Rosario Capra in Bisacquino, Sicily, a village near Palermo. He was the youngest of seven children of Salvatore Capra, a fruit grower and the former Sarah Nicolas. They settled in the Italian section of Los Angeles, where Capra’s father worked as a fruit picker and young Capra sold newspapers after school for 10 years until he graduated from high school. Instead of working after graduating, as his parents wanted, he enrolled in college. He worked his way through college at the California Institute of Technology, playing banjo at nightclubs and taking odd jobs, which included working at the campus laundry facility, waiting tables and cleaning engines at a local power plant. He studied chemical engineering and graduated in the spring of 1918. Capra later wrote that his college education had “changed his whole viewpoint on life – from the viewpoint of an alley rat to the viewpoint of a cultured person”.
At age 25, he took a sales job selling books. During his book sales efforts and nearly broke, Capra read a newspaper article about a new movie studio opening in San Francisco. Capra phoned them saying he had moved from Hollywood and falsely implied that he had experience in the budding film industry. The studio’s founder, Walter Montague, was, nonetheless, impressed by Capra and offered him $75 to direct a one-reel silent film. Capra, with the help of a cameraman, made the film in two days and cast it with amateurs. After that first serious job in films, Capra looked for similar openings in the film industry. Because of Capra’s engineering education, he adapted more easily to the new sound technology than most directors. He welcomed the transition to sound, recalling, “I wasn’t at home in silent films”.
He eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s. His rags-to-riches story has led film historians to consider Capra the “American Dream” personified. Capra was four times president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and three times president of the Directors Guild of America, which he helped found. Under his presidency he worked to give directors more artistic control of their films. During his career as a director, he retained an early ambition to teach science and, after his career declined in the 1950s, he made educational TV films related to science subjects.
Sicilian Pizza With Sausage and Peppers
Serves: 4 servings
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 1-pound balls prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian cheese blend
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced into rings
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the olive oil in a 10-by-15-inch baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the balls of dough side by side in the baking dish and pinch the edges together to make one large piece of dough. Press and stretch the dough so it fills the dish. (If using a baking sheet, press and stretch the dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle.)
Spread the crushed tomatoes over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with the red pepper flakes, cheese, sausage and green pepper.
Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and the sausage is fully cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into squares.
A Chorus Line, one of Broadway’s longest running shows, was choreographed by the late Michael Bennett, who received a Tony for his work. Bennett was born Michael Bennett DiFiglia in Buffalo, New York, the son of Helen (née Ternoff), a secretary and Salvatore Joseph DiFiglia, a factory worker. His father was Italian American and his mother was Jewish. He studied dance and choreography in his teens and staged a number of shows in his local high school before dropping out to accept the role of Baby John in the US and European tours of West Side Story. Bennett’s career as a Broadway dancer began in the 1961 musical, Subways Are For Sleeping.
Bennett made his choreographic debut with A Joyful Noise (1966), which lasted only twelve performances and in 1967 followed it with another failure, Henry, Sweet Henry (based on the Peter Sellers’ film, The World of Henry Orient). Success finally arrived in 1968 when he choreographed the hit musical, Promises, Promises, on Broadway. With a contemporary pop score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a witty book by Neil Simon and Bennett’s well-received production numbers, including “Turkey Lurkey Time”, the show ran for 1,281 performances. Over the next few years, he earned praise for his work on the drama, Twigs, with Sada Thompson and the musical, Coco, with Katharine Hepburn. These were followed by two Stephen Sondheim productions, Company and Follies co-directed with Hal Prince.
A Chorus Line, the musical, was formed out of hundreds of hours of taped sessions with Broadway dancers. Bennett was invited to the sessions originally as an observer, but soon took charge. He co-choreographed and directed the production, which debuted in May 1975 off-Broadway. It won nine Tony Awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Bennett’s next musical was a project about late-life romance called, Ballroom. Financially unsuccessful, it garnered seven Tony Award nominations and Bennett won one for Best Choreography. He admitted that any project that followed A Chorus Line was bound to be an anti-climax. Bennett had another hit in 1981 with Dreamgirls, a backstage epic about a girl group like, The Supremes, and the exploitation of black music by a white recording industry. Unlike his more famous contemporary, Bob Fosse, Bennett was not known for a particular choreographic style. Instead, Bennett’s choreography was motivated by the form of the musical involved or the distinct characters interpreted.
Bennett died from AIDS-related lymphoma at the age of 44 and he left a portion of his estate to fund research to fight the AIDS epidemic. Bennett’s memorial service took place at the Shubert Theatre in New York (the home at that time of A Chorus Line) on September 29, 1987.
- Italian American Culture – The Art Of Writing (jovinacooksitalian.com)