Bill Vanders was one of the most prolific of the American actors who worked in Rome during the golden age of Italian exploitation cinema, yet almost nothing is known about him. A grey haired, amiable looking chap, he began appearing in Italian genre films in the late sixties. Considering that he must have been in his forties at the time – judging by appearances, which isn’t always accurate – it would be interesting to know what he’d been up to before. He certainly doesn’t seem to have been an actor prior to his time in Italy, so maybe he was an ex-pat who drifted into the trade… but then, what was he doing? Maybe dubbing?
Anyway, his first apparent roles were in 1967, with Emilio Miraglia’s Assassination, Mino Guerrini’s Date for a Murder, Guglielmi Morandi’s L’oro di Londra and Michele Lupo’s Your Turn to Die. Interestingly, both Assassination and L’oro di Londra featured a number of American actors and the former also had location shooting in New York. Maybe this was a connection? Who knows…
Whatever the case, he was soon appearing all over the place. In 1967, 68 and 69 he made upwards of five films a year, and although his workload reduced in the 1970s and there was less call for international actors, he still managed to turn up in two or three films annually. By the end of the 1970s his acting career seems to have fizzled out, although he did pop up in Pino Passalacqua’s mini-series Un siciliano in Sicilia.
In all, he made abo0ut 30 films. Some of them are now established classics: he plays a police chief in Visconti’s The Damned (69), has a small part in Orsini’s Corbari (70) and has a brief cameo in Lizzani’s Mussolini: Ultimo atto (74). Others, like Ferroni’s Parolini’s 5 for Hell (69) and Night of the Devils (72) have become firm cult favourites. A personal favorite is Giuseppe Ferrara’s Mafia docu-drama Il sasso in bocca (69), in which he has a substantial role as Lucky Luciano. He also appeared in European shot TV shows such as It Takes a Thief and Return of the Saint.
There was also an actor called Warren Vanders, who was active in American cinema and also had a substantial role in the Italian Western The Price of Power. His birth name was Warren Vanderschuit, and he looked a lot like Bill Vanders. Were they brothers? If anyone has any more information, please comment below!