Just finished watching two silly but moderately entertaining films with Franco & Ciccio: I due mafiosi (63) and I due mafiosi contro Al Capone (65). As always with Franco & Ciccio films, they’re a take them or leave them affair, but once again I was struck by the skill with which they were made on a small budget (you can only really appreciate this when watching decent prints of their films). Franco & Ciccio actually made a series of films as ‘I due mafiosi’, also including I due mafiosi contro Goldginger (65) and I due mafiosi nel far west (64) – although in all honesty they’re really playing Franco & Ciccio as always, and the ‘Due mafiosi’ title might as well have been Franco & Ciccio contro Al Capone (etc etc). Anyway, all these films were directed by Giorgio Simonelli, a filmmaker who had an interesting career but whose films are little known outside of Italy.
Born in 1906 in Rome, after acheiving his diploma (in business), Simonelli became a journalist and began writing film criticism in journals like Gente nostra and Avvenimento while still a young man. In 1928, at the age of 22, he collaborated with Nicola Fausto Neroni in directing Maratona, and two years later he was among the writers of the first Italian film made with sound, La canzone dell’amore, directed by G. Righelli. After serving as an assitant to both Righelli and Guido Brignone, by 1934 he was occupied mainly as an editor, working on films for directors like Pasinetti, Alessandrini, Mastrocinque, Gallone and others. In the same period he was appointed by Emilio Cecchi (the director of Cines) to produce the official film magazine of the company, which covered topical events of the previous year. In the 1940s he moved into directing, while still continuing his other activities, specialising in comedies and acheiving some success with films starring the likes of Toto, the De Filippo brothers, Taranto, Rascek, Chiari, Tognazzi, Macario, Sordi and Fabrizi. He concluded his career with a series of films starring Franco & Ciccio.
He died in 1966, having made over 60 films, many of which were box office successes, and being an important figure in the establishment of the Italian film industry. He was survived by his son Giovanni (who became an extremely prolific screenwriter). Curiously, he also received a credit some 10 years after his death, as co-director of Amici più di prima, a film made up of archive Franco & Ciccio footage.
If any else has any information or opinions about Giorgio Simonelli, please comment below!