I always enjoy finding ex-pat British or American actors in obscure films, and every time I think I know them all another one pops up in some production or other. Last night, for instance, I was watching La nipote Sabella, a moderately amusing Peppino De Filippo movie, and up pops an obviously American actor playing an amiable oil prospector who has found petroleum under a supposedly barren plot of land owned by Tina Pica. It’s not a big part, but a lot of fun is had with the characters limited grasp of Italian, with him frequently breaking into English whenever he can’t make himself understood. Now I’m guessing that the actor was one Remington Olmstead, who appears midway down the credits, and a cursory glimpse at IMDB would indicate that Mr Olmstead was, indead, an American actor who was active in Italy for some years.
His first film credits are as a dancer or glorified extra in wartime US productions such as presenting Lily Mars (43), but in 1951 he suddenly turned up in Primo Zeglio’s early cape and sword film Revenge of the Pirates. Others followed: Mario Soldati’s The Stranger’s Hand (54, alongside Richard Basehart and Trevor Howard), Marc Allegret’s L’eterna femmina (54), Vittorio De Sica’s The Last Judgement (61) and uncredited roles in Ben Hur (59) and Barabbas (61). Not a huge CV, but curious nonetheless.
A bit more digging around uncovers some more information. The Internet Broadway Database has him listed as appearing in a half dozen productions between 1937 and 1945, almost always in tiny parts or as a singer and / or dancer. A clue as to his post-acting career is found in an article about jazz musician Enrico Rava:
Rava began playing the trombone in Dixieland bands when he was 15 and switched to trumpet at 18 after hearing Miles Davis perform in Turin where moved with his family in 1943. Soon he was getting asked to participate in local jam sessions and in 1963 the Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri, who was living in Rome, convinced Rava to join him there. The two honed their skills at a nightly gig that lasted nine months at Meo Patacca, a popular restaurant in Trastevere owned by the expatriate American character actor Remington Olmstead.
A search on Meo Patacca reveals more:
Remington Olmsted, former University of California , Los Angeles football star, dancer and student of opera, did not start his restaurant because of a longing for 18th Century rome, but rather out of nostalgia for old California. After leaving UCLA, Olmsted followed his star to New York and London, ending up Milan, Italy, as a dancer. When he arrived in Rome, it was, as it is to Californians, like coming home. Rome, and many little seaside towns to the south, had the same stone and adobe architecture that remembered ; the beaches were the same as those from Santa barbara to La Jolla, and gentle latin people were like those he had grown up among. He married an italian girl, Diana, daugheter of Daniele Varè, former ambassador and author of “The Laughing Diplomat” and settled down in Rome. Friends, Armando Fontana, Renato Renzi , Romolo Lombardo .. Trasteverini doc, encoureged him to start a restaurant Da meo patacca. His choice of the name explains much of the flavor and spirited abtivity of continuing fiesta and song that floats out on the night breezes from the Piazza mercanti. Olmsted added several troupes of troubadours in the ol Italian style who sing everything from naughty Trastevere songs to the romantic melodies of Naples and from grand opera to American songs.
So there we have it: Remington Olmsted, actor, singer, dancer, football star, restaurateur, Americna in Rome. Whether he’s still alive I don’t know, although there are mentions of him opening a bar in the early 2000s so it would appear possibly so.