Lando Buzzanca, ‘the male blackbird’ of Italian sexy comedy

In his many films he has been able to represent what were the sexual frustrations of the common man towards the fairer sex and marriage

Playing the role of the average Italian and the provincial and crafty southerner, Lando Buzzanca, who died at the age of 87, achieved notoriety, but public and commercial success in the 1970s conquered him as an unrepentant womanizer, an actor symbol of sexy comedy at the Italian, thanks also to a ‘masculine beauty’ marked by a prominent jaw, lively gaze, beautiful smile and sculpted nose.

With a mustache or not, with films such as “The Male Blackbird”, “Homo Eroticus”, “The Migratory Bird” and “The Honorable Likes Women” Buzzanca was able to represent what were the sexual frustrations of the common man towards the fairer sex and marriage.

Born as Gerlando Buzzanca in Palermo on 24 August 1935, once he completed compulsory schooling he immediately moved to Rome in search of fortune. In 1956, at the age of 21, he was already married to Lucia Peralta (who died in 2010), the future mother of his two sons, Mario and Massimiliano. In the Capital, after various odd jobs, he decides to make a big splash and follow his true passion: acting.

He attended the Sharoff Academy and began to appear as an extra by participating in blockbusters in costume that were filmed in Cinecittà, the first of which was “Ben Hur” (1959) by William Wyler. This test brought him luck and, subsequently, he began working for the small screen by participating in two screenplays by Vittorio Cottafavi: “La trincea” (1961) and “The world is a prison” (1962).

But it will be Pietro Germi who sees in this thin Sicilian boy with a pronounced nose and hesitant appearance an actor worthy of praise, so much so that he has him act together with Marcello Mastroianni and Stefania Sandrelli in “Divorzio all’italiana” (1961) and again alongside Sandrelli in “Seduced and Abandoned” (1964).

In the meantime Buzzanca continues his apprenticeship working for big names, such as Elio Petri in “The days are counted” (1962), Dino Risi in “I mostri” (1963) and Antonio Pietrangeli in “La parmigiana” (1963); she also becomes the sidekick of great and legendary actors such as Amedeo Nazzari (“Le monachine”, 1963), Gino Cervi (“La mania addosso”, 1963) and of the comic couple Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia (“The Martians have 12 hands” and “Corpse for a lady”, both from 1964).

Lando Buzzanca slowly but decisively acquires his spaces in a Cinecittà in the midst of the sweet life, imposing himself, again for Pietrangeli and with Ugo Tognazzi, in “The magnificent cornuto” (1964).

He establishes himself more and more as a comic actor, until he is hired for a series of films that parody James Bond, in which he plays the role of ‘James Tont’ in “James Tont operation one” (1965) by Bruno Corbucci (with which begins a long association) and Giovanni Grimaldi who will later direct him in “The first night of doctor Danieli, industrialist, with the complex of… toys” (1970).

Having gained notoriety, Nanni Loy directed him in the episodic film “Made in Italy” (1965), alongside Peppino De Filippo, Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi; he is the protagonist Giovanni Percolla in “Don Giovanni in Sicily” (1967) by Alberto Lattuada and recites in “The sweet ladies” (1967) by Luigi Zampa with Vittorio Caprioli.

But he would still have remained a minor actor, if it weren’t for the great notoriety he achieves thanks to his participation in the sexy comedy: his scathing ‘masculinity’ and the ability to make people laugh in situations characterized by excessive sexual activity, or on the contrary , from total helplessness, I am his fortune.

Pasquale Festa Campanile, Marco Vicario, Steno, Luciano Salce, Gianni Grimaldi and Luigi Filippo D’Amico become his directors, while Barbara Bouchet, Laura Antonelli, Sylva Koscina, Rossana Podestà, Agostina Belli and Femi Benussi his set mates. Such is the fame achieved, that the designer Leone Cimpellin creates in 1972 a character for a comic and satirical comic series with his features, Jonny Logan, published until 1978. Buzzanca’s face will also be borrowed for the sexy comic ” The Montatore” (1975-1982; a total of 114 paperback volumes for adults), with stories set in the world of work with the protagonist who is a metalworker.

Buzzanca also treads the stage, enjoying great success with the musical comedies “Cinderella” and “Signore e Signora” alongside Delia Scala, of which a black and white version is also made for Rai. It was precisely the Saturday night variety show “Signore e Signora” on the Rai National Channel in 1970 that highlighted all the comedic qualities of the actor and proved to be a great springboard, especially in the cinema but also on the radio, allowing him to go out from the character actor cliché in which it had been used up until then. His joke “mi vien ca laugh” became a nice catchphrase, as well as the grotesque characters of the farmer “Buzzurro”, “Buzzanco” and “Pecoraro dell’Apiro”.

International fame arrives in Buzzanca with the sexy comedy “The male blackbird” (1971) directed by Festa Campanile with Laura Antonelli; in the same year he interpreted “Le belve” by Grimaldi, “The Viking from the South” by Steno and “Homo Eroticus” by Vicario.

Strengthened by his commercial success, he also began to choose the roles to play on his own: his are, for example, the ideas for films such as D’Amico’s “The Referee” (1974), Salce’s “The Unionist” (1972) and ” The Honorable Likes Women” (1972) by Lucio Fulci, in which he sketches parodies of really existing and easily recognizable characters.

With Barbara Steele in “Stop the world… I want to get off!” (1970), “When women had their tails” (1970) and “When women lost their tails” (1972), both by Festa Campanile, as well as with “Ius primae noctis” (1972), “The migratory bird ” (1972) by Steno, “The slave I have it and you don’t” (1973) by Giorgio Capitani (1973), “Me and him” (1973) by Salce and “The cav. Costante demonic Nicosia, or: Dracula in Brianza” (1975, with Franco and Ciccio), Buzzanca outlines a truly conspicuous filmography of 114 more or less cult titles.

With the end of the 1970s and the decline of the sexy comedy genre, Buzzanca decreased his participation in television and cinema. He returns sporadically to the big screen as a minor actor, for example in “Secondo Ponzio Pilato” (1987) by Luigi Magni, where he finds Sandrelli again. He also returns to the theater acting in “La scuola delle mogli” (1990), “La cena delle beffe” (1991) and “Liolà” (1994). He also hopes for the part of the puppeteer Mangiafuoco in “Pinocchio” (2002) by Roberto Benigni but due to disagreements with the director he is not hired.

Subsequently, however, his career has a turnaround in a positive sense and he reappears on TV as the protagonist of numerous fictions: the series “My son” dates back to 2005, where he plays the part of a father who discovers homosexuality of his son, which was followed by the successful series “The Restorer” in 2012.

The great redemption comes, above all, for Buzzanca with the interpretation in the film “I Vicerè” (2007), by Roberto Faenza, where the role of Prince Giacomo earned him a nomination for the David di Donatello 2008 as best actor and winning a Golden Globe . In 2016 he took part in the eleventh edition of Ballando con le stelle, dancing in tandem with Sara Mardegan. In 2017 he appears in the film “Who will save the roses?” by Cesare Furesi alongside Carlo Delle Piane, in which the two play an elderly homosexual couple. Since 2021 the actor’s health conditions have become increasingly declining, due to a disabling disease that forced him to live in a wheelchair first in a clinic, then in a rest home.

Lando Buzzanca was married for 57 years to Lucia Peralta, who died in 2010. Two children were born from their marriage, Massimiliano and Mario. In an interview, the actor confessed that during his long marriage he had allowed himself a few flings: “I’ve never had a double life. I loved my wife very much, we were 57 years together and she only gave me three slaps . I never threw up my hands. My things with actresses were once or twice at the most. I always came home.”

In 2016 Lando Buzzanca met Francesca Della Valle, 35 years his junior. The birth of this sentimental bond led to the emergence of tensions between Lando’s children and their father’s partner, exacerbated by the continuous worsening of the actor’s physical conditions.

(by Paolo Martini)