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Mario Lanza Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (17) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 31 January 1921Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 7 October 1959Rome, Lazio, Italy  (heart attack)
Birth NameAlfred Arnold Cocozza
Nicknames The Tiger
The Service Caruso
Freddy
Height 5' 7¾" (1.72 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Mario Lanza's life, sadly, has all the markings of an epic Shakespearean tragedy. The story is truly incredible: a wild, incendiary Philadelphia kid who can sing better than Enrico Caruso sets out to become the greatest dramatic opera singer who ever lived, is detoured by MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer and vixen Hollywood, is remade into a fiercely handsome box-office champ with a 50-inch chest, his own national radio show, 1951 TIME Magazine cover idol, and king of the pop record world. He was besieged on cross-country concert tours and appearances years before Elvis Presley and The Beatles, was a true "superstar" before the word was invented and the first singer to ever earn gold records, with million sellers in both classical and popular categories.

His MGM masterpiece, The Great Caruso (1951), was the top-grossing film in the world in 1951. The Lanza voice was so incredible, so powerful, so golden, so dazzling that an awestruck Arturo Toscanini called it, simply and correctly, the "voice of the century". Among the multitudes of stunned admirers worldwide included the likes of Serge Koussevitzky, Frank Sinatra, Presley, Tito Schipa, Renata Tebaldi, Sophie Tucker, Kirsten, Albanese and countless others. Lanza's voice has been called the "Northern Lights in a Throat' and passed through a heart of peerless sensitivity and passion . . . and vulnerability.

Fired by MGM during production of The Student Prince (1954) in 1952 after director Curtis Bernhardt assailed him over the "excess" passion of one song in his stunning recording of the soundtrack, his career began a downturn that would never be reversed. Lanza never fully recovered from the emotional catastrophe of "The Student Prince" fiasco and losing his MGM contract, and declined slowly in a pattern of near-alcoholism, food-binging, huge weight gains and losses and professional tempestuousness. Fed up with not being able to get film roles--other than Serenade (1956) for Warners in 1956--and a savage press, Lanza quit Hollywood and moved his family to his ancestral Italy to rebuild his life and career. He made two mediocre European-produced films, enjoyed generally successful concert performances and died, apparently of a heart attack, on October 7, 1959, only seven years after "The Student Prince" nightmare at the terribly young age of 38, leaving behind four children and his shattered wife, who died five months later of a drug overdose after returning to Hollywood.

Lanza's seven films and scores of astonishing recordings continue to stun and inspire singers and the public 40 years after his death. He is celebrated and honored with film festivals, a steady flow of new CDs, and constant worldwide musical tributes--most notably by Domingo-Carreras-Pavarotti and a multitude of lesser vocal lights. People Magazine, in 1998, summed up the Lanza voice as "magnificent". Simply put, there will never be another Mario Lanza.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jeff Rense <mariolanza.net> (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Elizabeth Jeannette (Betty) Hicks (12 April 1945 - 7 October 1959) (his death) (4 children)

Trivia (17)

His wife, Betty, was the sister of Lanza's army buddy. He was interested in her picture, and the buddy introduced them.
Lanza had four children with his wife Betty: Colleen - a screenwriter, died of a road accident in 1997; Elisa - a housewife with two sons, Damon - had dabbled in restaurant and motorcycle business; Marc - died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 37
He began filming The Student Prince (1954) playing Prince Karl, but his weight problems and fiery temperament got him fired. Edmund Purdom starred in the role, lip-synching to Lanza.
A minor uproar once resulted when Lanza went on an early '50s TV show and lip-synched to one of his hit songs rather than singing live. (This was not done in the early days of TV).
A rarity in that he was a best-selling classical artist, Lanza's many recordings on RCA Victor Red Seal--most notably "Be My Love", The Great Caruso (1951) soundtrack album and "Christmas Hymns and Carols"--were top-sellers at the time and have continued to enjoy consistent sales, more than four decades after his premature death.
As Enrico Caruso was a major influence on Lanza, Lanza has been a major influence on the generation of tenors who came after him. Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Andrea Bocelli, and Jerry Hadley all credit Lanza as an inspiration to them in pursuing their chosen careers.
Uncle of Dolores Hart.
Brother-in-law of actor Bert Hicks.
Took as his professional name a variation on his mother's name. He substituted the masculine Mario for the feminine Maria and used her maiden name of Lanza as his surname.
Much has been made of the influence Lanza has had on contemporary tenors such as Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, but an apocryphal story has followed Lanza through his career and beyond. The famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso died in 1921. Lanza was born in 1921. Superstition prompts fans to believe that the newborn Mario inherited the voice of the expired Enrico. To support this myth, most critics during Lanza's life espoused the belief that Lanza's vocal range and quality were on a par with no other singer but Caruso.
As one of the first students at Tanglewood in the early 1940s, he was certainly in distinguished company. His fellow students during that period included Leonard Bernstein, conductor/impresario Sarah Caldwell, composer/conductor Lukas Foss and teacher/composer/conductor Frederick Fennell, to name but a few.
Although greatly admired by generations of opera stars, including Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Roberto Alagna, Lanza himself only performed two operatic roles on stage - Fenton in Nicolai's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at the Berkshire Festival in Tanglewood, and Lt. Pinkerton in Giacomo Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" for the New Orleans Opera Association. He received rave reviews for both efforts, with Noel Straus of the New York Times hailing him as having "few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power." He sang over 150 concerts in his brief career, and at the time of his death had agreed to appear in the 1960-1961 Rome Opera season as Canio in "Pagliacci".
Soprano Maria Callas (who was not known for her praise of contemporary singers) is on record as calling Lanza "Caruso's successor," and in a 1973 interview said of him: "My biggest regret is not to have had the opportunity of singing with the greatest tenor voice I've ever heard."
Legally changed his name from Alfredo Cocozza to Mario Lanza in 1948, just before he signed with MGM.
In 1951, his salary was $800,000.
According to Hedda Hopper's Hollywood (radio show broadcast February 11, 1951), he was playing semi-pro football in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the 1940s. Scranton named February 15, Mario Lanza Day.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1751 Vine Street and for Motion Pictures at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

Personal Quotes (3)

I sing from the heart... I sing the words of a song and really feel them, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes... I sing as though my life depends on it, and if I ever stop doing that then I'll stop living
All my life I liked fun. I'm young and alive. I like people with heart. Even today when people get gloomy around me, I swear in high C and say, 'Let's get going ... you're fracturing me with this misery!'
I sing each word as though it were my last on earth.

Salary (1)

Serenade (1956) $150,000

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