|Died||in Los Angeles, California, USA|
Mini Bio (1)
If one subscribes to the notion that "Duck and Cover" is the "Citizen Kane" of cold war civil defense films, then its director, Anthony Rizzo, is, by extension, the Orson Welles of the genre. Of course, while Welles's achievements in film are well known, his counterpart's career is decidedly more obscure. This mini-biography then is but a small step forward in recognizing Mr. Rizzo's remarkable contribution to cold war popular culture.
This recognition is long overdue because Rizzo's masterpiece is one of the most famous short subject films ever produced. Moreover, the phrase "Duck and Cover" has entered the national lexicon as shorthand for referencing the panicky days of the 1950's and early 1960's. Indeed, numerous documentaries, news specials and motion pictures have used clips from "Duck and Cover" to evoke this paranoid era. After 9/11 the film's famous title was redeployed by an army of none-too-clever media headline writers to describe a new age of fear.
So just who was the auteur behind "Duck and Cover"?
Anthony Rizzo and his family came to America from Italy through Ellis Island early in the last century. The family settled in Chicago where young Tony dreamed of becoming an opera singer. In the 1940's world events intervened and the desire for the opera stage was forgotten. Upon his return from World War II, where he served as a radio operator, Rizzo studied at Northwestern University and the Chicago Conservancy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Rizzo got his first media industry job at the ABC television affiliate in Chicago where he produced and directed variety, quiz, sports, adventure and children's programming.
In 1951 the now seasoned producer-director moved to New York City where he joined Archer Productions, Inc., a powerhouse production house that held commercial TV accounts with such companies as Chevrolet, Proctor & Gamble, and the American Tobacco Company. At about the same time Rizzo started with Archer, the company had won a bid to produce several civil defense films for the U.S. Government. In addition to directing "Duck and Cover," Rizzo directed the short "Our Cities Must Fight" (1951). This second film advised the viewer about the importance of not evacuating their city in the event of an atom bombing. The rationale was that it was more important for the citizenry to stay and fight the invading "enemy" and help put out fires. The movie, arguably more ridiculous than "Duck," never achieved the same camp classic status. The third civil defense film that Archer was contracted to produce was never made.
After leaving Archer, Rizzo entered the world of New York advertising where he continued to write, produce and direct commercial fare. Among the prestigious agencies Rizzo worked for are Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, the Blow Company and Ketchum, MacCleod & Grove. In addition to his advertising work Rizzo performed in regional theater under the stage name "Tony Rainer."
In the early 1970s Rizzo switched careers and worked in real estate for many years until his retirement.
Anthony Rizzo passed away in 2004 at the age of 85 in Los Angeles. He is survived by two children, two grandchildren and the amazing cultural legacy that is "Duck and Cover."
So, the next time you see or hear a tortured variation on the phrase "Duck and Cover" (e.g. "duct and cover") remember Anthony Rizzo was the man behind the camera on the original. Spread the word!
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Geerhart