Robert Rietty

person | uk | 84 productions

Born of Italian heritage Lucio Rietti was "discovered" at the tender age of 8 by his father Vittorio (Victor Rietti veteran actor of the stage and screen) who had noticed the boy had completely memorized a copy of a script he had given Lucio having wanted help from his son while rehearsing his lines for a play. Vittorio had Lucio join his own acting school (which turned out products such as Ida Lupino - then just a little girl), and taught the boy every thing he knew. Lucio was quickly recognized as a child prodigy and appeared alongside his father in scores of plays. He was handpicked by Alfred Hitchcock to play the boy in Secret Agent (1936), but being so young required schooling by law and had to turn down the part. The early Hollywood motion picture king David O. Selznick having seen the boy perform, tried to sign him to an extended contract with his Studio. Before having turned 11 years old he had been in over a dozen films the most notable having starred in the classic Emil and the Detectives (1935) as the leader of a gang of kids.

He was 15 years old and on tour in the UK when WW2 broke out and being of Italian origin was placed in a detention camp together with his father and brother Ronaldo (Ronald Rietti later a film director and producer). After 8 months he was released upon special request to organize an army unit made up of professional actors to entertain the troops. It was during this time that his stage name was altered to Robert Rietty in an attempt to make it sound less Italian and more Irish (who were neutral during the war). It was under the name Robert Rietty that he came to be known best by the public. After 5 ½ years of army service Robert returned to public attention picking up where he had left off.

Over the next several years he participated in every form of entertainment - in radio, on the stage, through motion pictures and the early days of Television. In radio Robert teamed up with Orson Welles twice for the complete radio crime drama series The Black Museum 1951 broadcast to the US armed forces and The Third Man 1951-1952 (aka Harry Lime) - based on the hit film. This proved to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two and Orson made sure to use Robert in countless films of his. Robert was also a regular on the radio series Horatio Hornblower and Theater Royal with Sir Laurence Olivier as well as frequent guest appearances on scores of other radio shows of the time. In motion pictures, still only 25 years of age, he continued to work mostly in character parts with the exception of his performances in Call of the Blood (1948), Prelude to Fame (1950) and Stock Car (1955). Also during this time Robert was heavily involved in the Theater starring in dozens and dozens of plays, even writing quite a few and was editor of the drama quarterly Gambit.

He once found the script of the Italian play To Live in Peace which his father had translated to English but had no luck convincing anyone to produce it. Despite the fact the story was rejected countless times Robert rewrote the script and found a producer willing to back the project with his father in the lead role as Don Geronimo and himself as Maso. The play became an instant success winning many awards and toured in Europe eventually being made twice as films made for Television in 1951 and 1952. Together with his father Robert was knighted by the Italian Government for their contribution to the Italian entertainment industry in particular from translating a great many Italian plays into English. His knighthood was then upgraded. Early television took up much of Robert's time, guest-starring repeatedly in over 100 TV shows many of them being shot live in those days. In television he often got the chance to work together with his father again, most notably in The Jack Benny Program episode Jack Falls Into Canal in Venice (3/10/57) and in the pilot for the series Harry's Girls (1960). During the next 15 years most of his acting was confined to TV and films. His most memorable performances were in The Crooked Road (1965) with Robert Ryan and Stewart Granger, Hell Is Empty (1967) produced by his brother Ronald Rietti and co-starring French actress Martine Carol (who died before the end of shooting the film), The Italian Job (1969) and The Omen (1976) with Gregory Peck.

During this time he made the change from actor to director (although he continued acting) becoming heavily involved in post production work directing and re-voicing and became unquestionably the most sort after director of the kind known throughout Hollywood and Europe as the King Of Dubbers and Man Of A Thousand Voices. His direction was used for practically every film in the James Bond Series (even acting in several) and a never ending list of hundreds of pictures. Through this he came to instruct such stars as Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, John Huston, Rod Steiger, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery and Walter Matthau among others. Although over 85 Robert continues directing and acting today over 75 years after he started.
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Robert Rietty filmography

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