Adelmo Brazzi once became a father when his wife Maria Ghedini Brazzi gave birth to a son born September 18, 1916. They named the child Rossano. They had moved from Bologna to Florence when Rossano was four, and his younger brother Oscar was two. But during World War I, Maria had given birth two two children. A baby boy who died during childbirth and a second, a little girl, Mortella who died when she was only seventeen months old.
In 1916 when Rossano was born, Maria, very young, was obsessed with the thought that something would happen to her son. She breastfed him until he was almost two years old. He would become much protected and sheltered from harm and thus enjoyed being the centre of attention. He became fond of reciting poetry to his father’s friends who dropped by of an evening.
Maria had a shoe shop situated in front of the Palazzo Pitti. She designed shoes for Italy, thus the children were brought up in modest affluence. When Rossano was given the lead in a school operetta, he had his first taste of “stardom” as it toured the countryside for almost three months. He took this role very seriously and throughout his schooling and university, he devoted much of his life to the threatre whilst still a law student in Florence.
Theatrical life became his passion and he eventually gave up law for a career in acting. He made his screen debut in 1939 when he appeared in The Trial and Death of Socrates. After a series of swashbuckling roles, Brazzi became a screen idol until during the 1940’s he worked with the resistance groups in Rome during World War II. Although his resistance to the Fascist dictatorship was more passive than active in the early years of Mussolini’s regime, he found that keeping his opinions to himself afforded him an acting career without too much interference. Consequently he escaped being drafted into service in the Italian army except for a token period of 30 days in 1941.
During 1942, the Germans and the Italian government asked Brazzi to relocated to Milan with a view to making propaganda pictures under government sponsorship. He refused. Feigning illness, Brazzi abandoned his film career for the duration.
He had already been asked by the resistance forces to help obtain food for people hidden from the SS executioners. Food was scarce and many in the Underground were close to starvation. Few in Italy were better equipped to help but Brazzi had money. Food could be bought on the black market. Brazzi also had some assistance through the Vatican. As a nephew of the Archbishop of Bari, later known as Marcello Cardinal Mimmi of Naples, Brazzi was a Papal Guard and in a position to capitalise on his knowledge of the Cinecitta movie studio. It had been converted into a concentration camp. During many nights Brazzi helped smuggle out American, British and French prisoners of war. It was estimated, Brazzi and his resistance group smuggled around 5,000 people preventing their impending deaths.
One week before the liberation of Rome, Brazzi was arrested by the German SS. Facing the probability of immediate execution his acting prowess made an appearance when Brazzi explained what may have occurred. That it could have been a wayward Fascist who had done the deed. Whether his interrogator was impressed by Brazzi’s eloquence or merely aware of the Allies approach, he ordered Brazzi jailed rather than shot. Seven days later, Brazzi’s guards vanished and he walked free.
Postwar Italy provided few opportunities for romantic leading men and Brazzi’s popularity declined. He was signed to make his first Hollywood appearance in which he would play the German Professor Bhaer in the 1949 film Little Women. Enroute toLos Angeles he diligently studied the new language. Unable to read English, Brazzi exclaimed, “It was impossible to understand the script.” His performance as a sterile count in The Barefoot Contessa in 1954 revived his career. He was wholly Italian playing an Italian role.
Propelled into international recognition, Brazzi won international fame when he played a role that commanded the English language. Three Coins In The Fountain
One major role was that of Emile de Becque, the South Seas planter in the screen adaptation of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. Brazzi would appear in more than 200 movies throughout his acting career.
A private man by nature, Brazzi remained happily married to the same woman for 41 years until Lidia Brazzi’s death in 1981. Emotionally devastated, Brazzi would take four years until he married a second time. At 17 years old, Ilse Fischer, born in Germany but living in Rome, first set eyes on Brazzi in the movie Three Coins In The Fountain. She was 20 years younger but blessed with patience and devotion. She turned to her mother and right in the middle of the movie theatre, told her, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” When Ilse turned 18, she packed up her belongs, said good bye to her family and moved to Rome to pursue Brazzi. He was however, married. Years later, when Lidia died, Ilse offered her condolences as a friend. Over the years, their acquaintance became friendship and then romance. In 1984, Ilse finally married the man she had waited for, for 32 years.
Rossano Brazzi died in Rome on Christmas Eve in 1994. He was 78 years old.