Enzo Garinei, who died at 96: between theater, cinema and TV, a character actor with the thickness of the protagonist

Who knows if “the voice of God” which was his last role, even if off stage, in “Add a seat at the table, will have given him a bonus for entering Heaven. The fact is that God found himself confronted with Enzo Garinei – died in Rome at 96 – his last “interpreter”. And even if off stage, hidden in a stage or in a boat, the fearless Enzo had wanted to follow the tour of the show, he had not surrendered to leave a simple recorded voice to the production and the company, and to the final applause, called by Gianluca Guidi – heir of Johnny Dorelli also in the role of Don Silvestro – would get up from his secluded seat and, illuminated by the bull’s eye, would take a train of ovations.

A very good character actor, Garinei, Pietro’s younger brother, patron of the Sistine Chapel together with Sandro Giovannini, and father of Italian musical comedy. Yet, despite the important family conjunction, Enzo has traveled a career spanning over seventy years, even far from the gray-red velvets of the Roman temple of light spectacle. Of those old-school character actors who gave the role – for comic timing, timbres, inflections, entrance on stage and darting joke – the thickness of the protagonist. And not surprisingly, the subtitle of his biography, “1926: I was there” is “The protagonism of the character actor”. To transmit this art he had created a theatrical academy in Rome.

After his first experiences on the magazine stage, it was cinema that popularized his face and enhanced his talent, and in particular Totò was the first to believe in him. Garinei joined the prince in various titles but also stood up to champions such as Peppino De Filippo, Alberto Sordi, Renato Rascel and Franca Valeri directed by directors such as Bragaglia, Mattioli, Monicelli, Mastrocinque, Steno, Zampa, Lattuada: practically the best of comedy on film between the 1950s and 1960s. The general public also appreciated it on TV (from the great Rai productions of the first decades – from “Gian Burrasca” to “Scaramouche” – up to fiction and sitcoms from the 90s – from “Me and the mother” to “Don Matteo”).

But the real home of Enzo Garinei was the theater and so, despite the drunkenness of notoriety of the big and small screen, he covered, especially at the Sistina, roles that remain in the golden register of the light show of our house: he was a partner by Delia Scala in “Delia Scala show” with two other race characters such as Toni Ucci and Carletto Sposito, he was the clumsy thief Folchetto of “Alleluja brava gente”, the merchant Usseim Ullà of “Let’s turn on the lamp”, the mayor Crispino ( he succeeded in the role to Paolo Panelli) and then Voce di Dio (originally it was Riccardo Garrone) in “Add a seat at the table”. Not to mention the participation in many brilliant comedies produced by the G&G brand, from “Cielo my husband!” to “No sex, we’re British”. But there were also, in the prose, “serious” parentheses with Visconti, Enriquez, Ronconi.

Tall, slouchy, almost British aplomb, Enzo Garinei was, in the cinema, also a very courted voice actor and has lent his voice to many American and English actors and fictional cartoon characters: from Stan Laurel to Sherman Hemsley, the head of the family of the “Jefferson”, from “Asterix” to Sponge of “Peter Pan”. But he entrusted not only the voice but also the physicist (although that was more robust) even to his brother Pietro making him appear in a painting of “Delia Scala Show”. He was a good-natured parody, of course. Which suggests, however, that the two will now meet again and the older brother will welcome Enzo, certainly perhaps a little sorry, with his usual greeting: “Hurray!”.

Last updated: Thursday 25 August 2022, 13:33


Enzo Garinei, who died at 96: between theater, cinema and TV, a character actor with the thickness of the protagonist