During these years Italian cinema discovers the pleasure of comedy, leaving behind neorealism and the anxieties of the post war period. In 1958 director Mario Monicelli, great observer of Italian customs, directs “I Soliti Ignoti” (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”) nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Vittorio Gassman, Totò and friends do not win the Oscar, but nevertheless the movie sets a record: it is the first film, in Italian movie history, with a jazz soundtrack composed by Umiliani at his debut as cinema composer. Umiliani has devoted the previous ten months of inactivity to the study of the greatest jazz masters. His last album “Da Roma a New York” dated 1957, inspires Monicelli to choose him. Umiliani composes an innovative soundtrack, without a real main theme but with four different moods, expressed and enhanced by different instruments: drama (trumpet and sax), thrilling (piano and vibraphone), romance (sax contralto solo), sentimental (clarinet). These “four parts” are interwoven with brilliant themes and linking sub-themes. Umiliani talks about this experience in an interview published in the no. 3 issue of “Il Giaguaro” magazine dated May 2000:
“…. few played jazz in movies, maybe Piccioni used it in some themes. My first movie was “I Soliti Ignoti” (“Big Deal in Madonna Street”) by Mario Monicelli. He asked me to write a lively and jazzy soundtrack. I took the job lightly, and proposed themes I had previously composed. The director listened to them and within 2 weeks I had the whole soundtrack ready. The movie was having hard times to find a distributor and everybody thought it was going to be a flop, instead when it came out it was a real blockbuster…”
From 1958 to 1961, following the great exploit of this movie, directors like Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini, Camillo Mastrocinque, Nanny Loy and also Luigi Zampa for “Il Vigile” (“The Traffic Policeman”) starring Alberto Sordi, ask Umiliani to compose the soundtracks for their comedies. Jazz is Umiliani’s trade mark, especially in “Audace Colpo dei Soliti Ignoti” (“Fiasco in Milan”) where Chet Baker’s trumpet underlines Gassman and Manfredi’s adventures; this sequel is as good as (if not even better than) the first movie. In this film, Vicky Ludovisi sings “Non Ho l’Erre Però”, a cha cha cha showing Umiliani’s versatility, capable of dealing with be-bop, swing and popular songs with style and originality. “Just in Case” interpreted by Carol Danell and “Giocando alla Roulette” interpreted by Joe Sentieri are two songs composed by Umiliani for the movie “Roulotte and Roulette”(1959), followed by other famous themes composed for “I Soliti Rapinatori a Milano” and “Mariti a Congresso” interpreted with taste and irony by Gianni Meccia.
Besides jazz, Umiliani also experiments with different film and music genres, like with the two musicals “Caravan Petrol, Sanremo: La grande Sfida” and “Urlatori alla Sbarra” (starring a dazed Chet Baker), and with the exotic calypso rhythm of “Venere Creola”. Finally, he collaborates with Pier Paolo Pasolini for “Accattone”, one of the few films outside the main stream of the usual carefree mood of the early 60’s. Their collaboration also includes lyrics written by Pasolini for songs and music for theatre plays composed by Umiliani.
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I Soliti Ignoti X SoundClip X
(aka "Big Deal on Madonna Street")
Director: Mario Monicelli
Cast: Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori, Totò, Carlo Pisacane.
Distr.: Cristaldi Film - Lux
Un Uomo Facile (in collaborazione con Carlo Rustichelli)
(aka "The Defeated Victor")
Director: Paolo Heusch
Cast: Maurizio Arena, Giovanna Ralli, Tiberio Mitri, Fosco Giachetti.
Ciao Ciao Bambina
Director: Sergio Grieco
Cast: Elsa Martinelli, Antonio Cifariello, Lorella De Luca, Aroldo Tieri, Riccardo Garrone.
Roulette e Roulotte
Director: Turi Vasile
Cast: Abbe Lane, Antonio Cifariello, Mario Carotenuto, Luigi De Filippo.
Director: Mario Amendola
Cast: Nino Taranto, Pietro De Vico, Pupella Maggio, Angela Luce.
Labbra Rosse X SoundClip X
(aka "Red Lips")
Director: Giuseppe Bennati
Cast: Gabriele Ferzetti, Jean Valerie, Giorgio Albertazzi, Christine Kauffman, Laura Betti.
Distr.: Royal Films International
L'Audace Colpo dei Soliti Ignoti X SoundClip X
(aka "Fiasco in Milan")
Director: Nanni Loy
Cast: Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi, Renato Salvatori, Claudia Cardinale, Vicky Ludovisi, Carlo Pisacane, Tiberio Murgia.
Distr.: Jerand Films
Genitori in Blue Jeans X SoundClip X
Director: Camillo Mastrocinque
Cast: Peppino De Filippo, Ugo Tognazzi, Scilla Gabel, Franco Fabrizi, Silva Koscyna, Mario Carotenuto.
Sanremo La Grande Sfida
(aka "San Remo The Big Challenge")
Director: Piero Vivarelli
Cast: Mario Carotenuto, Adriano Celentano, Domenico Modugno, Odoardo Spadaro
Il Vigile X SoundClip X
(aka "The Traffic Policeman")
Director: Luigi Zampa
Cast: Alberto Sordi, Vittorio De Sica, Silva Koscina, Marisa Merlini.
Urlatori alla Sbarra X SoundClip X
(aka "Howlers of the Dock")
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Adriano Celentano, Mina, Elke Sommer, Joe Sentieri, Chet Baker.
Uno Contro Tutti X SoundClip X
(A collection of short silent movies directed by Charlie Chaplin del 1915)
Regia: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin.
Genre: Slapstick Comedy
Il Pellegrino X SoundClip X
(aka "The Vagabond". Piero Umiliani wrote a new OST for the 1961 italian release)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin
Director: Tony Amendola
Cast: Marisa Merlini, Memmo Carotenuto, Aroldo Tieri, Ave Ninchi, Raffaele Pisu.
Distr.: Globe Film International
Accattone X SoundClip X (with Carlo Rustichelli)
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cast: Sergio Citti
Distr.: Brandon Films
I Soliti Rapinatori a Milano X SoundClip X
Director: Giulio Petroni
Cast: Mario Carotenuto, Jacqueline Sassaro, Dominique Boschero, Franco Fabrizi.
Mariti a Congresso X SoundClip X
Director: Luigi Filippo D'Amico
Cast: Walter Chiari, Jacqueline Sassaro, Alberto Lionello, Bice Valori, Marisa Merlini
A Cavallo della Tigre X SoundClip X
(aka "On the Tiger's Back")
Director: Luigi Comencini
Cast: Nino Manfredi, Mario Adorf, Valeria Moriconi, Gian Maria Volonté.
Venere Creola X SoundClip X
(with Carlo Rustichelli)
Director: Lorenzo Ricciardi
Cast: Calvin Lockhart, Helen Williams, Issa Arnal, Sheila Gibson.
Distr.: Euro Film
A Porte Chiuse X SoundClip X
Director: Dino Risi
Cast: Anita Ekberg, Claudio Gora, Fred Clark, Mario Scaccia, Fabio Bonagura, Vittorio Caprioli.