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Flynn`s Footsteps Day 1: Crossing swords with Maestro Musumeci

27 Mar

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Dear fellow Flynn fans,

when roaming in Roma, every true Flynnatic should follow the trail of tales Errol left behind in the Eternal City.
“Rome is where the heart is” may have been the motto of our Hollywood hero when he still was licking his wounds from the appleshot gone astray in Courmayeur.

With “The Story of William Tell” half in the can and half in the bin, Flynn decided to settle in Hollywood at Tiber in hope to find financial funds there and to restart his ambitious film project at a later date. But as we now know, it was waiting for Godot on Via Veneto.

Maestro Renzo Musumeci Greco, son of Enzo Musumeci Greco (1911-1994), a renowned sword master and world class Cinecittà choreographer, took time out of his busy schedule to meet me at his “Accademia D`Armi” near the Pantheon and show me Errol`s old fencing grounds. The Academy was founded in 1878 by his great grandfather, Salvatore Greco dei Chiaramonte (1835-1910), who fought as Head of the Sicilian Red Shirts alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi in his quest for the Unity of Italy. As history wanted it, the Austrian Army was sent packing and given Verdi´s “Va pensiero” as sing along song on their long way back home over the Italian Alps. From then on the art of sword wielding was taught in the House of Musumeci Greco for sportsmanship only. Still there were challenges issued, but they were considered decided once first blood was drawn.

Sal`s sons were champions without compare. Agesilao Greco (1866-1963) went undefeated for nearly 50 years. At an exhibition bout at an Imperial festivity in Vienna of 1896, he crossed swords with the first Olympian Champion Verbruge from Belgium. When the Olympiad failed to greet the Italian Ambassador, the atmosphere literally could have been and was about to be cut with a knife. Suddenly AG with a swift stroke flung the sword out of his opponent`s hand and in front of the Italian diplomat`s feet. Amongst deafening silence the two duelants took their stances again to resume their encounter. Within seconds the Belgian`s sword took on the same trajectory and landed on the exact spot as before. The crowd burst into cheers. That way the cocky Belgian had been forced to bend his knees not once but twice in front of the ambassador. The younger Greco brother Aurelio (1879-1954) published a handbook for the correct use of the sword and held his own in the Fight of the Century in 1922 with a certain Candido Sassone (the name translates into “Big Rock”) who had managed to evade any confrontation in years prior and was cat called out only by a polemical newspaper article. It took 7 encounters to decide a winner. The last clash resulted in a open gash of Sassone. The honor of the Grecos, I am inclined to say the “Klitschkos” of their time, was intact.

Enzo Musumeci Greco, had a brilliant international sport career before he found his niche teaching film stars to cloak and dagger with swagger. Richard Burton, Burt Lancaster, Tyrone Power, Orson Welles and Charlton Heston broke a sweat in that hallowed hall of Via del Seminario 87. Once Errol had decided to film a spoof-off of his Don Juan movie from 1948 called “Crossed swords” Maestro Enzo came into swordplay. Their relationship turned friendship and their collaboration was extended to provide bona fide fights for “Le Avventure di Guglielmo Tell”. The incumbent Maestro Renzo was one year old, when a troupe of 150 people gathered at the foot of Mont Blanc to “teach Jack Warner a lesson” on how to film histopics. Vast sums were spent on a medieval village and on all workers were provided with sweaters to withstand wind and weather in the Northern province of Piemont. Newspapers reported about a lush birthday party at a local hotel for Errol`s 44th birthday. Six weeks later the the money had run out and the movie machinery came to grinding halt. Flynn`s cars were seized and director Jack Cardiff sent his wife and 3 boys home to England, before “they could be held ransom…”

The family tradition of blazing big screen blades goes on. Maestro Renzo has worked with Max Von Sydow in a swashbuckler called “The desert of the Tartars”, with film makers Luchino Visconti (“The innocent”), Carlos Saura (“I, Don Giovanni”, 2009) and Franco Zeffirelli. Like his father taught Gina Lollobrigida, he had the great pleasure to advise Monica Bellucci on stepping and stabbing right. I salute him for lifting that veil on Will Tell a little more for us here.

“Grazie Gran Signore Renzo e spero di arrivederLa prestissimo a Vienna!”

Enjoy,

— shangheinz

 

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  1. The Zaca

    March 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Bravo – love the story and photos….Happy Easter.

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  2. Sergio

    March 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    nice piece shangheinz – nice history background…

    That William Tell adventure for Errol was pretty tragic, especailly financially, then to top it off having his so called friend Bruce Cabot, who Errol had looked out for him in getting him work when no one wanted him, kicks him in the knackers when he’s down; sued Errol for back pay etc. for his work in this unfinished movie – friends like that who needs enemies as they say.

    I often wondered if Errol got the idea to do this film after seeing that Jack Warner made “The Flame and the Arrow” in 1950 with Burt Lancaster?…

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    • shangheinz

      March 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      You are welcome, SoFlo Sergio. Here is my will tell-all piece on the very topic: www.theerrolflynnblog.com…
      And yes, “The flame and the arrow” was a catalyst for Errol`s swiss epic/failure of epic proportions, mainly because TFATA was an unsuspected box office success that ultimately launched Burt Lancaster`s career.

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      • Sergio

        March 27, 2016 at 9:49 pm

        very nice piece shangheinz – and thank you for your finalizing my curiosity in the connection of TFATA and William Tell.

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  3. Sergio

    March 27, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    All I can say is Wow! Gentleman Tim….

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  4. David DeWitt

    March 28, 2016 at 3:32 am

    A wonderful Telling!!!

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  5. Gentleman Tim

    March 28, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Touche, Salute and Grazie, maestroheinz. Fantastico!

    No Telling where you’ll be next. Only time Will Tell. There is no fencing you in.

    www.accademiagreco.it/index.php?Mod=Choose&Lang=2…

    bit.ly/1UVu2

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  6. Gentleman Tim

    March 28, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Touche, Salute and Grazie, maestroheinz. Fantastico! Writing, photos, everything!!!

    No Telling where you’ll be next. Only time Will Tell. There’s no fencing you in.

    www.accademiagreco.it/index.php?Mod=Choose&Lang=2…

    bit.ly/1UVu2

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  7. rswilltell

    March 28, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks Heinz for such incredibly fascinating material on Errol Flynn. The behind the scenes story of ‘William Tell’ is so much more fascinating than the wonderful Swiss legend in front of the camera. Heinz has only scratched the surface here! Ralph Schiller

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    • shangheinz

      March 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

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      Kudos from the Ralph of Rushstreet are very much appreciated. RR, Maestro Musumeci was present at the one and only showing in Courmayeur in 1997. Jack Cardiff was there and Pat Wymore as well as much of the Italian cast. The reels had been recovered by local townspeople. All had fond memories of “The greatest film never seen”.

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      • rswilltell

        March 29, 2016 at 1:06 pm

        Heinz; Keep digging up this treasure, one gold doubloon at a time! Document everything and tell us more. Ralph Schiller

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      • Gentleman Tim

        March 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm

        Grazie for the great photo, paisanoheinz. If while you’re roming around Rome you fete on too much fettucini Alfredo, you may want to visit this fine physician of nutrition (who may be related to the felonious fellow who gave Errol so much indigestion up the Alpian way:

        www.fossataroadolfonutrizione.com…

        P.S. You’ve inspired me to do a quiz on the tale of Tell. It may be harder than shooting and apple off a head, though. Being that it’s your bailiwick, do you mind if I post a quiz on The Adventures of William Tell? (If you wish, please feel free to abstain and give us hoi polloiers a fighting chance.)

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        • shangheinz

          March 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm

          With pleasure, Quizman Tim. I actually may have a clue for once on your questionaires debonairs.

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          • Gentleman Tim

            March 29, 2016 at 7:30 pm

            Grazie, Signore Heinzo.

            It’s a tough one regarding to seemingly unconnected things, which I would have never known but for all your stupendous sleuthing into Errol’s tale of Tell.

            Hope you get a chance to give Dr. Fossataro a check up.

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  8. shangheinz

    April 7, 2016 at 10:14 am

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    Mrs. Antonella Petrucci, the director of Casa Museo Musumeci Greco, wishes to inform all Flynn fans that private tours and personal events can be booked directly via mail. Here is the address if you want to swashbuckle up: casamuseo@musumecigreco.com…

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