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Photographs of Jack Salvatori, the British Valentino

Photographs of Jack Salvatori, the British Valentino

Laura E. Ruberto (March 21, 2010)
photo courtesy of Ray Holland
Jack Salvatori, possibly in the United States

On having received an envelope mailed to Berkeley, California from Cornwall, England with photographs of the Italo-British filmmaker and actor, Giovanni “Jack” Salvatori.


In August 2009 I wrote a blog post on the film Umanità, a rare visual document about war refugees living at Cinecittà in the 1940s, and Jack Salvatori, the relatively obscure director who made the film. Since that post I have communicated with Salvatori’s son, Ray Holland, first via a comment on my post and later through email.
Holland has shared much biographical insight about Salvatori—who was not, as I had assumed precisely Italian AMERICAN, but rather born of an Italian father and a British mother. He spent most of his life in England and Italy, and fought in both World Wars.

Underage, 16 year old Salvatori, in the Bedfordshire Regiment
Inscription reads:
With Kind & Sincere Thoughts/Giovanni S/October (?) '17 (?)
circa 1917
(courtesy of Ray Holland)

He eventually also came to the U.S. to work in Hollywood and had small parts in, for instance, Henry King’s 1949 film Princes of Foxes starring Tyrone Powers and Orson Welles (which was mostly filmed in Italy).
On the set of Princes of Foxes.
Salvatori, in period costume, dressed as a nobleman’s servant. According to Holland, Salvatori appears early on in the film, taking a goblet from the character played by Orson Welles.
(courtesy of Ray Holland)
Last week I was quite fortunate to receive a large (and unexpected) envelope from England. It was from Ray Holland and was filled with photograph copies of original photos of his father. I post them here with his permission, noting what information he was able to share with me about the images. I hope that more information about this unique figure and his relationship to Italian cultural history may be uncovered through these photographs.


Salvatori in Cricklewood, London, 1948
(courtesy of Ray Holland)

Portrait of Salvatori,
taken for a West End London Theater, 1920s
(courtesy of Ray Holland)
As Holland describes on the comments section of my original post, Salvatori was sometimes considered the British Valentino, was friends with Lillian Gish, and was an extra in Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief.
A fairground photo "head shot" of Salvatori,
possibly from his time in the United States
(courtesy of Ray Holland)
Salvatori’s life and work are brilliant illustrations of the dynamic shifts associated with the Italian diaspora. Rather than a simple or unidirectional trajectory, he and his family’s experiences speak to the complexities of cultural shaping and what potentially gets misplaced or misconstrued in reconstructing such cultural maps—not to mention just how many envelopes there are still left for us to open.
Many thanks to Ray Holland.

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