With dir Alberto Lattuada [left]

               

OTELLO MARTELLI

Born: 19 May 1902, Rome, Italy.

Died: 20 February 2000, Rome, Italy.

Career: Entered film industry as c.asst with ph Alberto G. Carta in 1916. In the 1920s, he ph newsreels/doc's for the Istituto Luce, the state newsreel company.

Was a member of the AIC.

Appeared in the 4-part doc tv-series 'Fellini' [1960, André Delvaux].



Otello Martelli was one of those responsible for the drastic revision of what is considered appropriate cinematic imagery, when 'neo-realism' exploded on to the screen. Martelli appears to have been unenthusiastic when it came to availing himself of color film. And even after color films had become the semi-norm, Martelli still interspersed them with the traditional grainy, grubby look, e.g. in 'La ragazza in vetrina'. [J.C. Blake in 'Film Dope', #40, January 1989.]

·····

Obituary: One of the great craftsmen of Italian cinematography, Otello Martelli, who has died aged 97, photographed some of the most famous postwar films, from Rossellini's 'Paisà' to De Santis's 'Riso amaro'. He worked on seven Fellini films, most notably 'La strada' and 'La dolce vita'.

Born in Rome, he became an assistant cameraman at 14, and worked on silent films. He was signed up as a cameraman by the state newsreel company Istituto Luce, and in 1928 was sent to film the tragic airship expedition to the North Pole by Umberto Nobile. After working as assistant cameraman, his first important credit was in 1933, for Alessandro Blasetti's 'Vecchia guardia', a blatantly fascist film which, however, was 'saved' for its plastic values even by leftwing critics of post-fascist Italy.

After the war, Martelli was chosen by Rossellini to join him on the adventurous journey up the Italian peninsula that resulted in 'Paisà'. His experience as a newsreel cameraman helped to give the film a feeling of authenticity in this reconstruction of the struggles for the liberation from the Nazi-Fascists, even in sequences that were not always filmed on the real locations [such as the opening episode in Sicily].

During the shooting in Florence, Martelli was a first-person witness to the debut of the future director with whom he would later work, Federico Fellini, who was then Rossellini's assistant and co-scriptwriter. One day, Rossellini was sick, and Fellini was instructed to shoot the scene in a country lane, where a wine cart trundles by under fire from snipers. 'Sor Otello', as Martelli was known [Sor being a respectful Roman term of address], had planned to shoot the scene from as high an angle as possible, but the brazen young assistant gave orders for the action to be filmed from ground level, which Martelli contemptuously called 'a mouse's point of view'. Fellini got his way, and was congratulated warmly by Rossellini when the rushes were seen.

Martelli photographed two of Rossellini's most famous films, the equally adventurous 'Stromboli', with Ingrid Bergman, and the film that François Truffaut once described as 'the most beautiful film ever seen', 'Francesco, giullare di Dio' - its exquisite visual aspect being very much to the credit of the cinematographer.

When, in 1950, Alberto Lattuada and Federico Fellini decided to produce, write and co-direct a film about Italian provincial music-halls, 'Luci del varietà', it was Fellini who suggested Martelli as cinematographer. And three years later, Fellini chose him to photograph his second feature, 'I vitelloni'. The two men continued to bicker affectionately, but when the first choice for cinematographer of 'La strada' had to pull out, it was Sor Otello who took over - and the world was to acclaim him as well as the director.

He worked again with Fellini on 'Il bidone' [1955], and, though uncredited, took over from Aldo Tonti to finish 'Le notti di Cabiria' in 1956. With Tonti, he went round the world scouting locations for René Clement's 'La diga sul Pacifico/The Sea Wall' [1957], for which, in the end, he, rather than Tonti, was cinematographer.

He photographed many of the great cinematic beauties of those years, among them Silvana Mangano, Sophia Loren and Melina Mercouri, but Martelli himself said that the most photogenic of all was Anita Ekberg, immortalized by Fellini [with Martelli's help] in 'La dolce vita'. Martelli's contribution to this film was his most creative achievement in later life. In spite of continuing disagreements with Fellini over camera angles, there was great mutual respect.

Martelli maintained that 'it was not true that Federico knew nothing about camera technique. He just had his own ideas. For example, he wanted to use a lens for panoramic shots which is normally used only for close-ups. I told him there was a risk of flickering, but he said it didn't matter. He was absolutely right.'

But after Fellini's episode of 'Boccaccio '70' [1961], 'Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio', the director said he was tired of hearing Sor Otello continuously complain, 'It can't be done.' For the film '8½', he entrusted the cinematography to a new emerging master of lighting, Gianni Di Venanzo. But Di Venanzo, like many other emerging cinematographers, admitted that Sor Otello had been their maestro. The chore which induced Martelli into retirement was working on one of the episodes of 'I tre volti' [1964], the film directed by Antonioni and others which producer Dino De Laurentiis had hoped would launch the then Empress Soraya of Iran as an actress.

He is survived by two daughters and a son, Luigi, who is a television director. [From obituary by John Francis Lane in 'The Guardian', Tuesday 29 February 2000.]



 FILMS

1918

La corsa al trono [?] b&w

1919

Oltre la legge/Il nodo/Più che la legge [Gaston Ravel] b&w

1919

La contessa Sara [Roberto Roberti] b&w; short/38m; cph: ?

1920

Liberazione [Jacques Creusy] b&w; 50m

1920

La giovinezza del diavolo [Roberto Roberti] b&w

1920

Anima selvaggia/Fatale bellezza [Gaston Ravel] b&w

1920

La ferita [Roberto Roberti] b&w; cph: ?

1921

Consuelita [Roberto Roberti] b&w

1921

Il farfallino [Camillo De Riso] b&w

1921

La donna, il diavolo, il tempo [Edoardo Bencivenga] b&w

1922

La donna nuda [Roberto Roberti] b&w; cph: ?

1925

Fior di levante [Roberto Roberti] b&w; cph: ?

1926

Garibaldi/Anita/Il romanzo d'amore dell'eroe dei due mondi [Aldo De Benedetti] b&w; cph: ?

1928

La gesta dell'artide/Le eroiche gesta dell'antartide [?] b&w; doc/?m; Umberto Nobile's expedition to the North Pole

1928

Documentario sulla Tenda Rossa [?] b&w

1933

Raid con idrovolante, Roma - New York - Roma [?] b&w; doc/?m (about the mass Atlantic crossing under the command of airman and fascist leader Italo Balbo; cph: Mario Craveri

1933

Vecchia guardia/Piccolo eroe [Alessandro Blasetti] b&w

1934

Il Cardinale Lambertini [Parsifal Bassi] b&w + color seq

1935

La mia vita sei tu [Pietro Francisci] b&w; cph: ?

1935

Darò un milione/I'll Give a Million [Mario Camerini] b&w; cph: Carlo Montuori

1935

Un bacio a fior d'acqua [Giuseppe Guarino] b&w

1936

Arma bianca [Ferdinando M. Poggioli] b&w

1936

L'ambasciatore [Baldassarre Negroni] b&w

1936

L'antenato/The Ancestor [Guido Brignone] b&w

1936

Vivere!/To Live [Guido Brignone] b&w

1936

Fermo con le mani!/Hands Off Me! [Gero Zambuto] b&w

1937

Marcella [Guido Brignone] b&w

1937

Allegri masnadieri/The Make Believe Pirates [Marco Elter] b&w

1937

La contessa di Parma/The Duchess of Parma [Alessandro Blasetti] b&w

1937

Chi è più felice di me!/Who Is Happier Than I? [Guido Brignone] b&w

1938

Gli uomini non sono ingrati [Guido Brignone] b&w

1938

Jeanne Dorè/Jeanne Doré, le roman d'une mère [Mario Bonnard] b&w; cph: Ubaldo Arata

1938

Io, suo padre [Mario Bonnard] b&w

1939

Papà per una notte [Mario Bonnard] b&w

1939

Follie del secolo [Amleto Palermi] b&w

1939

Il signore della taverna [Amleto Palermi] b&w

1940

Kean [- Gli amori di un' artista] [Guido Brignone] b&w; cph: Massimo Terzano

1940

Lucrezia Borgia [Hans Hinrich] b&w

1940

Miseria e nobiltà [Corrado D'Errico] b&w

1941

Il re del circo [Hans Hinrich & Tullio Covaz] b&w

1941

Il bravo di Venezia/The Hero of Venice [Carlo Campogalliani] b&w

1942

Tragica notte/Tragic Night [Mario Soldati] b&w; cph: Massimo Terzano

1942

Don Giovanni/Loves of Don Juan [Dino Falconi] b&w

1942

La Gorgona/The Gorgon [Guido Brignone] b&w

1943

La carica degli eroi [Anton Giulio Majano & Oreste Biancoli] prod abandoned because of the war

1943

Quartieri alti/In High Places [Mario Soldati] b&w; cph: Aldo Tonti; filming started in May 1943, but was interrupted by the war; filming resumed in June 1944

1944

Ultimo amore [Luigi Chiarini] b&w

1945

Paisà/Paisan [Roberto Rossellini] b&w; 6 seg; 125m & 134m

1946

La grande aurora/The Great Dawn [Giuseppe Maria Scotese] b&w

1946

Il duomo di Milano [Alessandro Blasetti] b&w; cph: Mario Craveri

1946

Caccia tragica/The Tragic Hunt/The Tragic Pursuit [Giuseppe De Santis] b&w

1947

Black Magic/Cagliostro [Gregory Ratoff & (uncred) Orson Welles] b&w; uncred cph; ph: Ubaldo Arata & Anchise Brizzi

1948

The Glass Mountain [Henry Cass] b&w; Italian loc ph; ph: William McLeod

1948

La montagna di cristallo [Henry Cass & Edoardo Anton] b&w; Italian loc ph; ph: William McLeod; Italian-language version of 'The Glass Mountain'

1948

Riso amaro/Bitter Rice [Giuseppe De Santis] b&w

1948

The Golden Madonna [Ladislao Vajda] b&w; cph: Anchise Brizzi

1948

La madonnina d'oro [Luigi Carpentieri] b&w; cph: Anchise Brizzi; Italian-language version of 'The Golden Madonna'

1949

Stromboli - Terra di Dio [Roberto Rossellini] b&w

1950

Luci del varietà/Lights of Variety/Variety Lights [Alberto Lattuada & Federico Fellini] b&w

1950

Francesco, giullare di Dio/The Flowers of St. Francis/Francis, God's Jester [Roberto Rossellini] b&w

1951

Due mogli sono troppe/Honeymoon Deferred [Mario Camerini] b&w; cph: Geoffrey Faithfull

1951

Anna [Alberto Lattuada] b&w

1952

Roma ore 11/Rome 11:00 [Giuseppe De Santis] b&w

1952

Siamo donne/We, the Women/Of Life and Love [seg 'Emma Danieli e Anna Amendola' dir by Alfredo Guarini & 'Il pollo/Ingrid Bergman' dir by Roberto Rossellini] b&w; 5 seg; other ph: Gábor Pogány, Domenico Scala & Enzo Serafin

1952

Campione del mondo [Massimo Mida] ?; short/?m

1952

I Vitelloni/The Young and the Passionate [Federico Fellini] b&w; cph: Carlo Carlini & Luciano Trasatti

1953

Un marito per Anna Zaccheo/A Husband for Anna [Giuseppe De Santis] b&w-c

1953

Carne de horca/Sierra Morena/Il terrore dell'Andalusia [Ladislao Vajda] b&w; cph: Eloy Mella

1953

La strada [Federico Fellini] b&w; uncred cph: Carlo Carlini

1954

Giorni d'amore/Days of Love [Giuseppe De Santis] c

1954

L'oro di Napoli/The Gold of Naples/Every Day's a Holiday [Vittorio De Sica] b&w; uncred cph; ph: Carlo Montuori

1954

La donna del fiume/The River Girl [Mario Soldati] c; cph: Roberto Gerardi

1955

Il Bidone/The Swindle/The Swindlers [Federico Fellini] b&w

1955

La fortuna di essere donna/Lucky to Be a Woman/What a Woman! [Alessandro Blasetti] b&w

1956

Guendalina [Alberto Lattuada] b&w

With dir Federico Fellini [right]

"Le notti di Cabiria"

1956

Le notti di Cabiria/Nights of Cabiria [Federico Fellini] b&w; took over (uncred) from A. Tonti; ph: Aldo Tonti

1957

Vacanze a Ischia/Holiday Island [Mario Camerini] c

1957

La diga sul Pacifico/This Angry Age/The Sea Wall [René Clément] tr/c; Martelli & Aldo Tonti both scouted locations, but Martelli became the doph

1958

Cuba '58 [José Miguel García Ascot & Jorge Fraga] ?; 3 seg; cph: José Tabio

1958

La legge/The Law/Where the Hot Wind Blows!/La loi [Jules Dassin] b&w

1959

La dolce vita/The Sweet Life [Federico Fellini] Totalscope/b&w

1960

Historias de la revolución/Stories of the Revolution [Tomás Gutiérrez Alea] b&w; cph: Sergio Véjar

1960

La ragazza in vetrina/Woman in the Window [Luciano Emmer] b&w

1961

Boccaccio '70 [seg 'La riffa' dir by Vittorio De Sica & 'Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio' dir by Federico Fellini] c; 3 seg (originally 4 seg in Italy); other ph: Giuseppe Rotunno (seg dir by Luchino Visconti) & Armando Nannuzzi

1962

Die Rote/La rossa/Redhead [Helmut Käutner] b&w

1963

Il maestro di Vigevano [Elio Petri] b&w

1963

Sopraluoghi in Palestina per il vangelo secondo Matteo [Pier Paolo Pasolini] b&w; doc/55m; cph: Aldo Pinelli

1963

Cyrano et d'Artagnan [Abel Gance] c

1964

La donna è una cosa meravigliosa/Woman Is a Wonderful Thing [seg 'Una donna dolce, dolce...' dir by Mauro Bolognini] b&w/c; 4 seg; other ph: Gianni Di Venanzo

1964

La mia signora/My Wife [seg 'L'automobile' dir by Tinto Brass] b&w; 5 seg; other ph: ?

1964

I tre volti/Three Faces of a Woman [seg 'Latin Lover' dir by Franco Indovina & 'Gli amanti celebri/Famous Lovers' dir by Mauro Bolognini] ws/c; 3 seg; other ph: Carlo Di Palma

1965

Menage all'italiana/Menage Italian Style [Franco Indovina] c

1966

Tre pistole contro Cesare/Tre ragazzi d'oro/Three Golden Boys/Death Walks in Laredo [Enzo Peri] c


NOTE: Some sources credit Otello Martelli with the ph of 'Capitan Tempesta/Captain Tempest' [1941, Corrado D'Errico; ph: Massimo Terzano; uncred cph], 'L'amore/Woman/Ways of Love' [1948, Roberto Rossellini; seg 'Una voce umana' ph by Robert Juillard (or O. Martelli), 'Il miracolo/The Miracle' ph by Aldo Tonti; other ph: Jean Bourgoin & Claude Renoir] & 'Melodie immortali' [1952, Giacomo Gentilomo; ph: Aldo Giordani].