Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Winning the Oscar Must've Made Baldini a Grouch

It's well known that both Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro won the Academy Award for portraying Vito Corleone—the only instance of two actors winning an Oscar for the same role.

But what about Oreste Baldini, who played the nine-year-old Vito at the beginning of The Godfather II? I wonder if he’s bitter that he didn’t win an Oscar for his portrayal of Vito. Sure, Baldini was on-screen for only a few scenes...yet he showed fine range, shifting effortlessly from weak, dumb-witted native to weak, dumb-witted immigrant. And if that weren’t enough to convince Academy voters, Baldini was the only “Vito” to sing (while quarantined on Ellis Island)—something neither Brando nor De Niro dared do…or likely even possessed the acting chops to do.

My guess is that the now-51-year-old Baldini seethes in anger and jealousy every minute of his life since the evening Art Carney and De Niro walked off with the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor honors, respectively, in April 1975. And although Baldini has enjoyed a busy career dubbing Hollywood dialogue into his native tongue for Italian cinema, television, animation, and even video games, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if bilious ire occasionally flares into his on-screen translations.    

Had I been an Italian citizen taking in a film at the Nuovo Olimpia on the Via in Lucina in downtown Rome on a bygone Saturday evening, I would hardly be shocked if, right in the middle of Ed Wood, Johnny Depp ranted Art Carney può andare al diavalo, che non-talento hack!

Or even a purple-rhino'ed Edward Norton inexplicably yelling De Niro ha rubato la mia Oscar, che bastardi! Baldini ha la voce di un angelo! in the midst of singing ditties of support to methadone addicts in Death to Smoochy.

I might even have felt such sympathy for the slighted Baldini that I wouldn’t have demanded my money back from the theater manager… 

(Image from The Godfather II copyright Paramount Pictures.) 

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