Joseph Calleia

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Joseph Calleia
Joseph Calleia in After the Thin Man trailer.jpg
from the trailer for the film
After the Thin Man (1936)
BornGiuseppe Maria Spurrin-Calleja
(1897-08-04)August 4, 1897
Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta
DiedOctober 31, 1975(1975-10-31) (aged 78)
Sliema, Malta
Years active1926–1963
Spouse(s)Eleonore Vassallo (1929–1968) (her death)
 
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Joseph Calleia
Joseph Calleia in After the Thin Man trailer.jpg
from the trailer for the film
After the Thin Man (1936)
BornGiuseppe Maria Spurrin-Calleja
(1897-08-04)August 4, 1897
Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta
DiedOctober 31, 1975(1975-10-31) (aged 78)
Sliema, Malta
Years active1926–1963
Spouse(s)Eleonore Vassallo (1929–1968) (her death)

Joseph Calleia (August 4, 1897 – October 31, 1975) was a Maltese born American singer, composer, screenwriter and actor, both on Broadway and in film. Calleia played opposite some Hollywood greats, including Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, William Holden, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Myrna Loy, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Jane Russell, Alan Ladd, William Powell, Mario Lanza, Charlton Heston, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Tyrone Power, and Anthony Quinn.

Early years[edit]

Born at Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta, to Pasquale and Elena Calleja, he was educated at St Julian's and St Aloysius colleges in Malta. He organized a harmonica band of boys which earned him enough money to leave Malta in 1914, at age 17, and began his career touring Europe as a teenage singer with a harmonica band, appearing in the cafés and music halls of many war-torn and weary capital cities. He later went to New York as a singer and then turned to drama.

Broadway[edit]

Although Calleia made over 50 films, he always claimed to prefer stage performance to film acting. He was considered a "bright light" on Broadway between 1926 and 1945, and appeared in several hit plays, including:

Hollywood[edit]

By 1931, Calleia had landed an MGM contract in Hollywood, where he successfully pursued a career in the film industry, appearing in a total of 57 movies between then and 1955, frequently playing cops or villains in gangster and western films.

He made his screen debut in 1935 with appearances in two B-films: His Woman (1931) and The Girl in the Cab (1933). He very quickly made his mark, playing the role of a criminal in Public Hero No. 1, followed by Riff Raff (1935) in which he played a womanizer, co-starring with Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. In 1936, Calleia wrote the screenplay for the western take on Robin Hood with The Robin Hood of El Dorado. In 1943, he played El Sordo in For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Partial filmography[edit]

Awards[edit]

Calleia received the Critics' Award for his performance as Slimane in the 1938 film Algiers directed by John Cromwell.

Retirement[edit]

Calleia retired in 1963 and died in Sliema, Malta on October 31, 1975, aged 78. He was interred in the family vault at Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery in Paola.

Legacy[edit]

Calleia was posthumously honoured by the Malta postal authority with a set of two commemorative stamps issued in his memory in 1997. In October 2005, a monument consisting of a bust of Calleia was erected in front of the house where he was born. The bust was made gratis by sculptor Anton Agius on the initiative of then 15-year-old, Eman Bonnici.

References[edit]

External links[edit]