Lelia Goldoni obituary


The lacerating 1959 drama Shadows, a pinnacle of US unbiased film-making, heralded two placing new skills: the director John Cassavetes and the actor Lelia Goldoni, who was simply 20 when she gave a guileless efficiency combining wistful romanticism and mercurial restlessness. She performed Lelia – all of the actors within the movie share their first names with their characters – who’s an African-American lady “passing” for white. Goldoni herself was of Sicilian descent.

When Lelia’s white boyfriend (Tony Ray, son of the director Nicholas) meets one in every of her darker-skinned brothers (Hugh Hurd) and realises that she is black, his discomfort inflames tensions within the family and sends aftershocks by way of the remainder of the movie.

Goldoni, who has died aged 86, was forged in 1956 after becoming a member of an performing workshop that Cassavetes had co-founded earlier that 12 months. “It appeared to me that he was at all times in a state of discovery,” she mentioned. “What I realized from him was that when you didn’t dare, you couldn’t do.”

Throughout a weekend session together with his most promising college students, Cassavetes outlined the situation that might come to kind the core of Shadows, then assigned everybody their components and invited them to improvise. “The actors excitedly went on with variations for greater than three hours,” wrote his biographer, Ray Carney. Goldoni mentioned that “what made the scene so thrilling was exactly that the issue it posed couldn’t be solved in a decisive or clear means.”

Funded by donations, the movie was shot in early 1957 with a light-weight 16mm digicam borrowed from the director Shirley Clarke. Nobody was paid. “What stored us going was enthusiasm,” Cassavetes mentioned.

The three actors enjoying siblings – Goldoni, Hurd and Ben Carruthers – grew to become as shut as an actual household of their off-screen lives; Goldoni and Carruthers had been married earlier than the tip of the 12 months.

Cassavetes used clever techniques to control his forged. For one scene, Carney wrote, “Tony was given his strains upfront,” whereas Goldoni “obtained hers on the final potential minute, simply earlier than capturing started – which then made his efficiency extra assured and hers extra tentative.”

It was 18 months earlier than Shadows was prepared, however no sooner had it been acclaimed by the avant-garde film-maker Jonas Mekas than Cassavetes withdrew that model for re-editing and reshooting. Solely the second lower, launched in 1959, has ever been in circulation. Though Mekas denounced the brand new Shadows as a sellout, it retains an depth by way of claustrophobic closeups and the performers’ uncooked, jangling power.

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Goldoni taught performing approach and script evaluation on the Lee Strasberg Institute. {Photograph}: Night Commonplace/Getty Photos

Goldoni exudes an ingenuous vitality, her grin as extensive as Madison Avenue, her eyes large and hungry. Weak she could also be, however the character of Lelia isn’t any damsel in misery. She is piercingly frank throughout a post-coital lament with one boyfriend, and toys with one other like a cat with a mouse earlier than admitting: “I’m an odd one.”

Goldoni was born in New York Metropolis to Rosaria (nee Pernicone), a seamstress, and Charles Rizzuto, an actor. As soon as she began performing, she modified her surname to Goldoni, relishing the echo of Carlo Goldoni of the commedia dell’arte.

When the household moved to Los Angeles, she was educated at Hollywood highschool. She started dancing on the age of 14 alongside Alvin Ailey and Carmen de Lavallade, underneath the tutelage of the progressive choreographer Lester Horton. She later directed Genius on the Unsuitable Coast, a 1993 documentary about him, which was edited by her son, Aaron Rudelson. “There was a component of collectivism in that firm,” Rudelson mentioned. “Everyone realized how one can make costumes and construct units in addition to how one can dance, and he or she took loads from that have.”

She studied drama with Jeff Corey in Los Angeles earlier than attending Cassavetes’s workshop when she moved to New York. She couldn’t afford the charges however paid her means by educating a dance class for his actors.

After Shadows, she labored once more with Cassavetes in episodes he directed of two tv collection, Johnny Staccato (1959) and The Lloyd Bridges Present (1963). She then moved to the UK for the following decade. “She had bother springboarding the success of Shadows into work within the States as a result of individuals assumed she was African American,” Rudelson mentioned. “She didn’t have that drawback in England.”

Her movies within the UK included The Italian Job (1969), through which she had one scene because the widow who passes on her late husband’s plans for a bullion heist to the ex-convict performed by Michael Caine. “I’m going to New York tomorrow at 6am,” she says, seemingly dashing his hopes of a tryst. Then she provides: “However that also provides us 4 hours to kill.” In the identical 12 months, she performed Zelda Fitzgerald in an episode of the humanities collection Omnibus entitled F Scott Fitzgerald: The Dream Divided.

After returning to the US, she landed roles enjoying a pal to the protagonist in two high-profile movies: Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Stay Right here Anymore (1974) with Ellen Burstyn, for which Goldoni obtained her second Bafta nomination (the primary was for Shadows), and John Schlesinger’s shrill Hollywood satire The Day of the Locust (1975), through which she appeared alongside Karen Black.

Different movies included Philip Kaufman’s remake of Invasion of the Physique Snatchers, the heady drama Bloodbrothers (each 1978), through which she performed Richard Gere’s mom, and the horror movie The Satan Inside (2012). She labored regularly in tv, together with The Pacific (2010), a miniseries co-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

She taught performing approach and script evaluation on the Lee Strasberg Institute, amongst others, and designed an after-school theatre curriculum for college students aged 5 to 11 in Los Angeles. In 2013, she starred in Beckett Solos, that includes three of the playwright’s shorter items; it was directed in Brooklyn by Alec Duffy, who was beforehand answerable for a 2011 stage model of Shadows. “I don’t know the way she did Beckett Solos as a result of the dialogue was all non-sequiturs,” Rudelson mentioned. “Even an individual half her age would have had bother conserving monitor of it.”

The present was a essential success. “Stark and ambient, it captures Beckett’s singular music of alienation,” wrote the New York Instances. “And Ms Goldoni makes a advantageous instrument.”

She is survived by Aaron, her son by the screenwriter and actor Robert Rudelson, whom she married in 1968 and who died in 1997, and by two grandchildren, Lily and James. Her marriage to Carruthers led to divorce in 1960. Her second marriage, to William B Hale a 12 months later, additionally led to divorce.


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