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    Vintage Quinn

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Many a toast will be proposed today in commemoration of the 90th birthday of England’s venerable Queen Elizabeth II, that nation’s longest reigning monarch who has been portrayed in movies by the likes of Helen Mirren, Jane Alexander, Claire Foy and Jeanette Charles, and has reportedly been a good sport about it all. But should you care to raise a glass to another birthday celebrant today, make it wine of a rare vintage for acting royalty Anthony Quinn (1915-2001). The leonine winner of two Academy Awards® is neck deep in wine, hiding it and protecting it when not consuming it in the World War II-set comedy-drama The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969), produced and directed by Stanley Kramer from a screenplay by Ben Maddow and William Rose, the latter of whom scripted previous Kramer projects It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. As originally depicted in Robert Crichton’s bestseller, Quinn’s frequently drunken Bombolini is not a beloved monarch in the besieged Italian hillside community of Santa Vittoria but does – with a certain suddenness triggered by the imminent arrival of evacuating German troops filling the vacuum left by the fall of Mussolini’s fascist forces – hold high office. He’s the new mayor, hastily appointed as the potentially expendable frontman in a daring scheme to prevent the Nazi troopers from confiscating the town’s precious million-bottle supply of its major asset: wine. Any celebration of Quinn becomes a de-facto tribute to multinationalism, as the adored actor was embraced for decades by audiences and moviemakers for his precise and believable incarnations of Italians, Greeks, Mexicans (Oscar® #1: Viva Zapata!’s Eufemio Zapata), Frenchmen (Oscar® #2: Lust for Life’s Paul Gauguin), Arabs, Mexicans and regular Joes. Quinn’s reprobate-turned-reluctant-hero is surrounded by a peerless passel of Paisans, including the magnificent Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi, Sergio Franchi, Giancarlo Giannini, Eduardo Ciannelli and a cameoing Valentina Cortese. The German invaders are under the command of the shrewd and suave Hardy Kruger, who raised his own 88th birthday salut just nine days ago. Pour yourself a vino and savor the staying power and dependability of two monarchs – one of the world stage and the other of the theater stage and movie screen – and give the sneakily surprising The Secret of Santa Vittoria a spin on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.