Tony Anthony (actor)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Tony Anthony (born Roger Pettito on October 16, 1937, in Clarksburg, West Virginia), is a former film actor, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his starring roles in spaghetti westerns.


Early career

His first two films were Force of Impulse and Without Each Other, low-budget independent films directed by Saul Swimmer. In search of greener pastures, he moved to Italy, where he appeared in some minor supporting roles. His friend Swimmer had moved to England, where he befriended Allen Klein. Klein agreed to help Anthony get his foot in the door, and produced his first major film.

Spaghetti westerns

The Stranger films by Allen Klein and Tony Anthony

The film Klein produced was a spaghetti western called A Stranger in Town/Un Dollaro tra i Denti . A low budget clear imitation of A Fistful of Dollars, it starred Anthony as the titular Stranger, a shotgun-wielding antihero who helps a group of Mexican bandits steal gold from the US Army and Federales, and then steals it right back from them. Released by MGM to compete with the United Artists Clint Eastwood the Man with No Name film series, it became a surprise success, and spawned three sequels in which Tony Anthony reprised his role.

With these movies, Tony Anthony often brought the genre to unusual places. His own persona was not the typical tough spaghetti western hero; the Stranger was vulnerable and sneaky, with a sardonic sense of humor. The second Stranger film, The Stranger Returns/Un Uomo, un cavallo, una Pistola was a more polished entry that had a golden stagecoach as its MacGuffin. Anthony's willingness to experiment with the genre resulted in the third series entry, the self-explanatory A Stranger in Japan/ Lo Straniero di Silenzio/The Silent Stranger. Considered by many the first "East-meets-West western", predating Red Sun by three years, its release was delayed for seven years in the US due to a dispute with MGM, and never received a European release at all. Anthony later declared the film his best and lamented the cuts that MGM made to it. Both had scores by Stelvio Cipriani.

His next film was Blindman, a spaghetti-western variation on the Zatoichi series. Anthony played a blind gunslinger hired to escort fifty mail-order brides to their husbands. By that time, Allen Klein had become the manager of the Beatles, and Saul Swimmer had directed many of their music videos and concert films. Both were producers on Blindman, and their presence led to Ringo Starr accepting a supporting role as one of the bandits. Ringo would produce Anthony's next film, which Swimmer would direct: a semi-autobiographical road movie called Cometogether. In this film, Anthony plays an American stuntman working on spaghetti westerns in Rome. The film contains behind the scenes-footage of a spaghetti western being shot.

In 1976, long after the heyday of the genre, Anthony starred as the Stranger for a fourth time in Get Mean. A bizarre film that can barely be considered a western at all, it instead takes place in Spain, where the Stranger has to battle invading Vikings and Moors after escorting a princess there. It failed to find a wide audience.

The 3-D years

In 1981, Anthony returned to the Spaghetti well one more time for what would be his biggest box-office success. Comin' at Ya!, which he wrote, produced, and starred in, was a fairly ordinary western in all respects but one - it was in 3-D. In order for the film to receive a wide release, Anthony designed a low-cost projection lens which was cheaper than the old-fashioned 3-D lenses. With constant 3-D effects throughout the film and an extensive marketing campaign, the movie became a smash which set off the short-lived but intense 3-D craze of the early 80s.

Tony Anthony would star in one more 3-D film: the Indiana Jones ripoff Treasure of the Four Crowns. Rushed into production to cash in on his previous hit, it came near the end of the 3-D craze and failed to find the same success. Anthony next announced a 3-D science-fiction movie called Seeing is Believing, but with the 3-D craze over, it could not find a financer and was never made.

Later career

Treasure of the Four Crowns would be Tony Anthony's last acting role. He has effectively retired from the movie industry, although he has occasionally produced films, such as the infamous Wild Orchid and the spaghetti western throwback A Dollar For the Dead. He currently runs an optical equipment company.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tony Anthony (actor)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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