mandag 29. oktober 2012

Grand Hotel gallery #7: Steve Reeves

This autographed photo of American bodybuilder and movie star Steve Reeves was originally published Grand Hotel issue No. 694 from October 10, 1959. At the time, Reeves was at the top of his career and starred in no less than five films this year.

In the late 1950s the Italian film industry was really starting to blossom and many foreign stars headed to the Cinecittà studios in Rome for work. Several of these were former matinee idols whose Hollywood careers had started to wane, such as Farley Granger, Edmund Purdom, Joseph Cotten and Arthur Kennedy. But others were newcomers who made their names in the new blossoming Italian film industry, and one of the first and most successful of these new stars was Steve Reeves.

Born on January 21, 1926 in Glasgow Montana in the United States, Steve started with bodybuilding as a teenager and would go on to great success - winning the title of Mr. America in 1947, Mr. World in 1948 and finally Mr. Universe in 1950. This success also led to some minor film roles in Hollywood but Steve's breakthrough did not come until he was noticed by Italian director Pietro Francisi, who was impressed by Steve's physique and offered him the title role in the peplum adventure Hercules (1958). The film became a huge worldwide box office hit and inspired a tidal wave of similar Italian muscleman adventures.

Steve Reeves bends steel while an impressed Sylva Koscina looks on in the original Hercules (1958)

The name of Steve Reeves would quickly become more or less synonymous with the character of Hercules, even though Reeves only portrayed Hercules in one more film, the immediate sequel Hercules Unchained (1959). In his other films, Reeves would play similar mythological strongmen such as Goliath or Aeneas, but would also take on different types of characters such as Sandokan. Below is a selection of some of his many memorable roles:

Steve Reeves in Sergio Leone's epic adventure The Last Days of Pompeii (1959)

Steve Reeves is Morgan the Pirate (1960)

Reeves on a flying horse in The Thief of Baghdad (1961)

Sandokan the Great (1963), the first of two movies with Reeves in the role of Emilio Salgari's popular character Sandokan

The decline of the peplum genre in the mid 1960s also meant the end of Steve Reeves' acting career. His swansong was the spaghetti western A Long Ride from Hell (1968), and after years of retirement from film he passed away on May 1, 2000 in Escondido, California, USA at age 74. But Steve Reeves is not forgotten, and he remains the most famous and memorable of all the strongmen from the days of the Italian peplum cinema.

I finish this post with two lovely behind the scenes pictures of Steve published in Grand Hotel alongside his autographed color photo:

Steve Reeves poses with the lovely Sylva Koscina, his co-star in the two Hercules films

Reeves with the beautiful French actress Mylène Demongeot, his co-star in The Giant of Marathon (1959)

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