MARIO LANZA d1959. American tenor-singer, actor and Hollywood movie star of the late 1940s and the 1950s. The son of Italian emigrants, he began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, he signed a seven-year contract with MGM's head, Louis B Mayer who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to this, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948) however he did sing the role of Pinkerton in Puccinis Madame Butterfly in New Orleans. His movie debut was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson. The following year in The Toast Of New Orleans, his featured popular song "Be My Love" became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he played the role of his idol Enrico Caruso in the film-biopic The Great Caruso which produced another million-seller with "The Loveliest Night of the Year" ; it also became the top-grossing film of the year. The title song of his next film, "Because Your Mine" was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with Studio Head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt ; this eventually led to him being dismissed by MGM. Lanza was well-known to be a "rebellious, tough and ambitious character" during most of his film career. He also suffered from various additions including overeating and alcohol which had a serious effect on his health and on his relationships with directors and other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper one wrote that ; "his smile (which was as big as his voice) was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak". She added that he was the "last of the great romantic performers". He made three more films before dying of a pulmonary embolism at the age of just 38 in 1959. At the time of his death, he was still "the most famous tenor in the world". Author Eleonora Kimmel concluded that Mario Lanza "blazed like a meteor, whose light lasts but a brief moment in time .................".
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