I’d like to start this tribute off along the tracks. The sun, while baking two heroes walking to a small town in Iowa in the late 1880s, is setting slowly. The men, dressed as cowboys and holstering guns, are tired and hungry, yet their town they are walking to is only a mile away. They keep marching along as the train broke down three miles behind them because of a boiler that blew up along the way. Yet the explosion was planned as a party of six bandits try to rob the train. Yet these men, a toothpick and a big burly bearded man use fists and legs instead of bullets to ring them out to dry. After they were tied up, the two men walked the tracks to the nearest town to get help, only to find that it is empty:
Yet they enter a saloon and were met by hostile men wishing to pick a fight while drunk. Again with fists and leg power, they were taken down instantly by the two heroes with no shots fired. Some of them flew through the windows and doors. After chomping down on drumsticks and a good mug, the bartender calls for a doctor and other people willing to help the stranded, as a good gesture and as a way of offering thanks for making the streets friendlier again.
Now this can be found in many American western films with the likes of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Michael Landon, Henry Fonda, James Arness, Sam Elliot, Clint Eastwood and even “the Dude,” Jeff Bridges. But these two heroes are known by many today as the Spaghetti westerners, known as Terrance Hill (the toothpick) and Bud Spencer (the big man). Today we are saying good bye to the big man, who passed away on 27 June, 2016. Despite their presence on the American stage, Europeans are more attached Bud Spencer than the Americans. Even I as an expat was first introduced to the spaghetti western films when coming to Germany 17 years ago. While perhaps a handful of Americans, mainly baby boomers, may know him for his films, here is a crash course on the big guy which will get many of you acquainted with his films:
He was known as Carlo Pedersoli and was born in Naples, Italy in 1929. He had a younger sister, Vera (born in 1934). In 1940, he and his family moved to Rome and thanks to the presence of the Pope, escaped most of the bombings during World War II. Italy was under the rule of Mussolini until his overthrow in 1943 and subsequentially his execution two years later. He married Maria Amato, the daughter of a movie producer, in 1960 and had three children, Giuseppe, Christiana and Diamante.
Before he became a famous actor, Pedersoli was an all-star swimmer, having started swimming at the age of eight and having won his first championships in high school at the age of 15. He later broke records for freestyle stroke for Italy and participated in the Olympics in Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). Before retiring from the sport in 1957, he had collected seven national championships and was even on the Italian water polo team which won gold medals in 1948 and 1960. He was very athletic, having competed in and won several championships in rugby and boxing. His size and height of 1.94 meters served to his advantage.
Despite a short career as a pianist, Pedersoli’s biggest break came with an offer from Giuseppe Colizzi, an Italian western actor who was an acquaintance of his wife Maria and an admirer of his swimming career. Colizzi offered him to play a key role in the film “God Forgives, I don’t,” which he was to team up with another Italian actor, Mario Girotti. The film was released in 1967 but not before the two actors changed their names for marketing purposes. Giorotti became Terrance Hill, while Pedersoli became Bud Spencer, which was based on his favorite beer Budweiser and his favorite actor Spencer Tracy. For 27 years, the duo appeared in 17 films, including two Trinity films, Miami Supercops, and Troublemakers.
In addition, Bud Spencer went solo in 10 other films, such as Aladin and Banana Joe as well as guest starred in many other TV shows. His side dish career as a musician added some cinnamon and spice to his storied career as he produced two solos for two films in two years (1981-2), while releasing 13 albums and dozens of musical pieces to his credit. While most of the films have been translated into 20 languages, Spencer can speak only three other languages in addition to his Italian: Portuguese, English and German, although the first one was his primary foreign language.
The last interesting fact that is worth noting was his passion for flying. After starring with Terrance Hill in the film, All the Way, Boys, in 1972, where they played airplane pilots in Columbia, Bud Spencer decided to take up flying, which was for him the symbol of freedom and passion. He took flying lessons and clocked up 2000 hours flying several different airplanes and jets as well as 500 hours of flying with the helicopter. He flew for 35 years, flying not only for business and pleasure, but also utilizing his talents as a pilot for later films. He even founded Mistral Air in 1981, which became one of the well-known freight airlines in Italy. He later sold it to a larger company.
While many people in America think that guns are the answer to all conflicts, they should also see how Bud Spencer handled all his problems in his films, with a fist full of coins and dollars. When seeing him in action (especially together with Terrance Hill), the first characteristic that comes to mind is his size and wit. The second is always the fist, taking down fools who dared to try and mess with him. Some examples at the end of the article will show his signature character.
Yet not all fighters and “bouncer-actors” did not live like that alone. Hulk Hogan is an artist, Road Warrior Animal became a priest, and Bruce Lee was a writer and teacher. With Bud Spencer, he was a man of multiple talents, whether it was an aviator, writer, musician or even an inventor (he invented and patented 12 items in his lifetime). One can learn a lot from the big guy himself- a person of justice and a spaghetti westerner on the set, but a well-talented Luciano Pavoratti off the set. Therefore one should open up to a guy who, like Spencer, is a teddy bear with a heart. And as Bud Spencer and his counterpart head off into the sunset, with food, supplies and some help from other locals to rescue the people stranded outside the small town, we have one word to say for what you’ve done through the years and what you’re continuing to do in Heaven, Bud: Grazi/ Danke/ Thanks!
The Flensburg Files would like to pay homage and tribute to Bud Spencer, thanking him for showing his talents both on and off the stage. He will be missed by many who watched his films over the years. For those who have yet to watch a spaghetti western, you have 30+ reasons to do that and Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill will show you why. After watching some of their films since coming here in 1999, all I can say is you don’t know what you are missing. 🙂