USA, Jesse L. Lasky per Famous Players-Lasky Productions, 1918, 66 minutes
Restoration of Cineteca di Bologna in cooperation with MoMA, BFI, and the Gosfilmofond of Russia, DCP
Director: Edward José
Scriptwriter: Margaret Turnbull
Director of photography: Hal Young
Cast: Enrico Caruso, Carolina White, Joseph Ricciardi, Henry Leone, William Bray, Salvatore Fuchito, Bruno Zirato
The film’s release date was postponed four times. “My Cousin” was released in the midst of the so-called “deadly second wave” of the Spanish Flu, in late 1918. It was the first of two attempts to launch the film career of the world-famous Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso (the other film starring Caruso, “The Splendid Romance” of 1919, is considered lost). For his participation in these two films, he received an incredible at that time fee of $200,000.
Despite the excitement in the press, the picture did not have much success at the box office and was soon forgotten.
“My Cousin” is the only surviving feature film starring Caruso. Four of the world’s largest archives took part in the restoration of the film: the British Film Institute in London (BFI), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), the Cineteca di Bologna and the Gosfilmofond of Russia. Thanks of the collected materials, it was possible to completely restore the film. The restoration project was timed to coincide with the centenary of the tenor’s death. “For the restoration of “My Cousin” five elements - preserved in MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art, BFI National Archive, Gosfilmofond and EYE Filmmuseum - were inspected, digitised and compared. The restoration used a duplicate negative preserved by MoMA, produced from a nitrate print with Swedish intertitles from Svenska Filminstitutet. Intertitles have been reconstructed using a 1959 fourth generation dupe negative preserved at MoMA. [The material was scanned at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory of the Cineteca di Bologna archive in 4K in 2021 in cooperation with MoMA, BFI and Gosfilmofond]”- the restoration process as described by the catalog of the Сinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, where the premiere of the reconstructed version took place (Catalog Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXV edizione, 2021. P. 193).
This light and witty motion picture shows that Caruso was not only a great tenor, but also a brilliant actor. In the process of the restoration, the film was supplied with a partial soundtrack. One of the episodes where Caruso sings the famous aria “Vesti la giubba” from the opera “Pagliacci” on a theater stage was synchronized with the existing 1908 audio recording of the Leoncavallo aria performed by the great singer.
Today the film exists as a unique document that was able to capture the great tenor on filmjust three years before his death.
Tommasso Caroli is a poor sculptor who lives in “Little Italy”, a district of immigrants in New York. He is in love with Rosa and dreams of being as successful and famous as his cousin Cesare Caroli, whom he has not seen for many years.