Tito Lusiardo

Real name: Lusiardo, César
Dancer and actor
(13 September 1896 - 25 June 1982)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Héctor Ángel Benedetti

ere’s the case of a true friend of Carlos Gardel’s. It’s worth the explanation, and not because the singer did not, in fact, had them, but because after his demise many of those who simply had met him and had got in touch with him, without going beyond any occasional chat (and often, not even that) had said that they were his friends. Friends were Deferrari, Laurent, Maschio, Alippi, Guibourg... and Tito Lusiardo.

Notwithstanding the fact that he represented the prototype of the porteño (inhabitant of the city of Buenos Aires), he was born in El Ferrol, on the southern bank of the estuary of Betanzos, in La Coruña. Some reason encouraged by Lusiardo himself (maybe the need to emphasize his paradigmatic image of man of tango, in the widest sense of the phrase) led people to think that he was born in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of San Telmo, and so was spread in some texts. (Todo Tango director's note: strangely in this case Mr. Benedetti made a mistake, see the a href="http://www.quienesgardel.com.ar/trabajos/lusiardo_partida.html">story by Eduardo Visconti). The truth is that since a very young age he was already living in this area, and that in those tenement yards he learnt his early dancing steps which would bring him so much fame years later.

A story of his teen years says that he made all that was possible to be near Isabel (María Isabel Francisca de Asís de Borbón), infanta of Spain and twice princess of Asturias, when she visited Argentina representing the Spanish government at the celebrations of the Centennial of 1810; Lusiardo, who did not want to miss the occasion, got a place by holding the tail of her dress.

Attracted to the artistic milieu of the period, and quite sure of his vocation for acting, he managed to be connected to the environment when he entered the Teatro Nacional as stagehand. This job, offered by the impresario Pascual Carcavallo, at the beginning consisted only in shifting chattel (Lusiardo affirmed he had carried seats for some performances of the Gardel-Razzano duo); in 1918 he had the chance to be on the stage at El cabaret, a play by Pacheco, for which the actor Luis Vittone lent him his own tuxedo. Lusiardo was featured dancing a tango along with Concepción Sánchez.

His first hit on the stage was a role in the play Tu cuna fue un conventillo written by Alberto Vacarezza. Later would came a large number of appearances (El conventillo de la Paloma, Al tango hay que saberlo bailar, Mujercitas de lujo) joining the great theater companies of the time, such as the one headed by Enrique Muiño and Elías Alippi; he would also be showcased in the revue theaters. During his career he worked alongside outstanding names like Francisco Álvarez, Olinda Bozán, Gregorio Ciccarelli, Pierina Dealessi, César Fiaschi, Vicente Forastieri, Gloria Guzmán and many others.

In 1930 he married the actress Delia Codebó, who started in theater and who would appear in several films between 1936 and 1939. A daughter was born to this married couple.

Lusiardo was summoned again by Carcavallo in 1933 for some roles at the play De Gabino a Gardel (Comic chronicle of the national song through the years), by Ivo Pelay, premiered on March 23. As actor and dancer he appeared in the first, second and sixth scene (as well as in the third, together with the whole company); and even though not all the critics were favorable because of the weak staging, almost all the media praised his performance, besides the finale in charge of Gardel himself.

That same year he joined the local movies, in the second production of the company Argentina Sono Film: Dancing (dir.: Luis Moglia Barth), based on the theater play with the same name. In this film, with apparently no surviving copies, Lusiardo was starred along with stars like Arturo García Buhr, Amanda Ledesma, Alicia Vignoli, Alicia Barrié, Severo Fernández, Pedro Quartucci, Héctor Quintanilla, Amelia Bence and Rosa Catá, besides the tango orchestra led by Roberto Firpo, the René Cóspito jazz band and the group Los de la Raza. It was premiered on November 9 at the Teatro Porteño.

One year later he was starred in Ídolos de la radio (dir.: Eduardo Morera), in which in spite of the anodyne script and the clumsy shooting he managed to be relatively successful. Although all the time it seems to be striving for a comic vein that does not come, fortunately the interest of the movie is another one: it's a parade of the radio stars of that time, headed by Ada Falcón, Ignacio Corsini, Pablo Osvaldo Valle, Francisco Canaro, the Trío Gedeón, Tita Merello, Ernesto Famá, Los Bohemios, Fred & Leo, and some more, helped by theater actors like Lusiardo and Olinda Bozán. After its premiere at the Monumental cinema theater on October 24, 1934, the critics precisely mentioned the good performance of the latter.

When his friendship with Gardel grew stronger, the latter called him to appear in two movies shot in Long Island, USA. Time later they became the two most remembered performances of Lusiardo, and the image of both, actor and singer, would stay forever in the memory of tango.

The first of these titles was El día que me quieras (dir.: John Reinhardt), shot in January 1935. Lusiardo, playing Rocamora, achieved perfectly the role of a close friend of Julio Argüelles'/Julio Quiroga's (Gardel), and even in a scene as a trio with the latter and Saturnino (Manuel Peluffo) he sang the waltz “Suerte negra”, written specially for the film by Gardel and Le Pera. The natural pleasantness of Lusiardo soon wins the heart of the moviegoers. When the act ends, spoiled by his attack of hiccuping, he convincingly switches from the grotesque to the dramatic; and an equal proficiency he shows later when he has not enough strength to tell Argüelles/Quiroga that his wife, Margarita (Rosita Moreno), has died.

The second was Tango Bar (dir.: John Reinhardt), released one month later. Here Lusiardo plays the role of Juan Carlos Puccini, an unconditional friend of Ricardo Fuentes' (Gardel), to the point of accompanying him to Europe... traveling as stowaway on the same boat. The character created for Lusiardo is more solid than the one of El día que me quieras (and we have to admit that the script itself is better), and he took advantage of it by displaying all his expressive resources. His presentation before the captain of the ship (José Luis Tortosa) is simply unforgettable, and at the same time it depicts the typical porteño vivo (rascal) that considers himself capable of slipping away undamaged of any trouble. For example, when he had no excuse to defend himself and to get rid of prison, he resorts to his ancestry and with a witty gesture tries to appeal the captain's understanding by saying: «—Captain... ¿a Puccini imprisoned...?». Impossible not to sympathize with the shameless guy.

But the tragic death of Gardel, which influenced much Lusiardo's feelings, brought a premature end to what seemed to be a movie team, because the actor matched perfectly as partner of the singer.

Back in the Argentine studios, he appeared in nearly forty movies between 1936 and 1969. It's a vain effort to mention them all; but is enough to enumerate his most outstanding roles, which were those he played in La muchachada de a bordo (Manuel Romero, 1936); Tres anclados en París (Manuel Romero, 1938); Jettatore (Luis Bayón Herrera, 1938); El sobretodo de Céspedes (Leopoldo Torres Ríos, 1939); Un señor mucamo (Enrique Santos Discépolo, 1940); El mozo número 13 (Leopoldo Torres Ríos, 1941); El fabricante de estrellas (Manuel Romero, 1943); La calle Corrientes (Manuel Romero, 1943); Con la música en el alma (Luis Bayón Herrera, 1951); and El cartero (Homero Cárpena, 1954).

Lusiardo appeared in some films as homage to El Zorzal, such as La historia del tango, El morocho del Abasto and Carlos Gardel: historia de un ídolo; he also repeated roles in the 1967 version of La muchachada de a bordo and the 1969 rendition of El día que me quieras; two unnecessary remakes which would become, curiously, his last appearances in the big screen. And it was quite a record, playing the same character after a period of nearly thirty-five years.

Ever-present in theater, in his extraordinary capacity as actor and tango dancer, some of his dancing partners were Tita Merello, Olinda Bozán and Beba Bidart. He had developed a very peculiar style of walking on the dancing track which meant a pleasure for the spectators. His last great demonstration was in a show alongside the Mariano Mores Orchestra.

In March 1977, appearing as guest at the program Grandes Valores del Tango, he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. In June 1982, he passed away at the Sanatorio Evangélico. His remains were mourned at the hall of the Teatro Presidente Alvear and today they rest in piece at the Cementerio del Oeste. The funeral van that carried him to his grave, while it was covered with flowers, bore at the back the portrait of his great friend Carlos Gardel.