First Reviews Of
BBC Lanza Documentary
Mario Lanza - Singing To The Gods
Written and Produced by Mark Kidel

By Vincent Di Placido
Hi All! I've just finished watching the BBC documentary Mario Lanza:Singing to the Gods.
It was fantastic - well produced and it treated Mario with a lot of respect. It was amazing what was covered in the hour running time - all the important events & incidents were covered!
There were many many lovely stills of Mario & all the great clips from all the Lanza movies & The Student Prince! It demonstrated beautifully in one sequence the amazing seductive charm of Lanza The Singer & The Man & how he could use his eyes to such great effect - a very well-edited sequence! It was also lovely to see interviews with the street singer Luisa Di Mio talking today about events back in 1957 & how Mario befriended her. Sarita Montiel also spoke about her relationship with Mario - I think that under different personal circumstances they would have become lovers at the time.
There was also great use of song soundtrack for example they used Hollywood Bowl recordings over stills & footage of the The Bowl & they used that beautiful little audio clip of Mario Talking to his daughter about how much he loved her during a home recording with some great family photos! Jeff Rense appeared also & talked about how hard it is to describe & truly do justice to the Lanza vocal magic in words. He says it would be like trying to descibe all the beautiful colours of a sunset to someone who can't see - quite a good analogy!
It was great to see for the first time (for me anyway) Lanza singing E lucevan le stelle at the palladium. Armando cesari also spoke about Mario! My dvd recorder came into its own tonight. Anyway, this documentary is definitely going to have repeat viewings. I was very surprised that the Coca-Cola Show and the versatility it provided Mario to show (his gift) was not covered in the documentary, but I suppose the hour long running time was very restrictive. (Indeed, it was! - Jeff). I also would have liked a mention of the great (if not greatest) Lanza album "Mario!" But, to be honest, if it had ran for 3 hours I would still have wanted more!
From Derek Mannering
Thanks to all of you who took the time to review the new Lanza documentary and thanks also for your kind words. I wish I could take credit for this terrific program but other than my interview and the program's title, it's Mark Kidel's production from beginning to end. The fact that he accomplished such a magnificent tribute with a limited budget and in such a short time speaks volumes for his talent and his integrity.
As for surprises, I was delighted to see Al Teitelbaum interviewed. He's often vilified by a few Lanza zealots (who, naturally, never met the man) but he played an integral role in the latter part of Lanza's career and he came across on screen as both warm and intelligent. Photographer Murray Garrett was another delight, as were contributions from our eloquent host Jeff Rense, Terry Robinson (we should all look that good at 89!), and Mario's daughter Ellisa, who doesn't seems to age at all. I found Sarita Montiel's contribution a little bizarre; her suggestion that she and Mario might have been open to a passionate affair failed to acknowledge the fact that she was romantically involved with the film's director at the time, Anthony Mann, whom she later married.
The inclusion of "Pineapple Pickers" was another surprise, but both Mark and his great editor Andrew really like it and if nothing else it served to display Lanza's incredible versatility. The song may be wanting but what a performance.
The program also makes it *very* clear that if/when a film is made on Mario Lanza's life and career, one voice and one voice only will suffice on the soundtrack.
"Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods" is a great documentary, one that should look and sound fantastic when it eventually reaches DVD.
From Ron Stevens
To Derek Mannering, Pam Latham (and all the BMLS), Ellisa Lanza Bregman and everyone included on the new ML documentary. THANK YOU! At last, we all have a worthy, more factual and concise successor to "The American Caruso." And thank the BBC for showing it more than once on BBC4. Ole dumbass here recorded it on the wrong channel on Friday night, thankfully it was repeated at 0055 Sunday am. Jeannette and I watched it, she enjoyed it, I was in tears by the end. The story of our beloved Mario has finally been correctly shown on film and some of the footage was awesome. Pity there were no comments from Kathryn Grayson or Ann Blyth but still, well done to the producers. This should be made available to all our friends over the pond, asap. I have it on my HDD and can readily copy it to DVD should anyone need in the meantime. Contact me at if needed.
On one critical note, I agree with LJ. There wasn't much new but it did feel like an on-screen obituary. But hey, although Mario's glorious career was brief, there was no way it could've been squeezed onto a 60 minute doc. His colourful life need at least 120 mins!! How many "new fans" watch BBC4? It was my first time I tell you, and that was thanks to Jeff's excellent site. Otherwise I would not have known. Hehe, and yes LJ, PP is always the bane of our lives when it comes to Mario. Shame it had to be included.
Realistically, how many more "new" Lanza fans will there be? I'm 34 in January (don't spend too much on gifts for me, lol) and will promote Lanza in my own way as best I can. But where does the new breed come from? Take care LJ, if need to speak etc :-))
From Paul V
To Derek Mannering: Congratulations, my friend, on a worthy tribute to Mario. You did not leave much out, and spoke very fairly of him. I liked your comments on his voice, which I agree with entirely. I had not seen the footage before of Luisa di Mio or Sarita Montiel, so well worth seeing, even though I thought Sarita a little indiscreet, but not to worry,'twas many years ago. Once again Derek a lovely doco, thank you, and what a joy to hear so much of Mario on TV, and WHAT A VOICE! Untouchable!
From Vincent Di Placido
I must apologise to Derek Mannering. I completely left out any mention of his tremendous contribution to the BBC documentary - It was a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
Derek, your contribution was so great that any praise I had for the documentary in general was actually meant for you also! You spoke (as you write) about Mario so beautifully and intelligently - your views and insights were spot on. I have a feeling that the things I liked about the documentary - e.g. the use of authentic Hollywood Bowl performances for the soundtrack to that sequence in the film were partly due to your involvement - I was so glad that it was produced with that sort of detail. When you're a fan and you see documentaries about artists - and they use material out of context and date - it's slightly annoying. I have to say even these fabulous filmmakers slipped-up and played The Coke version of "Someday" when referring to the second Shower Of Stars show. It would have been cool to have heard the tv performance at that moment but I'm just being very picky.
Anyway, Derek - Well Done! Oh! Can I ask what 'Surprises' you referred to? I'm curious if they matched what was a surprise to me!