|Cesare Danova in his debut film, The Captain's
Daughter, with co-star Irasema Dilián
The son of an Austrian father and an Italian mother, the actor adopted Danova as his professional name after meeting the film producer, Dino de Laurentiis, in Rome.
De Laurentiis gave him a screen test and was so impressed he immediately cast Danova in the 1947 movie The Captain's Daughter, playing alongside established Italian film actor Amedeo Nazzari and the relative newcomer, Vittorio Gassman.
So began a career that was to see Danova star opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Joseph L Mankiewicz's 1963 hit Cleopatra, opposite Elvis Presley and Ann-Margaret in Viva Las Vegas (1964), alongside Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in Martin Scorsese's cult movie Mean Streets (1973) and as part of a star-studded cast in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).
In his later years, Danova became a familiar figure on TV screens in America, making appearances in almost all the popular drama series of the 1980s, including Charlie's Angels, Murder, She Wrote, Falcon Crest, Hart to Hart and Mission: Impossible.
He never retired and had appeared in an episode of In the Heat of the Night shortly before he died in 1992 of a heart attack, aged 66.
|Cesare Danova in the 1960s, by which time
he was a well-established star of film and TV
Standing 6ft 4ins (1.93m) tall, he was also an accomplished athlete, winning a fencing championship at the age of 15 and playing for the Italian national rugby team at 17. He was also a good golfer and tennis player, an amateur swimming champion, an expert horseman and polo player, and a master archer.
He might have made a career in professional sport but his parents wanted him to become a doctor. While studying at Rome University, he became interested in acting, but was so determined not to disappoint his parents he pushed himself so hard in his academic work he suffered a nervous breakdown.
It was while he was recuperating that a friend introduced him to De Laurentiis, by then an up-and-coming producer, whose gamble on giving this unknown a part in a prestigious title paid off, launching Danova as a kind of Italian Errol Flynn, cast as the dashing lead in about 20 Italian action-romance movies.
Danova moved to the United States in the 1950s. He had been spotted by MGM when appearing in the German-backed 1955 movie Don Giovanni and signed a long-term contract with the studio in June 1956.
|Danova (left) on the set of Mean Streets with Harvey
Keitel and director Martin Scorsese
But he later won acclaim as the Mafia Don Giovanni Cappa in Mean Streets, Scorsese's brilliant story about life among the small-time hoods in New York , and as corrupt mayor Carmine DePasto in Animal House.
Married twice, Danova had two sons, Marco and Fabrizio, by his first wife, Pamela.
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