Tony Anthony (born Roger Pettito
on October 16, 1937, in Clarksburg, West Virginia), is a former film
actor, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his
starring roles in spaghetti westerns.
His first two films were Force of Impulse and Without
Each Other, low-budget independent films directed by Saul
Swimmer. In search of greener pastures, he moved to Italy, where he
appeared in some minor supporting roles. His friend Swimmer had moved
to England, where he befriended Allen Klein. Klein agreed to help
Anthony get his foot in the door, and produced his first major film.
Unable to find work in America, Anthony went to Europe to film
Wounds of Hunger that he co-wrote.
Anthony was present in Europe when the Sergio Leone Westerns were
setting box office records but had not yet been released in America.
Anthony contacted Klein, then a major MGM stockholder, about
co-financing a spaghetti western he was in, Klein and Anthony both
putting up $20,000 US. The film Klein produced was a spaghetti western
called A Stranger in Town/Un Dollaro tra i Denti .
A low budget clear imitation of A Fistful of Dollars, it
starred Anthony as the titular Stranger, a shotgun-wielding antihero
who helps a group of Mexican bandits steal gold from the US Army and
Federales, and then steals it right back from them. Released by
MGM to compete with the United Artists Clint Eastwood the Man with No
Name film series, it became a surprise success, and spawned three
sequels in which Tony Anthony reprised his role.
With these movies, Tony Anthony often brought the genre to unusual
places. His own persona was not the typical tough spaghetti western
hero; the Stranger was vulnerable and sneaky, with a sardonic sense of
humor. The second Stranger film, The Stranger Returns/Un Uomo,
un cavallo, una Pistola was a more polished entry that had a golden
stagecoach as its MacGuffin.
Anthony's willingness to experiment with the genre resulted in the
third series entry, the self-explanatory A Stranger in Japan/ Lo
Straniero di Silenzio/The Silent Stranger. Considered by many the
first "East-meets-West western", predating Red Sun by three years, its
release was delayed for seven years in the US due to a dispute with
MGM, and never received a European release at all. Anthony later
declared the film his best and lamented the cuts that MGM made to it.
Both had scores by Stelvio Cipriani.
His next film was Blindman, a spaghetti-western variation
on the Zatoichi series. Anthony played a blind gunslinger hired to
escort fifty mail-order brides to their husbands. By that time, Allen
Klein had become the manager of the Beatles, and Saul Swimmer had
directed many of their music videos and concert films.
Both were producers on Blindman, and their presence led to
Ringo Starr accepting a supporting role as one of the bandits. Ringo
would produce Anthony's next film, which Swimmer would direct: a
semi-autobiographical road movie called Cometogether. In this film,
Anthony plays an American stuntman working on spaghetti westerns in
Rome. The film contains behind the scenes-footage of a spaghetti
western being shot.
In 1976, long after the heyday of the genre, Anthony starred as the
Stranger for a fourth time in Get Mean. A bizarre film that
can barely be considered a western at all, it instead takes place in
Spain, where the Stranger has to battle invading Vikings and Moors
after escorting a princess there. It failed to find a wide audience.
The 3-D years
In 1981, Anthony returned to the Spaghetti well
one more time for what would be his biggest box-office success.
Comin' at Ya!, which he wrote, produced, and starred in, was a
fairly ordinary western in all respects but one - it was in 3-D. In
order for the film to receive a wide release, Anthony designed a
low-cost projection lens which was cheaper than the old-fashioned 3-D
lenses. With constant 3-D effects throughout the film and an extensive
marketing campaign, the movie became a smash which set off the
short-lived but intense 3-D craze of the early 80s.
Tony Anthony would star in one more 3-D film: the Indiana Jones
ripoff Treasure of the Four Crowns. Rushed into production to
cash in on his previous hit, it came near the end of the 3-D craze and
failed to find the same success. Anthony next announced a 3-D
science-fiction movie called Seeing is Believing, but with the 3-D
craze over, it could not find a financer and was never made.
Treasure of the Four Crowns would be Tony
Anthony's last acting role. He has effectively retired from
the movie industry, although he has occasionally produced films, such
as the infamous Wild Orchid and the spaghetti western throwback A
Dollar For the Dead. He currently runs an optical equipment company.
In late August 2009 it was announced that Tony
Anthony had taken the "over and under 3-D" format of
"Comin' At Ya!" and converted it to "digital 3-D" as a part of the
film's reissue. A release date has yet to be stated. This announcement
was made on the film's official site CominAtYaNoir3D.com .