“Sophia Loren-Mambo Italiano” 

Mambo Italiano” is a popular songwritten by Bob Merrill in 1954 for the American singer Rosemary Clooney. Merrill wrote it under a recording deadline, scribbling hastily on a paper napkin in an Italian restaurant in New York City, and then using the wall pay-phone to dictate the melody, rhythm and lyrics to the studio pianist, under the aegis of the conductor Mitch Miller, who produced the original record.[1] Merrill’s song provides an obvious parody of genuine mambo music, cashing in on the 1954 mambo craze in New York while at the same time allowing Miller to set up a brilliant vehicle for Clooney’s vocal talents.[2] It is also a late example of an American novelty song in a tradition started during World War II by the Italian-American jazz singer Louis Prima, in which nonsense lyrics with an Italian-American sound are used in such a way as to present a benignly stereotyped caricature of Italian-American people (who had been classedwith “enemy alien” status and discouraged from speaking Italian) as likable, slightly brash, pleasure-loving folk.[3] Although Clooney’s own family background was Irish-American (while Merrill’s was Jewish),[4] she could perform such “Italianized” material with an entirely convincing accent, which she had readily picked up from Italian-American musicians and their families.[3]

The song became a hit for Clooney, reaching number 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in the UK Singles Chart early in 1955.[5] It was also successfully covered by the popular Italian-American star Dean Martin.[6] In the 1955 Italian comedy film Scandal in Sorrento (Pane, amore e…), Sophia Lorendances voluptuously opposite Vittorio de Sica to an instrumental arrangement of the tune made by Merrill, in a simplified, local imitation of mambo dancing[7] (she was also required to dance to the song in the 1960 Hollywood comedy It Started in Naples[6]). The song itself became popular in Italy when Carla Boni scored a major hit with her version of 1956.[6][8]Also in 1956,[9] Renato Carosone, a well-known singer and band leader from Naples, recorded a successful version that weaves in several fragments of Neapolitan song, of which he was a leading exponent.[10] Versions made in other languages include a French translation made by the Turkish polyglot singer Darío Moreno.[6] More recent cover versions have been made by Shaft(2000), Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana Martin (2006) and Lady Gaga (2011).


11 thoughts on ““Sophia Loren-Mambo Italiano” 

  1. I recently did a post asking about everyone’s favourite stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Sophia was included in mine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.