Movie Life - Yearbook
Movie Life of Mario Lanza

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Friendly rival at MGM, Howard Keel was apparently forging ahead of Mario. But the Lanza fan mail was already starting its climb to present record of 500-plus letters each day. He'd gone into his second film, Toast of New Orleans.

His grateful studio now handed Mario a bonus: the beautiful Beverly Hills house formerly owned by Joe Pasternak. Its grounds, with pool and tennis courts, gave Colleen room for play; Mario's Mom (above) and Pop moved in for good.

Grandparents always loved to be baby-sitters for Colleen, so Mario and Betty could travel. Trip to Honolulu in spring of 1950 celebrated break to come.

Long planned, this was a dream role such as few stars ever get. Nobody but Mario could play The Great Caruso, Lasky knew; MGM knew he must do it.

Timing her arrival as perfectly as her sister's, Elissa came on scene December 2, 1950, just after her father had finished his most important picture role.

At Hollywood opening of The Great Caruso, the Lanzas were accompanied by Lasky, whose deal with Metro included own services as associate producer. And film was off on its record-breaking career, including new high of $1,5000,000 at Radio City Music Hall in N. Y.

The Lanza voice had been on wax ever since Art Rush got him RCA - Victor contract (and another with Columbia Concerts) back in 1947. Now he hit jackpot with Be My Love, selling over a million discs in just one year.

Concert tour in 1951 shattered more records; Cincinnati's Music Hall had hundreds of standees; near-riot in a Scranton store (left) amazed Mario and manager Sam Weller (with glasses), music-lover who'd had faith in an unknown.

Radio show on NBC, with Ray Sinatra as bandleader, upped Lanza's expected take for 1951 to more than $750,000. As usual when he sings for concerts, records, radio or film sound-tracks (post-synchronized), he put on weight,. Gossips hinted he was feuding with Metro, deliberately making himself unphotogenic.

But he soon began trimming down to camera weight, first on Oregon fishing trip and then in more gym work-outs. So latest film, Because You're Mine, sees Lanza in top form.

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