Born: April 29, 1907 - Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Died: September 26, 1983 - Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Tino Rossi (born: Constantino Rossi) was a French singer and film actor. He became a tenor of French cabaret and one of the great romantic idols of his time. Gifted with an operatic voice, a "Latin Lover" persona made him a movie star as well. Over his career, Rossi made hundreds of records and appeared in more than 25 films, the most notable of which was the 1953 production, Si Versailles m'était conté directed by Sacha Guitry. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art-songs by Jules Massenet (1842–1912), Reynaldo Hahn (1875–1947), and other composers helped draw sold out audiences wherever he performed.
As a young French man, Tino Rossi played guitar and sang at a variety of small venues in his hometown of Ajaccio before going on to perform in Marseilles and at resort clubs along the French Riviera. In the early 1930s he went to Paris and within a few years achieved enormous success, joining a Columbia Records roster that included the biggest stars of the day such as Lucienne Boyer, Damia, Pills et Tabet, Mireille, and Jean Sablon.
Tino Rossi's success was greatly aided by songwriter Vincent Scotto (1876-1952), who wrote his first hits and collaborated with him for many years, composing and arranging many Rossi songs. Prior to World War II Rossi was a major box office attraction in the French speaking world but expanded his audience to America with a 1938 visit followed up by wartime tours across the USA and Canada. Tino Rossi began his film career in Les Nuits Moscovites (1934), but his first real success came with Marinella (1936). All his films were musicals and capitalised on his success as a singer.
In 1946, his song Petit Papa Noël sold more than thirty million copies worldwide. A Christmas classic for the family, the song still sells by the thousands each Yuletide season. The recipient of many musical awards, including the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque, Tino Rossi is the most popular personality to ever come from Corsica other than Napoleon Bonaparte.
During the Occupation of France by Nazi Germany Tino Rossi's film career reached its peak, notably with Mon amour est près de toi (1943) and L'Île d'amour (1944). At the Liberation, the French authorities reproached him for associating with the French Gestapo, but most importantly for actively supporting collaborationist causes such as the LVF (Légion des Volontaires Français) who sent French volunteers to work in German factories. He was arrested in October 1944 and spent three weeks in Fresnes prison (near Paris). Following a trial in 1945, his sentence was relatively light. Unlike his fellow entertainers Arletty, Mireille Balin, Josseline Gaël and Robert Le Vigan), Rossi received a retrospective and largely symbolic work suspension. He subsequently appeared only sporadically in films, concentrating on his singing career.
In 1947 he married Lilia Vetti, a young dancer he met while making a film. They had a son together and remained married until his death. A star of film and the operetta scene, Tino Rossi's career also evolved into the television era, appearing in a number of popular variety shows. Rossi largely retired from performing by the 1960’s as he passed his 50th birthday and rock-and-roll made his style of music obsolete, but he remained enormously popular with a following built up over 50 years of performing.
In 1982, for his contribution to France and its culture, President François Mitterrand named Tino Rossi a Commander of the Legion of Honor. That same year Rossi gave his last public performance at the Casino de Paris, a show that popular demand turned into a three month stint.
Tino Rossi died of pancreatic cancer in 1983 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France. His body returned to his native Ajaccio for burial in the family plot at the local cemetery. His hometown named a street and the sailing harbor in his honor and at Nogent-sur-Marne, on the River Marne in Paris, there is a square named Tino Rossi Square. He's also referenced in the comic book Asterix in Corsica.