Rafaela Ottiano: The Menace from Venice

A salute today to the amazing Rafaela Ottiano (1888-1942).

Originally from Venice, the young actress moved to the U.S. at the age of 22 — hence the thick Italian accent that characterized her every performance. 1924 was her breakthrough year on two fronts: she was in the Broadway production of the original Sweeney Todd, and she appeared in Pop McCutcheon’s silent film The Law and the Lady with Tyrone Power Sr. and Alice Lake. A walk-on as a maid in the comedy Married (1926) with Owen Moore and Constance Bennett was the last of her silent pictures. Roles in two notable Broadway productions resulted in her being cast in the screen versions, as well: Mae West’s Diamond Lil (1928) and the 1933 movie adaptation She Done Him Wrong, as well as Grand Hotel (1930 and 1932, respectively).

Ottiano was to play supporting parts in 43 Hollywood features. Notable among them Ann Vickers (1933), Great Expectations (1934, as Mrs. Joe), Curly Top (1935, with Shirley Temple), Crime and Punishment (1935), Tod Browning’s The Devil Doll (1936, one of her more memorable roles), Anthony Adverse (1936), Marie Antoinette (1938), The Long Voyage Home (1940), Topper Returns (1941), The Adventures of Martin Eden (1942), and I Married an Angel (1942) with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, her last.