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when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
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I Borgia

(The Borgias, 1972–present)

Warning: Contradictory claims of authorship here. Brass claims that he and Roberto Lerici alone wrote the script of The Borgias, but famous British author Wolf Mankowitz claimed that he alone wrote the original screenplay for this film, which he then placed in circulation via his agent in hopes of landing a gig. What I think happened is that Brass and Mankowitz both told the truth: Brass and Lerici coauthored an original screenplay, and once they (or their producers) noticed a rival script circulating, they decided that, rather than go into competition, they would be better off hiring Mankowitz. Ultimately the three of them collaborated on a rewrite. Giulio Sbarigia produced, the sets were built, Fernando Rey was hired to portray Pope Alexander VI, and things were moving ahead. But then the project came to a sudden screeching halt. When I first met Professor Mankowitz (on Monday, 14 June 1982) I asked about this, and he told me what happened:

Well, there are basically two things I remember about Tinto. One is that his wife’s cooking — his wife’s cooking —. You know the Italians cook excellent food? Well, his wife could cook a pheasant — a native pheasant — and it was the most delicious pheasant you have ever tasted. The other thing I remember about Tinto Brass is that it amazed me how someone could live such a normal, domesticated life at home, and such a sexually aberrant life in his profession on the screen.

Do you know if The Borgias was ever made? It wasn’t, was it? No. I’ll tell you why it was never made. You know, the Borgias were bloody and sexy enough to begin with, but Tinto wanted to make it even more bloody and more sexy, so he was coming up with things that the Borgias had never even thought of! The producers gave us about seven or eight million dollars to make the film. Now you know how films are sold in Italy? Well, the producers talk to the theater owners, the exhibitors, who eventually show the film, and they give it backing. And I said to Tinto, “You’re not going to tell them some of the scenes in this film? Like the one you talked about this morning?” (It was a scene that was not in the script, that Tinto had just added.) But he insisted that he tell them those scenes. So there he was, telling this group of family-type men these scenes of sex and violence.

Some months later I asked him if I could read the script. “Oh it’s somewhere in my archives. British television plagiarized it, you know, for a miniseries.” “I heard about that series,” I said, “but I never saw it.” “It was very bad. I know they plagiarized it, because they included things that are not in the history books; they were things I had invented.” I still want to read that script.

Here are the references:

Variety (8 March 1972, p. 28):

Giulio Sbarigia of Oceania Cinematografica is teaming with Jolly Film Producers Arrigo Colombo and Giorgio Papi to produce a comedy western “It’s a Tough Life, Eh Providence?” with Tomas Milian and Gregg Palmer. Western is first of five pix Sbarigia has slated. Other four are “The Borgia,” “The Damned of God” (from Sven Hassel’s novel), “The Ragamuffin of Nazareth” and “Salon Kitty” — all four in partnership with a new banner, Coralta....

Variety (12 July 1972, p. 32):

Tinto Brass is back from his jury assignment at Berlin Film Festival and prepping “The Borgias” as an Italo-British coproduction for producer Giulio Sbarigia’s Oceania Cinematografica. Fernando Rey is already set to play Pope Alexander VI....

Variety (29 November 1972, p. 34):

Art directors Colasanti and Moore have started set construction at Cinecittà for Oceania’s costume spectacle “The Borgias.” Giulio Sbarigia is producing and Tinto Brass directing on a reputed $3,000,000 budget from a script by Brass, Roberto Lerici and Wolf Mankowitz.

Variety (3 January 1973, p. 62):

Italian Films In Production
(Jan start — locations Rome, London)
Producer: Coprod Giulio Sbarigia w/Gr. Britain
Director: Giovanni Tinto Brass

Variety (4 April 1973, p. 32):

Giovanni Brass is casting “The Borgias” with British and Italo performers and pic could finally get off the ground for Oceania in the next month or so, but when he does, Robert Mauri will probably have “I, Lucrezia Borgia” before cameras for Lattes Cinematografica.

To this day, Brass is still trying to get this film off the ground. Too bad you can no longer see these dead links:

Laura Delli Colli, “Da Scorsese a Tinto Brass, l’Italia è tutta un set,” Panorama On Line, 21 September 2000.

Laura Delli Colli, “Da Scorsese a Tinto Brass, l’Italia è tutta un set,” L’Espresso, 21 September 2001, reprinted from Panorama On Line, 21 September 2000.

But you can still see this little passing mention: Gnomiz, June 2003.

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