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The Venetian (1931)
The Venetian Programme Image When Bianca and the Duke died the Cardinal became the ruler of Florence, He gave his brother a magnificent funeral, but declared that he did not care what became of the body of Bianca. No one even knew where she was buried until 1902, when a coffin, which there is reason to suppose hers, was discovered outside the wall which bounds the tombs of the Medici. After Bianca's death everyone tried to please the ex-Cardinal by villifying her memory, and for three and a half centuries she was known as "the infamous Bianca Cappello". She was, in reality, a fine, honest character, greatly beloved even by Giovanna's children. Antonio became an excellent soldier, and by decree of the ex-Cardinal, a Knight of Malta - a Bachelor Order. Full synopsis or Gallery.


cast list production credits

Cardinal Ferdinando

Alastair Sim


Ellen Van Volkenburg
Bianca Cappello Maragaret Rawlings


Clifford Bax
Francesco de' Medici Wilfrid Walter Theatre Little Theatre
Vettore John Clements Presented by Maurice Brown
Giovanna of Austria Gwen Hammond    
Celio Malespini Fredrick Gibson    
Concini Michael Curwen    
Marietta Miriam Adams

The Venetian Cast

Julia Catherine Lacey
Serguidi Henry Thomas
Major Domo Pascoe Thornton
Emilia Esme Hubbard
Scipio Fredrick Gibson
Piero Buonaventuri Ivan Brandt
Interesting facts

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A contemporary review in THEATRE WORLD singles out Alastair as giving "an impressive rendering of the unscrupulous, scheming Cardinal."

There is very little fiction in the events of this play, even Malespini being an actual poet of the time. The palace at Cajano, in the garden of which the last scene takes place, still exists, and the incidental music in that scene is by Caccini, Court Composer to Francesco de' Medici.

Ellen Van Volkenburg cast Alastair as the Cardinal in The Venetian, a drama about the Medicis. Naomi found this to be a gripping play. For the first time Alastair was one of the principals so it was a big jump forward. They both thought he looked very fine in his scarlet robes and knew that no one in the audience would have suspected that Alastair was wearing his plus-fours underneath them. The capital A for art was beginning to diminish as he took himself less seriously.

At the end of the London run The Venetian was put on in AMerica. It was re-cast out there except for the four principals: Wilfrid Walter, Margaret Rawlings, Catherine Lacey and Alastair, who sailed out in August. It was to have a long tour before coming to New York and it seemed as though Alastair would be away for months. He hated America, apparently - the rush and bustle, the loudness, the need of so many of the men to appear tough in case they were thought to be weaklings - all these things made him ill at ease and his letters were filled with longing to be home. He was lucky. The play had gone quite well on tour but New York didn't like it much and it came off quite quickly. He was home by Christmas. He never went back, no matter what the financial inducement, and Naomi believed it to be sad in a way because in time Americans became particularly appreciative of his work.