How do you solve a problem like Mario?

C. Davis Remignanti writes: During the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, there were any number of notable figures who parlayed early success outside the film industry into curious careers as movie stars. Sonja Henie comes to mind. Carmen Miranda. Johnny Weissmuller, Esther Williams and others. All names we're familiar with. They all made (and often starred in) numerous movies; few of them ever appeared in a film.

Among that peculiar group one will also find Alfredo Cocozza, who would later take the professional name Mario Lanza. Blessed with a remarkably clean and bright tenor voice, Lanza found early success in performances at Tanglewood, earned glowing notices in The New York Times and in all likelihood was headed for a noteworthy career in opera when World War II and a chance meeting with Louis B. Mayer altered his life's trajectory.

More's the pity. In 1949, the two possible paths of Lanza's career were made plain when his first commercial recordings for RCA Victor were released almost simultaneously with his first MGM musical, That Midnight Kiss. Those lovely recordings capture for posterity the opera star that might have been, while the ..........

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