Eduardo Migliaccio was born on April 15th, 1880, in Cava de' Tirreni, a small town in the province of Salerno, Italy. The family home in Via Santi Quaranta rests in the hills overlooking the Gulf of Salerno.
Eduardo was the fourth of seven children born to Almerinda and Ernesto Migliaccio.
Today the home in Via Santa Quaranta proudly displays a plaque in his honor.
In Naples, the Migliaccio family was relatively wealthy, owning a successful editing, printing, and publishing business located at 28 Via Roma in Salerno. The building has since been converted to condominiums and is now known as Palazzo Migliaccio.
Eduardo attended the Reale Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples, pursuing a career in theater studying design and plastic arts, such as carving and sculpture. He was introduced to the popular art form of the macchietta, consisting of ironic songs and often exaggerated persona, popularized by Nicolo Maldacea. This art form would be the foundation for his creation, the Macchietta Coloniale.
In 1897, Eduardo left for America to join his father Ernesto, who had a job waiting for him, as a clerk at the Banco Sandolo in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. As one might imagine, the life of a bank clerk was not attractive to a young man, eager to put on grease paint and try the stage. Distasteful or not, the work he did for his father would prove to be invaluable for his later career. Servicing bank clients, particularly his illiterate immigrant countrymen, he would write letters for the newcomers. In helping the immigrants adjust to the new land, Farfariello began his education with a range of immigrant life experiences, as well as, their unique spoken language.
Life in Hazelton did not suit Eduardo well. He soon moved to 9 Carmine Street, in New York's Greenwich Village, where he worked for the Banca Avallone on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
While living on Carmine Street, he met his future wife, Bettina (Elizabettina) Savarese. Bettina was born in Vico Equense, a small town in Sorrento, Italy and had arrived in New York with her sister Carmella in 1897. On April 16, 1899, Eduardo and Bettina married in the Shrine Church of St. Anthony in New York .
At this time, Eduardo familiarized himself with New York's downtown theatrical environment and soon became part of it. In April, 1900 Eduardo made his official debut acting in minor roles in two plays produced by Antonio Maiori, Hamlet and The Cemetery Hyena. This endeavor was short lived as Eduardo was more interested in singing.
Eduardo began to perform in the small theaters of lower Manhattan. He performed at the Villa Vittorio Emanuaele III Theatre, often performing romantic ballads of comedy songs he experienced in his native Naples. However, his breakthrough was when he created his own version, called the Macchietta Coloniale, which integrated real life immigrant characters and their stories, complete with the unique dialect of the Italian immigrant community existing in America during this time. This language, sometimes referred to as Italglish was unique, but as new generations of Italians were born in America, Italglish slowly disappeared.
As described in an introduction to a lecture given by Dr. Nancy Carnevale on "FARFARIELLO'S ITALGLISH THEATER"
Through Farfariello's lyrics-which represent perhaps the only significant body of writing in this Italian immigrant idiom-we can gain an understanding of the experience of life in America for the Italian immigrants who flocked to his performances. Her analysis of these lyrics reveals the centrality and the complexity of language in the immigrant imagination and experience.
The photo on the right from 1908 is possibly the earliest photo of Farfariello in character. "La Modistilla" translates to Seamstress with the dialogue in Spanish.
Coincidently, Farfariello's older sister Armida was a seamstress and made many of Farfariello’s costumes. On September 22, 1904, at the age of 24, Armida came to the United States from Naples on the ship Sardegna. Armida graduated from the University of Naples with a Ph.D in Philosophy and spoke many languages including Italian, Latin, French, and English. She was a college professor in Italy and taught English in Naples. When she came to the United States, she was unable to teach as a non-citizen and became a clothing designer working for Christian Dior in Manhattan. As time went on, and as the family of Bettina and Eduardo grew, their children also aided Farfariello in his craft in later years.
Farfariello moved from Greenwich Village to Little Italy where his favorite hangout when not performing was the Caffe' Roma at the corner of Mulberry and Broome streets. The café, which still exists at the time of this writing, dates back to 1891 when it started out as P. Ronca & Bro. aka Caffe Ronca. It was the "Sardi's of Little Italy." Theatre actors and variety artists hung out here for espresso and pastries. Farfariello, who lived around the block at 57 Kenmare Street, would frequent the café and study patrons, characters to impersonate on stage. Journalists, writers, and activists would also hang out here.
Beginning in the summer of 1907, Farfariello began to put his performances on record albums. As listed in the link below, his name is credited with 126 songs between 1907 and 1935.
Discography of American Historical Recordings.
Thanks to collectors, many of these recordings have been digitized and can be listened to on YouTube or on the link above.
Sometime after 1921, with eight children and his career in bloom, the family moved to a large Victorian style home at 8656 20th Avenue, Brooklyn. Farfariello's office was on the third floor.
Angelo Gloria, his wife Emma, and their daughter Olga Barbato, another well-known family from the Italian theatre, lived next door at 8648 20th Avenue.
Son: Ernest Migliaccio (1900–1973)
Daughter: Almerinda Migliaccio (1901–1985)
Daughter: Concetta Migliaccio (1904–1966)
Daughter: Flavia Migliaccio Gariffo (1906–1994)
Daughter: Leonilda Migliaccio (1911–1932)
Son: Theodore Migliaccio (1912–1980)
Son: Edmond Migliaccio (1914–2006)
Son: Arnold Migliaccio (1921–2009)
With a career spanning 46 years, Eduardo left a body of work consisting of over 500 macchiette, numerous audio recordings, and several movie films. He traveled the country from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In 1937, Eduardo returned to his homeland to perform at the Augusteo Theatre and the Arena Tina Di Lorenzo in Naples Italy.
Filmed and recorded in 1932 in New York, Farfariello starred in at least one movie, "MOVIE ACTOR [Attore Cinematografico]." The music was scored and directed by his eldest son Ernest, as well as, Attilio Giovannelli.
The film can be viewed on the George Eastman Museum Web Site
Many thanks to Caroline Yeager, Associate Curator at the George Eastman Museum, who worked to make this film available online for all to see.
There may be other film recordings in existence.
Just after the Movie Actor was released, a blurb in the Motion Picture Daily mentioned that six two-reel short films were planned to be produced.
As reported in the March 8th, 1945 edition of the Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), a film titled "Stelle del Canto" was shown. One of the stars was Farfariello.
Unfortunately we have been unable to locate any of these recordings.
Eduardo Migliaccio passed away on March 27, 1946 at the age of 65.
The late Dr. Emelise Aleandri wrote "...and with him died Farfariello, never to be seen again on the Italian-American Stage, although other comedians were still performing. Like Chaplin's Tramp, with whom Farfariello has often been compared, the inimitable characterization could not exist outside its creator."
Eduardo lays at rest in Saint John's Cemetery in Queens NY.