1 9 5 2 – 1 9 5 3 (USA)
Irish-American actor J. Carrol Naish became typecast as an Italian after playing the role of Luigi Basco for several years, first on CBS radio starting in 1948, and for a short period on a live TV series, also for CBS, premiering on 22 September 1952.
Luigi was a newly arrived Italian immigrant (from Canto Loma) who was learning to love his new homeland. He did not always understand what everything meant, and often took things too literally, but his sweet, gentle nature won everyone over.
He opened and closed each episode writing a letter to his “mama mia”.
The setting alternated between Luigi’s antique shop at 21 North Halstead Street in the Little Italy section of Chicago and his friend Pasquale’s restaurant – Pasquale’s Spaghetti Palace – next door at 19 North Halstead.
Pasquale, a fellow immigrant who had been in this country for several years, had paid Luigi’s boat fare to America in hopes that he might be able to marry off his fat daughter Rosa to his impressionable countryman.
When Life with Luigi returned for a brief second run in the spring of 1953 all three principal parts were being played by different actors.
Despite its popularity on radio, Life with Luigi had only a short career on TV. The final episode aired on 22 December 1952.
Its extreme ethnic stereotyping was found offensive by some, and sponsor troubles provided the coup de grâce.
J. Carrol Naish