Without any doubt, there is no Romanian, young or old, who has not heard of the great actor Puiu Călinescu, and many of the previous generations remember fondly the scenes of comedy by the book with which the artist delighted us, year after year.
When we think of Puiu Călinescu, we can’t help but remember the absolutely unique moments that the actor offered us, during decades of activity in Romanian cinema.
So, through the prism of sensational comic scenes, we find it hard to imagine that, in reality, Puiu Călinescu would have suffered a bit in his life. The general perception urges us to refuse to believe that a cheerful man could always hide a sad story.
But one thing should be noted: many of the world’s great comedians have, in the course of their lives, faced dramas that are hard to put into words. Perhaps the best example is Robbin Williams himself, the always cheerful actor who ended terribly.
Puiu Călinescu didn’t have Williams’ fate, but for decades he kept locked in his heart a life story that could easily be made into a film, this time not a comedy.
Puiu Călinescu lost his mother when he was only 5 years old
According to his own accounts, Puiu Călinescu lost his mother when he was 5 years old and was raised by his aunts, his mother’s sisters.
Later, the artist found solace in cinema performances.
“My first job as an artist was to paste up posters for shows in Bucharest, at the cinema. At that time there were silent films and during the break, when the reels of film were changed, I would go out in front of the screen to make people laugh. I don’t have schools and diplomas, what I learned I learned from those movies, from the street and from life. The secret is work, uninterrupted work, with new ideas, with eternal research!”, Puiu Călinescu once confessed on Eugenia Vodă’s show.
So great was his passion for film that life on the stage became, quite unexpectedly, his second home. “Well, I’m sick if I don’t have rehearsals, or shows, or tours, I always have to do something. And if I don’t have what, I search until I find it. Look, I fixed the TV and I haven’t had a picture on it since. I fixed the radio and it’s out of sound. I fixed the iron and I burned out the lights all over the neighborhood. I can’t stay in a stiff place, I’ve got a demon in me That’s why and I’m like a plank, that fat doesn’t have time to collect. And then I write, because the texts of the comedies I play in, I make them and others censor them”, the artist added, according to the source quoted above.
A little later, his daughter, Carmen Călinescu, was to confess that her father had been a pillar in the most difficult moments of her life, the actor being of a common sense and a modesty that one rarely meets.
“My father had risen to become an actor and was able to help the family financially. You couldn’t get mad at him. He was a man who made you fight, never be depressed, never snap. He said if your stomach didn’t growl and your shoes weren’t broken, that’s all you needed to be happy. He didn’t care about money. He wanted everyone around him to be happy,” said Carmen Călinescu, for Jurnalul National.
The late artist’s daughter also recounted another sad event which, as far as can be concluded, was the beginning of the end for him.
In 1995, Carmen Călinescu was on holiday in Predeal with her mother and father. When they returned to Bucharest, they found that the artist’s other daughter had died. “When we got back to Bucharest, I called Silvia, but she didn’t answer. I went and broke down the door. She was dead in the hallway. She’d had a concussion.”
Although she continued to perform, the tragic event seems to have taken its toll. In 1997, Puiu Călinescu suffered a heart attack on stage. “He was going up on stage, supported, just to play. He was getting worse and worse. And, on 1 May 1997, we all got together, because my father wanted us to, and we went to Sinaia. He was very sick, always leaning on me. He used to tell me to take this paper out of my hand, and he had nothing in his hand! We went to do an ultrasound, the doctor looked at me, wanting to tell me something. I was a wreck. I told him my dad was a beer lover and asked if I could give it to him. And he said I could give him anything! I still didn’t realize the gravity of it. The next day they rushed him to Floreasca Hospital. He was a handful, but everything hurt! He wasn’t my father anymore!”.
He was sentenced to death
Born in 1920, Puiu Călinescu entered the Second World War in the prime of his life, so he inevitably ended up on the front lines. However, it wasn’t long before he made an important decision, as he himself would relate decades later.
“When I saw what was going on over there, I decided the army was not for me. I jumped the fence and ran the next day. Only after a while, I had to go change some papers. The war was long over, but the major who was supposed to renew my papers found me on the list of deserters and said, “What have you done, Comrade Callinescu?
You are condemned to death… I was speechless. I had already started acting and was sentenced to death without knowing it. Now, if I think about it, I can say that I was a lucky man”, said Puiu Călinescu.
More details about the death sentence of the great actor can be seen in the clip below, starting at minute 36.
“The Professionals” – with Eugenia Voda (circa 1997) – Interview with Jean Constantin and Puiu Călinescu.