February 10, 2012 06:59 PM by Candace Young
Last week, Martin Sheen connected with political activists in his past, and tonight on NBC‘s Who Do You Think You Are? actress Marisa Tomei is on a mission to find out more about a tragic family story involving a murder. Keep reading to hear the highlights from her story…
Marisa Tomei first became famous for her role in “My Cousin Vinny,” for which she won an Academy Award, and went on to receive two subsequent Oscar nods. Her father has extensively researched his side of their family, but she is curious about her great-grandfather’s murder on her mother’s side – he was killed in a bar, possibly over an affair.
Her mother helps her get started researching the Bianchi family. Mom is also curious about the 1910 murder of her grandfather, Francesco Bianchi. Her father (Marisa’s grandfather) was only two years-old at the time of his death. Marisa also wants to learn more about her great-grandmother’s family, the Canavaros from Elba.
Marisa heads to Cecina in Italy where her great-grandfather, Leopoldo, who was murdered, lived. She meets with a man who will help her look in the archives. They come up empty looking through the documents from 1910, but hit pay dirt in the 1911 files. They learn that Leopoldo’s remains were transported back to Cecina after he died somewhere else – from illness. She’s puzzled, since family lore states that he died due to womanizing or cheating.
Elba is the next stop on Marisa’s journey – it’s an island off the coast of Tuscany, where she hopes to find out more about the mysterious death and her great-grandmother’s family. She begins her quest in a very old church, looking through the records from the 1800′s for the name Canavaro. They are able to go back ten generations.
She visits the historical archives and finds the marriage certificate of Leopoldo Bianchi and her great-grandmother of the Canavaro family. Their link was through the Canavaro kiln business. Six years after marrying, they moved to Cecina.
Marisa goes on to find a newspaper headline about Leopoldo’s death – he was treacherously murdered – shot by another man, who was arrested soon afterward. She meets with a professor, who fills in more details – they meet in the cafe outside of which her grandfather was shot. Marisa learns that the murderer had gone into the kiln business with the Bianchis, and had fired Leopoldo’s brother, Tito, for suspicion of disloyalty. The professor explains that the claims may not have been true, but the family honor was at stake, so the murderer was beaten up. This insult led to another confrontation during which Leopoldo was shot.
Marisa meets with an expert at the site of the murderer’s trial. She learns that he was acquitted because it was ruled self-defense. One year later, he faced a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, and asked for the money back that he had on his person the night of the murder. Marisa tears up speculating that the murderer was a sociopath.
Fabio, Marisa’s Italian guide, is stunned to hear all that she’s found out. He tells her he found an old relative of hers – an 83 year-old woman, who couldn’t come to meet her because she doesn’t feel well, but he gives her a photo and letter from her. Rosetta was the daughter of Leopoldo’s sister, and was close to Marisa’s great-grandmother. She talks about how Marisa’s great-grandmother remarried a man named Armando after Leopoldo was murdered and they moved to New York. Marisa also receives a photo of her great-grandmother, Adelaide.
Now for the coolest part – Marisa reunites with her mother and is able to tell her the truth about what happened to her grandfather, who the family had been regarding as a philanderer, which was not true at all.
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Photo credit: Andres Otero/WENN.com, Ian Wilson/WENN.com