Calleja, Joseph (4.8.1897-31.10.1975)


Calleja was born in Rabat, Malta and educated at St Aloysius College. As a teenager, he formed a harmonica band and toured abroad. In 1914 he left Malta, spending some time singing in the capitals of war-ravaged Europe.

Calleja initiated his film career by appearing in two B films, His Woman (.1931) and The Girl in the Cab (1933). He made his mark with Public Hero No.1 in which he interpreted the part of a criminal. This was followed bv Riff Raff where he played the role of a ladies' man and co-starred with Jean Harlowe and Spencer Tracy. In Tough-Guy he co-starred with the child-actor Jackie Cooper where he sang a cou le of bars of a folkoristic Maltese tune. His p next film was Exclusive Story with Franchot Tone. He also starred in Valentino, The Light Touch, Unde-ater, Hot Blood, Touch ;f Evil, Cry Tough, ne Al-0, and johnny Cool, amongst other films. He admitted a preference for stage performance rather than film acting, although; he made over 50 films.

Calleja took part in the best plays on Broadway including Ten-minute Alibi, The Front Page, Grand Hotel, and Broadway. His performance in the film Algier won him the Critics' Award. He died at his residence in Sliema

Source: Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century (1997), editors Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri

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