Tadzio Incarnate

How many Tadzios were there? First, there was Władysław Moes, the real-life boy who inspired Thomas Mann when the writer, accompanied by his wife and brother, visited Venice in 1911. Then there was the Tadzio that Mann created, the silent youth of Death in Venice. Thirdly, there was the youth picked by Luchino Visconti to play Tadzio in the 1971 film. There are the Tadzios that each of us create in our mind as we read the story or watch the film. Then there are the Tadzios created by other artists working from Mann's story . . .

The Polish Aristocrat

In the summer of 1911, during an extended vacation on the Mediterranean coast, the German writer Thomas Mann and his family arrived at the Grand Hôtel des Bains on the Venice Lido. On their first evening, Mann noticed a group of Polish children and their governess waiting for their mother to arrive for dinner. Among them was a boy of almost supernatural beauty - Władysław Moes, nicknamed Adzio (pronounced 'Adjiu').

Moes (Władysław Gerard Jan Nepomuk Marya Moes; 17 November 1900 - 17 December 1986 ) was born to a noble family in the Moes Palace near Wierbka, in southern Poland. His father was a land- and factory owner; as the name Moes suggests, his paternal origins were in the Netherlands. In later life Moes was an army officer imprisoned by the Germans at the opening of the Second World War. Under Communist rule he lost his family's property and briefly worked as manager of a paper factory.

Moes married in 1935. A son, Alexander, died before he was twenty. His daughter Maria, born in 1946, is reportedly still alive.

Tadzio's friend Jaschiu was also based on a real-life counterpart: Jas Fudakowski.
This photo (from The Real Tadzio) shows Adzio middle left and Jas middle right.

Wladyslaw Moes when a boy

Wladyslaw Moes in 1939, after capture by the Germans

The information above comes from Wikipedia and Gilbert Adair's The Real Tadzio. Adair (1944 - 2011) was a well-known author and translator. The Real Tadzio is out of print and will remain so until his literary estate is resolved.

The Swedish Actor

Björn Andrésen was born in 1955. His first film appearance was in a small role in En kärlekshistoria (aka A Swedish Love Story; his second was Tadzio in Death in Venice.

The role of Tadzio brought Andrésen fame, but it also brought him discomfort, both during the filming and in later life. As a youth he was unhappy being taken to a gay bar in Cannes by Visconti and being seen as a gay icon. Confused, he experimented with homosexuality, but later married and had children. His fame and identification with Thomas Mann's epitome of beauty made it difficult for Andrésen to find other acting work. When a photograph of him as Tadzio was used as the cover for Germaine Greer's The Beautiful Boy (2003), he was angry that the writer had not sought his permission (copyright for the picture lay with photographer David Bailey).

Björn Andrésen in 2004
© El Mundo
Andrésen continues to act in Swedish films and is also a professional musician.

information from     Wikipedia (English)     El Mundo (Spanish)     Wikipedia (Swedish)

Looking for Tadzio

Italian television documentary about Visconti's search for cast and sets for the film (spoken Italian, English subtitles)

Andrésen's screen test with Visconti


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