Aikens, Van

actors who play more rarely
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players mostly active in movies shot in Northern Italy
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PeplumParadise
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Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 14:55

Van Aikens in La rivolta degli schiavi (1960)
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Vanoye Aikens, usually credited as "Van", was a dark-skinned black American dancer and actor, active in Italian films for a few years in the early 1960's, with a couple of other odd appearances.

He was born on November 27th 1922 in Jonesboro, Georgia, USA. He died on August 24th 2013 in Los Angeles, California, aged 90 (some obituaries state he died aged 96 without giving a birth date, but this seems unlikely).

After dropping out of college for financial reasons, Aikens spent a year in the navy before relocating to New York in 1943. Like Wilbert Bradley, with whom his life shares many parallels, Van began his professional career as a featured dancer in the Katherine Dunham dance troupe following the departure of Archie Savage. As the only male member of the troupe who was able to lift Dunham he became her leading partner and he appeared in many broadway productions with the troupe in the 40's and 50's.

In the 50's he also toured Europe extensively with the troupe, including Italy, where, alongside Bradley, he made his earliest known film appearance in Mambo (1954). It looks like he followed many other black American actors, singers and dancers to Italy at the end of the fifties, where he appeared in a number of films, including substantial roles in a couple of peplums. Unlike Bradley and Savage, it seems that Van did not stay in Italy for very long and he must have been back in America for the filming of I Eat Your Skin in 1964, his last known film appearance.

Various sources say that he later spent some time teaching dance in Sweden then returned to the U.S., where he continued to teach dance well into his 80's (there are videos on You Tube which attest to this).

His life is fairly well documented on the internet (though there is little mention of his brief film career) and his biographical details come from numerous articles and obituaries.

Most of his uncredited roles were identified by me, so it is quite likely there could be a few more to be found.

Filmography
1954
  1. Mambo .... Dancer (uncredited)

    1960
  2. La rivolta degli schiavi .... Iface (credited)

    1961
  3. Barabba .... Slave in the sulphur mines (uncredited)
  4. Giuseppe venduto dai fratelli .... Slave on the hunting expedition (uncredited)
  5. Gordon, il pirata nero .... Does not appear (credited)
  6. Il gigante di Metropolis .... Dancer (uncredited)
  7. Maciste contro il vampiro .... Amahil (credited)
  8. Tropico di notte .... Dancer (poster credit as "Van Aikins")

    1962
  9. Eva .... Nightclub dancer (credited as "Van Eicken")
  10. Sodoma e Gomorra .... Dancer (uncredited)

    1963
  11. Cleopatra .... Slave-bearer to Ptolemy and Cleopatra (uncredited)

    1971
  12. I Eat Your Skin .... Robey (credited as "Vanoye Aikens")
No Vanoye!
Films where Van is credited somewhere online but does not seem to appear. There always has to be one!
  • I don giovanni della Costa Azzurra (1962) According to IMDb Van is the man hiding beneath the credited pseudonym "Win Wan Patten" in the role of Lio Pao, but Van does not appear, in fact there are no black actors in the film whatsoever.
Last edited by Emiliano on 17/10/2021, 22:28, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:01

Mambo (1954) as Dancer.

Van's film debut (and also that of Wilbert Bradley), came as a dancer in Katherine Dunham's dance troupe in this Italian production.
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:09

La rivolta degli schiavi (1960) credited, as Iface.

Van's acting debut was a fairly substantial role in this Italian-Spanish-German co-production, which was shot entirely in Spain. He even had a love interest in the form of Dolores Francine, who appears to have been another black American actor who was based in Italy at the time.
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:11

Barabba (1961) as Slave in the sulphur mines
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:14

Giuseppe venduto dai fratelli (1961) as Slave on the hunting expedition
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:19

Gordon, il pirata nero (1961) credited, but does not appear.

A mysterious "credit only" for Van. His fellow American dancer, Wilbert Bradley, does appear performing a solo dance routine, Italian dancer Adriano Vitale appears in an acting role, and there are plenty of other black actors in the film, but Van is nowhere in sight.
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:29

Il gigante di Metropolis (1961) as Dancer.

Van appears uncredited performing a futuristic erotic dance number alongside Bella Cortez and an unknown white male dancer. Van's role here is often mis-credited to Leo Coleman, credited here as both actor and choreographer, who seems to have been yet another black American dancer-choreographer active in Italy in the early 60's, however here Coleman - who had distinctly different looks - appears in an acting role.
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:41

Maciste contro il vampiro (1961) credited, as Amahil.

Van's other major appearance in an acting role was again in a peplum, here playing the role of the henchman of Kobrak, the vampire of the title. It contains a controversial (for the time) scene where he has his evil way with beautiful blonde white heroine Leonora Ruffo. Sadly an announced blu-ray release was cancelled due to no good quality source print being found, so for now at least we are stuck with only rather poor quality prints being available.
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Last edited by PeplumParadise on 08/06/2021, 10:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:45

Tropico di notte (1961) credited on the poster as "Van Aikins", as Dancer.
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Re: Aikens, Van

Post by PeplumParadise » 07/06/2021, 15:52

Eva (1962) credited as "Van Eicken", as Nightclub dancer
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Thanks to Carlos for providing the good quality images
Last edited by PeplumParadise on 08/06/2021, 10:53, edited 1 time in total.

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