“Anthony! Anthony!,” the mother shouted from the second floor of a Boston North End tenement apartment building overlooking an urban alley, her voice seeming to carry over numerous city blocks as 12-year-old Anthony runs home for his favorite Prince-brand spaghetti dinner.
The image from the long-running television commercial (watch it below) will be familiar to any regular TV watcher of the late 1960 and ’70s, as will the look of happiness on the boy’s face when he arrives home for family dinner.
Anthony Martignetti, the 12-year-old Boston kid who starred in the spot, died at 63 in his sleep Sunday Aug. 23 at his home in West Roxbury, Mass. His brother Andy Martignetti announced his death in a Facebook post. No cause of death was given.
“None of us have accepted this yet and I don’t know when we will,” Andy Martignetti wrote. “RIP little brother, till we meet again, I love you.”
In 1969, Anthony and several other boys in Boston’s Little Italy neighborhood were approached by advertising scouts looking for appropriate filming locations and neighborhood characters for a commercial promoting a pasta association. When the organization rejected the pitch, the Boston-based Prince spaghetti snapped it up.
According to a New York Times article, Martignetti was chosen by the scouts because he was the only boy approached who didn’t respond rudely. In fact, he offered neighborly directions to the ad men.
The popular commercial, which featured the slogan “Wednesday Is Prince Spaghetti Day,” ran for 13 years after its 1969 debut, earning Martignetti about $20,000 over the years. The boy’s mother was played by actress Mary Fiumara.
On the commercial’s 50th anniversary last year, Martignetti told the Boston Globe that he was recognized for years. “I always understood that it was larger than me, that I had a responsibility to preserve what that commercial meant to people,” he said in the story. “I knew that if I got into trouble, little Anthony from the spaghetti commercial would be all over the paper.”
Martignetti is survived by wife Ruth, son Anthony Jr., brothers Andy and Angelo, sister Michelle Knorring, and his parents.