De Sica, Vittorio

(1902-1974)
   Stage and screen actor, director, and screenwriter. One of Italy's most prolific but also best-loved actor-directors, De Sica was born in Sora, a small town south of Rome, but spent his earliest years in Naples, hence his lifelong affinity for the city. In 1914 the De Sica family moved to Rome, where the young Vittorio studied to become an accountant. In 1923, while working at the Bank of Italy and largely at the urging of a close friend, he applied to fill a vacancy with the theater company of Tatiana Pavlova and, to his own surprise, was accepted. Having served his stage apprenticeship covering a wide range of character parts, including clowns and old men, in 1925 he transferred to the company of Luigi Almirante, where he specialized in playing the romantic lead in sentimental comedies, before moving, in 1927, to play similar roles in the company of Almirante-Rissone-Tofano. From 1931 to 1933 he appeared in many of the musical revues staged by the Za Bum company under the direction of Mario Mattoli. In 1933, together with Umberto Melnati and actress Giuditta Rissone, whom he would eventually marry, he formed his own theater company, which produced comic revues and melodramas but also hosted up-and-coming young guest directors such as Luchino Visconti.
   By this time De Sica had also begun to act in films. After an isolated early appearance in Edoardo Bencivenga's L'Affaire Clemenceau (The Clemenceau Affair, 1918) and some undistinguished supporting parts in several minor films in the late 1920s, he achieved almost instant star status playing the male lead in Mario Camerini's Gli uomini che mascalzoni (What Scoundrels Men Are! 1932), a role that established the nice boy-next-door image that would characterize him in the following years. The song "Parlami d'amore Mariu" ("Sing to Me of Love, Maria"), which he casually sang in the film, was released separately and became a big hit on the radio, generating an even wider popularity. He subsequently appeared in a host of films, the most memorable being the handful of light comedies and social melodramas directed by Camerini, where he was frequently paired with the most prominent female star of the time, Assia Noris, as in Darb un milione (I'll Give a Million, 1936), Il signor Max (Mister Max, 1937), and I grandi magazzini (Department Store, 1939).
   In the early 1940s, while continuing to divide his time between stage and screen, De Sica started to direct films, beginning with several sentimental comedies in the white telephone vein, Rose scarlatte (Red Roses, 1940), Maddalena zero in condotta (Maddalena, Zero for Conduct, 1940), and Teresa Venerdi (Mademoiselle Friday, 1941), and the historical romantic melodrama, Un garibaldino al convento (A Garibaldian in the Convent, 1942). His next film, Ibambini ci guardano (The Children Are Watching Us, 1943), initiated an entirely new phase in his artistic development. A profoundly moving but wholly unsentimental study of a family breakup seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old child, I bambini was filmed in a more realistic style and, moreover, marked the beginning of De Sica's long and fruitful collaboration with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. Their next film, La porta del cielo (The Gate of Heaven, 1945), the story of a pilgrimage to the Catholic shrine of Loreto, was made in Rome under considerable difficulty during the period of German occupation. Financed by the Vatican and produced by the Centro Cattolico di Cinematografia, the film continued in the more realistic style of the previous film but it also served the purpose of helping De Sica (and others) to avoid being forced to join the new studios that were being set up in Venice under the aegis of the Republic of Salo.
   In the immediate postwar period, developing further the socially committed and realistic approach that by now had become his characteristic style, De Sica, always flanked by Zavattini, directed two films that would come to be regarded as landmarks of neorealism: Sciuscia (Shoe-Shine, 1946) and Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, 1948), the latter universally hailed as a masterpiece of world cinema and winning, among a host of other prizes and awards, six Nastri d'argento and the Special Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. This, however, did not prevent De Sica's next film, Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan, 1951), from being severely criticized by many left-wing Italian critics for its mix of fable and social realism, while Umberto D (1952), now generally recognized as one of the most perfect expressions of neorealist cinema, was pilloried by the Italian government itself for its unflattering portrayal of social conditions in postwar Italy. Stazione Termini (Indiscretion of an American Wife, 1953), which De Sica directed and coproduced with David O. Selznick, was both a critical and box office flop, but the affectionate portrait of Naples in L'oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples, 1954) revived De Sica's reputation and popularity as a director. By this stage, however, he had revived his star status as an actor with his portrayal of the comic philandering officer of the carabinieri in Luigi Comencini's enormously popular Pane, amore e fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams, 1953) and its similarly successful sequels Pane, amore e gelosia (Bread, Love and Jealousy, 1954, also known as Frisky) and Pane, amore e . . . (Scandal in Sorrento, 1955). He continued to appear in a host of both major and minor roles, often as a duplicitous but lovable old rogue, but his greatest performance during this period was undoubtedly as the title character of Roberto Rossellini's Oscar-nominated Il Generale della Rovere (General della Rovere, 1959). The 1960s saw several more directorial triumphs, beginning with La ciociara (Two Women, 1960), the adaptation of a novel by Alberto Moravia that earned De Sica a nomination for the Golden Palm at Cannes and Sophia Loren an Oscar for her stirring performance. De Sica would direct Loren again, together with Marcello Mastroianni, in his two other triumphs of the 1960s, Ieri, oggi, domani (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 1963), which was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1965, and Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage Italian Style, 1964), which received two Oscar nominations and the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film. After a handful of films that were generally judged inferior to what he had been able to achieve at his peak, De Sica regained his former brilliance with Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, 1970), an elegant and very moving adaptation of the elegiac novel by Giorgio Bassani that won, among a host of other prizes, the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and the Berlin Golden Bear Award. His last film, widely regarded as below par for a director who had made some of the greatest masterpieces of world cinema, paired Sophia Loren with Richard Burton in the romantic melodrama Il viaggio (The Voyage, 1974).

Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. . 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sica, Vittorio de — ► (1902 74) Director y actor cinematográfico italiano. Películas: Matrimonio a la italiana (1964) y Los girasoles (1969), entre otras …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • De Sica, Vittorio — born July 7, 1901, Sora, Italy died Nov. 13, 1974, Paris, France Italian film director and actor. He joined an acting company in 1923 and soon became a matinee idol. He appeared on screen as a leading man in a series of light comedies, and he… …   Universalium

  • De Sica, Vittorio — (1902 1974)    Stage and screen actor, director, and screenwriter. One of Italy s most prolific but also best loved actor directors, De Sica was born in Sora, a small town south of Rome, but spent his earliest years in Naples, hence his lifelong… …   Guide to cinema

  • De Sica, Vittorio — (1902–1974)    Amatinee idol in the 1930s, Vittorio De Sica transformed himself into one of the greatest film directors in cinema history. Anative of the Ciociara, the region lying between Rome and Naples, De Sica began his film career early and… …   Historical Dictionary of modern Italy

  • De Sica, Vittorio — • ДЕ СИ КА (De Sica) Витторио (7.7.1901 13.11.1974)    итал. актёр, режиссёр. Род. в семье мелкого служащего. Учился в Высш. коммерч. ин те. С 1924 выступал на сцене в комедиях и водевилях. В кино с 1918, но активно снимался с 1931 (ф. Старая… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • De Sica,Vittorio — De Si·ca (də sēʹkə), Vittorio. 1901 1974. Italian filmmaker whose Bicycle Thief (1948) and Umberto D (1952) are considered classics of postwar realism. * * * …   Universalium

  • De Sica, Vittorio — ► (1902 74) Actor y director cinematográfico italiano. Uno de los máximos exponentes del neorrealismo italiano. Películas: Ladrón de bicicletas (1948), Milagro en Milán (1951), etc. * * * (7 jul. 1901, Sora, Italia–13 nov. 1974, París, Francia).… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • De Sica, Vittorio —  (1902–1974) Italian film actor and director …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Vittorio de Sica — Naissance 7 juillet 1901 Sora  Italie Nationalité(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Vittorio De Sica — Nombre real Vittorio Domenico Stanislao Gaetano Sorano De Sica Nacimiento 7 de julio de 1901 Sora, Frosinone, Lacio,  Italia …   Wikipedia Español

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