At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Monica Vitti - actress

Star of Antonioni classics also excelled in comedy roles


Monica Vitti made her name playing enigmatic characters in Antonioni films
Monica Vitti made her name playing
enigmatic characters in Antonioni films
The actress Monica Vitti, who became famous as the star of several films directed by Michelangelo Antonioni during the early 1960s, was born on this day in 1931 in Rome.

Antonioni, with whom she had a romantic relationship that lasted a decade, cast her as his female lead in L'avventura (1960), La notte (1961), and L'eclisse (1962), three enigmatically moody films once described as a "trilogy on modernity and its discontents".

She also starred for him in his first colour film, Il deserto rosso (1964), which continued in a similar vein.  Her performance earned her a second of four Golden Grail awards. Vitti was also honoured with five David di Donatello awards as Best Actress from the Italian Film Academy.

After splitting with Antonioni, Vitti excelled in comedy, working with directors such as Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi, Alberto Sordi and Ettore Scola.

Her performances in movies such as Monicelli’s The Girl With the Pistol (1968) and I Know That You Know That I Know (1982) saw her spoken of as one of the great actors of the Commedia all’Italiana genre alongside Sordi himself, Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman and Nino Manfredi.

Monica Vitti made her screen debut in 1954 after honing her skills in the theatre
Monica Vitti made her screen debut in
1954 after honing her skills in the theatre
Although born in Rome - her real name was Maria Luisa Ceciarelli - Vitti spent eight of her childhood years in Messina in Sicily and returned to Rome after her brothers had left to seek their fortune in America.

She acted in amateur productions as a teenager before securing a place at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome, where she graduated in 1953. She toured Germany with an Italian acting troupe and made her first stage appearance in Rome in a production of Niccolò Machiavelli's La Mandragola.

Her first small film role came 1954 but her performance of note was in Mario Amendola's Le dritte (1958). By then, she had joined Michelangelo Antonioni's company at the Teatro Nuovo di Milano, which is where her association with the director began.

Vitti’s acting brilliance came to the fore in Antonioni’s films, in which her characters were inevitably complex, tormented, mysterious sometimes neurotic young women, who she was able to portray with incredible empathy.

Yet, after Monicelli suggested to her that she could turn her talent to comedy, she quickly proved her versatility with a string of successes.

Monica Vitti now lives in Rome with her husband, director Roberto Russo
Monica Vitti now lives in Rome with her
husband, director Roberto Russo
A woman of natural beauty, Vitti was much-photographed and her private life subject to close scrutiny.  Politically left-wing, she was part of the guard of honour at the funeral of the Communist leader Enrico Berlinguer in 1984.

Her last movie was Secret Scandal (1990), which she also wrote and directed, and for a few years thereafter she worked in television. At the Venice Film Festival in 1995 she received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

In 2000, Vitti took part in the celebrations for the 80th birthday of Alberto Sordi and was a guest, along with many personalities from the entertainment world, at the Jubilee celebrations at the Basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican in December of the same year.

However, after 2002 she was not seen again in public and rumours began to circulate about her health. After some time her husband, the former director Roberto Russo, confirmed that she was alive and living in Rome but was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

The cathedral at Messina had to be rebuilt twice in the 20th century because of earthquake and war damage
The cathedral at Messina had to be rebuilt twice in the 20th
century because of earthquake and war damage
Travel tip:

Messina is a city in the northeast of Sicily, separated from mainland Italy by the Strait of Messina. It is the third largest city on the island and is home to a large Greek-speaking community. The 12th century cathedral in Messina has a bell tower which houses one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world, built in 1933.  Originally built by the Normans, the cathedral, which still contains the remains of King Conrad, ruler of Germany and Sicily in the 13th century, had to be almost entirely rebuilt following a catastrophic earthquake in 1908, and again in 1943, after a fire triggered by Allied bombings.

The auditorium of the Teatro Nuovo di Milano, where Monica Vitti appeared in the 1950s
The auditorium of the Teatro Nuovo di Milano, where
Monica Vitti appeared in the 1950s
Travel tip:

The Teatro Nuovo theatre in Milan, located on the Piazza San Babila in the lower level of the Palazzo del Toro, was designed by architect Emilio Lancia and was the project of the impresario Remigio Paone. It was inaugurated on in December 1938 with a performance of Eduardo De Filippo's comedy Ditegli sempre di sì. Piazza San Babila is characterized by the presence of a fountain built in 1997 by the architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni in conjunction with the Ente Fiera Milano.

More reading:

Michelangelo Antonioni - the 'last great' of post-War Italian cinema

Why Mario Monicelli is called the 'father of Commedia all'Italiana'

The comic genius of Alberto Sordi

Also on this day:

1560: The birth of painter Annibale Carracci

1801: The birth of opera composer Vincenzo Bellini

1918: Armistice ends First World War in Italy


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