Showing posts with label Pier Paolo Pasolini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pier Paolo Pasolini. Show all posts

21 April 2018

Silvana Mangano - actress

Star who married the producer Dino De Laurentiis

Silvana Mangano worked as a model before breaking into the cinema
Silvana Mangano worked as a model before
breaking into the film industry
The actress Silvana Mangano, who was decried as a mere sex symbol and later hailed as a fine character actress during a quite restricted career, was born on this day in 1930 in Rome.

She found fame through Giuseppe De Santis’s neorealist film Bitter Rice, in which she played a female worker in the rice fields in the Po Valley who becomes involved with a petty criminal Walter, played by Vittorio Gassman.

Mangano’s character was a sensual, lustful young woman and the actress, a former beauty queen, carried it off so well she was hailed by one critic as “Ingrid Bergmann with a Latin disposition” and likened also to the American glamour queen Rita Hayworth.

She went on to work with many of Italy's leading directors, including Alberto Lattuada, Vittorio De Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Luchino Visconti, but she made only 30 films, in part because she preferred to spend time with her family but also because Dino De Laurentiis, the producer of Bitter Rice who soon became her husband, controlled her career.

It is said that she was offered the important part of Maddalena in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita but that De Laurentiis prevented her from taking it, the role instead going to the French actress Anouk Aimée.

The daughter of a Sicilian railway worker and his English wife, Ivy Webb, who was from Croydon, Mangano grew up in difficult circumstances in wartime Rome.  After the conflict was over her family lived effectively in poverty but she was determined to make something of herself and paid for seven years of dance lessons by earning money as a model.

Mangano's character in the 1951 film Anna was a dancer who gives up nightclubs to take holy orders
Mangano's character in the 1951 film Anna was a dancer who
gives up nightclubs to take holy orders
Beauty pageants were an established route into the growing film industry.  Mangano won the Miss Rome competition in 1946 and entered Miss Italia the following year, against an extraordinary field that included Lucia Bosé, Gina Lollobrigida, Eleonora Rossi Drago and Gianna Maria Canale, all of whom would become stars.

Mangano did not win but attracted attention.  She had a brief affair with Marcello Mastroianni, then an upcoming actor, and had a number of small parts, in Italy and in France.

Bitter Rice provided her with her big break in 1949, although with a certain irony she was almost rejected by De Santis as too glamorous after she turned up for the audition dressed to kill and heavily made up.  It was only after bumping into De Santis later on the Via Veneto, having removed her make-up, which she seldom wore off screen anyway, and with her hair wet from the rain, that she won the part.

After Bitter Rice, it took a long time for Mangano to shake off he image as sex symbol but between the 50s and the 70s she gradually acquired a reputation for delivering solid acting performance in strong character roles.

Mangano's breakthrough came in the  neorealist movie Bitter Rice
Mangano's breakthrough came in the
neorealist movie Bitter Rice 
Her notable successes included Lattuada’s Anna (1951), in which she played a dancer who abandons the nightlife to become a nun, and the The Gold of Naples (1954), directed by Vittorio De Sica, in which she took the part of a prostitute, Teresa.

Later she played opposite Vittorio Gassman again in Robert Rossen’s Mambo (1955), portrayed a bourgeois mother in Pasolini’s Theorem (1968) and was the mother of Tadzio in Visconti’s Death in Venice (1971).

She won several Italian film industry awards, including three David di Donatellos, two Silver Ribbons and one Nastro d’Argento (Gold Ribbon) for best actress in Death in Venice.

Mangano and De Laurentiis married in 1949 and the couple had four children: Veronica, Raffaella, Francesca, and Federico. Raffaella went on to to be a film producer herself. Federico died in an plane crash in 1981.

Veronica’s daughter, Giada De Laurentiis, who moved to California after her parents divorced, became the host of Everyday Italian and Giada at Home on the Food Network TV channel, as well as the founder of GDL Foods and the owner of two restaurants in Las Vegas,

Mangano and Dino De Laurantiis separated in 1983, at around the same time Mangano began to suffer from ill health.  Afflicted by insomnia and bouts of depression, she was discovered to have a tumour close to her stomach, between her lungs.

She left Italy to live in Spain.  A year after her divorce from De Laurentiis she underwent surgery in Madrid in December 1989 but was left in a coma and died two weeks later, the cause of death recorded as lung cancer,

Streets in the Vallerano neighbourhood are named after actors, actresses and writers
Streets in the Vallerano neighbourhood are named after
actors, actresses and writers
Travel tip:

Mangano has a road named after her in the Vallerano neighbourhood of suburban Rome, about 16km (10 miles) south of the centre of the city in the direction of the Pontine marshes and adjoining an area of nature reserves. The area is primarily residential, its broad streets named after performing artists Italian and foreign, including many movie stars, as well as journalists and publishers.

The Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata
The Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata
Travel tip:

Mangano’s husband, Dino De Laurentiis, was born in Torre Annunziata, a former small city now absorbed into the greater Naples metropolitan area. Close to Mount Vesuvius, it was destroyed in the eruption of 79 AD and was rebuilt over the ruins. Its name derives from a watch tower - torre - built to warn people of imminent Saracen raids and a chapel consecrated to the Annunziata (Virgin Mary). It became a centre for pasta production in the early 19th century. The Villa Poppaea, also known as Villa Oplontis, believed to be owned by Nero, was discovered about 10 metres below ground level just outside the town and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More reading:

How Dino De Laurentiis made Italian cinema famous

The genius of Federico Fellini

Luchino Visconti, the aristocrat of Italian cinema

Also on this day:

753BC: The birth of Rome

1574: The death of Cosimo I de' Medici


26 February 2018

Dante Ferretti – set designer

Three-times Oscar winner worked with Fellini and Scorsese

Dante Ferretti has worked in the film industry for more than 50 years
Dante Ferretti has worked in the film
industry for more than 50 years
Dante Ferretti, who in more than half a century in movie production design has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won three, was born on this day in 1943 in the city of Macerata, in the Marche region of central Italy.

Ferretti, who works in partnership with his wife, the set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, won two of his Oscars for films directed by Martin Scorsese, with whom he has enjoyed a collaboration that began 25 years ago this year.

Nominated for his first film with Scorsese, The Age of Innocence (1993) and subsequently for Kundun (1998) and Gangs of New York (2003), he was successful with The Aviator (2005) and Hugo Cabret (2012).

Both Oscars, for Best Scenography, were shared with Lo Schiavo, with whom he also shared an Oscar for Tim Burton’s 2008 film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Ferretti also enjoyed long collaborations with Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and worked with a string of other major directors, including Elio Petri, Ettore Scola, Franco Zeffirelli, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Terry Gilliam, Anthony Minghella, Brian de Palma, Julie Taymor and Kenneth Branagh.

Born a few months before Macerata would become something of a battleground in the Second World War, occupied by Nazi troops in the wake of Mussolini’s downfall and then subjected to allied bombing, Ferretti had design in his blood, coming from a family of furniture makers.

Gangs of New York was shot almost entirely on sets built by Dante Ferretti at Cinecittà
Gangs of New York was shot almost entirely on sets built
by Dante Ferretti at Cinecittà
After completing school, he went to Rome, graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and, fascinated with the film industry, began working at the Cinecittà studios, where he would eventually have his own permanent office.

After cutting his teeth as an assistant on a number of Pasolini titles, he landed his first appointment as set director for Pasolini’s 1969 film Medea

His work on that movie caught with attention of Fellini, his partnership with whom he described as a “dream come true”.  Notable successes over the next two decades included The City of Women and Ginger and Fred.

In the mid-1980s, he worked outside Italy for the first time, on such titles as The Name of the Rose (1986), French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film version of the novel by Umberto Eco, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), directed by the former Monty Python star Terry Gilliam, for which he received his first Oscar nomination.

Martin Scorsese worked with Ferretti on nine movies, two of which won him Oscars
Martin Scorsese worked with Ferretti on
nine movies, two of which won him Oscars
His association with Scorsese did not begin until 1993, although they had met some years earlier at Cinecittà. To date, they have made nine films together, the most ambitious and challenging of which, he said in a recent interview, was Gangs of New York, the epic period drama set in the notorious Five Points district of New York, for which Ferretti constructed full-scale models of New York street scenes within Cinecittà. There was even a set designed to represent the Hudson River, complete with a full-size ship.

More recently, he and Lo Schiavo worked on Scorsese’s Silence, his film about Jesuits in Japan persecuted for their Christian faith in the 17th century, which involved reconstructions of the Japanese city of Nagasaki and the Chinese port of Macau.

A passionate fan of opera, Ferretti has also designed sets for some of the world’s most famous opera houses, including Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Opéra in Paris, the Royal Opera House in London and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.

The Ben Hur set at Cinecittà World, outside Rome
Travel tip:

As well as admiring his work on the screen, fans of Ferretti’s sets can see examples of his creativity at first hand at the Rome theme park, Cinecittà World, which was opened in 2014 in the grounds of the former studio complex Dinocittà, which was set up in the 1960s by the producer Dino De Laurentiis. Containing 26 sets to represent different themes and genres in cinema history, all of which were designed by Ferretti, the park is at Castel Romano, about 25km (16 miles) south of Rome in the Decima Malafede nature reserve.

The open-air Arena Sferisterio at Macerata
The open-air Arena Sferisterio at Macerata
Travel tip:

The city of Macerata, home to about 43,000 people, is situated in an inland area of Marche, about 48km (30 miles) south of Ancona and 30km (19 miles) from the coastal town of Civitanova Marche. Not a well-known tourist destination, it nonetheless has a charming hilltown feel, with a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and one of Italy’s oldest universities, dating back to 1290. It is the setting each summer for a month-long opera festival at the atmospheric Arena Sferisterio, which has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars.

28 August 2017

Lamberto Maggiorani - unlikely movie star

Factory worker who shot to fame in Bicycle Thieves

Maggiorani with Enzo Staiola, who played his son, Bruno, in Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves
Maggiorani with Enzo Staiola, who played his son, Bruno,
in Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves
Lamberto Maggiorani, who found overnight fame after starring in the neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves (1948), was born on this day in 1909 in Rome.

Maggiorani was cast in the role of Antonio Ricci, a father desperate for work to support his family in post-War Rome, who is offered a job pasting posters to advertising hoardings but can take it only on condition that he has a bicycle – essential for moving around the city carrying his ladder and bucket.

He has one, but it has been pawned.  To retrieve it, his wife, Marie, strips the bed of her dowry sheets, which the pawn shop takes in exchange for the bicycle. They are happy, because Antonio has a job which will support her, their son Bruno and their new baby.

However, on his first day in the job the bicycle is stolen, snatched by a thief who waits for Antonio to climb to the top of his ladder before seizing his moment.  The remainder of the film follows Antonio and Bruno as they try to find the bicycle.

As a portrait of life among the disadvantaged working class in Rome in the late 1940s, the film is hailed as a masterpiece, director Vittorio de Sica and his screenwriter Cesare Zavattini fêted by the critics for turning a little-known novel by Luigi Bartolini into a piece of cinema genius.

For Maggiorani, however, his participation was something of a bitter-sweet experience.

An original poster from the 1948 movie
An original poster from the 1948 movie
De Sica, who had won an Academy Award two years earlier with Shoeshine, attracted plenty of interest when news spread of his new project, with one American producer willing to offer a lucrative deal to cast Cary Grant in the lead role.

It did not interest De Sica, who was determined to be faithful to the principles of the burgeoning neorealist genre be picking actors who would infuse his characters with realism, regardless of whether they had any experience.

Maggiorani was not an actor at all, but a worker in a steel factory. He had himself experienced unemployment as Rome and De Sica saw him as perfect for the role of Antonio.

Delighted, Maggiorani accepted De Sica’s offer, taking time off work for the filming. He was paid $1,000 dollars, the equivalent of about $10,500 dollars (€8,800) today, with which he was able to give his family their first real holiday and buy new furniture for their home.

His performance was magnificent.  Sometimes, De Sica had to use another actor to dub Maggiorani’s dialogue because his strong Roman accent was occasionally hard to follow, but otherwise he was delighted with how his unlikely protégé understood the way he wanted his character to be portrayed. The critics hailed the arrival of a new star.

Yet once the fuss died down and his pay cheque was spent, Maggiorani found his life had changed. One thousand dollars might have been a large sum but it did not set him up for life.

The director Vittorio de Sica
The director Vittorio de Sica
He went back to the factory, but when orders fell away he was told he was no longer required, the perception being that he must be worth millions of lire after his movie success and that there were others whose need for work was greater.

Shunned by many of his friends, too, after failing to share his perceived wealth, he went back to the movie industry, assuming he would be offered more parts.

He was given some, but usually they were minor roles. Pier Paolo Pasolini gave him a bit part in Mamma Roma, a film about a prostitute trying to start a new life and starring Anna Magnani, but only because he thought his name in the credits would raise the movie’s profile.

De Sica was reluctant to use him at all as anything but an extra. Zavattini recognised and sympathised with his predicament and wrote a screenplay entitled ‘Tu, Maggiorani’ about how non-professional actors such as Maggiorani were sometimes used to execute one particular role and then cast aside.

Maggiorani made 16 movies, the last one a comedy entitled Ostia, directed by Sergio Citti and produced by Pier Paolo Pasolini, but none was particularly successful nor earned him much money.

He died at the San Giovanni Hospital in Rome in 1983 at the age of 73, having never regained the standing he enjoyed with Bicycle Thieves.  It is ironic that the film has recently been recognised as one of the greatest of all time.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura adjoins the Campo Verano cemetery
The Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura adjoins
the Campo Verano cemetery
Travel tip:

Lamberto Maggiorani is buried at the Cimitero Comunale Monumentale Campo Verano, situated beside the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, in the Tiburtino area of Rome. It is the city's largest cemetery, with some five million internments. The name 'Verano' is thought to date back to the Roman era, when the area was known as Campo dei Verani.

The San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital is built on top of Roman Ruins on Celio hill, south-east of the city centre
The San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital is built on top of
Roman Ruins on Celio hill, south-east of the city centre
Travel tip:

The hospital complex San Giovanni Addolorata, where Maggiorani died, is on the Celio hill, an area of ancient Roman urban settlements. Under the existing buildings are archaeological remains, including the Villa of Domitian Lucilla, mother of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  Renovation work has also uncovered a villa belonging to the powerful Valerii family, great landowners, which contained historic mosaics preserved in perfect condition.

22 April 2017

Alida Valli - actress

Scandal dogged star admired by Mussolini

The actress Alida Valli was the object of Mussolini's admiration
The actress Alida Valli was the object of
Mussolini's admiration
The actress Alida Valli, who was once described by Benito Mussolini as the most beautiful woman in the world after Greta Garbo, died on this day in 2006 at the age of 84.

One of the biggest stars in Italian cinema in the late 1930s and 40s, when she starred in numerous romantic dramas and comedies, she was best known outside Italy for playing Anna Schmidt, the actress girlfriend of Harry Lime in Carol Reed’s Oscar-winning 1949 classic The Third Man.

She was cast in the role by the producer David O Selznick, who shared the Fascist leader’s appreciation for her looks, and who billed her simply as Valli, hoping it would create for her a Garboesque enigmatic allure.  Later, however, she complained that having one name made her “feel silly”.

Valli was born in Pola, Istria, then part of Italy (now Pula, Croatia), in 1921. She was christened Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg, on account of a noble line to her paternal grandfather, Baron Luigi Altenburger, an Austrian-Italian from Trento and a descendant of the Counts d’Arco.

Her father was a journalist and professor. The family moved to Como when she was young but her father died when she was a teenager, after which she and her mother moved to Rome, where she enrolled at the capital's new film school, Centro Sperimentale.

She had no expectations of making a career in movies but the Centro's teachers recognised her talent. The name Alida Valli was invented for her, and in 1937 she made five films, each one more successful than the last. Consequently, her salary went up with each production. When she realised her earnings could support her whole family, she decided that it was a career worth taking seriously.

Alida Valli with Joseph Cotten in The Third Man
After a number of comedies and costume dramas, she won acclaim for more serious roles in Picolo mondo antico (1941) and We the Living (1942). The latter saw her star opposite Rossano Brazzi as tragic lovers in post-revolutionary St Petersburg, which pleased the Fascist regime because it seemed to convey an anti-communist message.

She felt uncomfortable about being linked with the Mussolini regime, however, especially when an anonymous letter to the United States embassy in Rome stalled her application for a visa to work in the US. The letter accused her of Fascist sympathies and being romantically involved with Hitler's propanganda chief Joseph Goebbels. The visa was granted, but only after Selznick's lawyers had disproved the allegations.

After Alida returned to Europe, she moved into more serious roles in films such as Luchino Visconti's Senso (1954) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido (1957), which had won her praise and confirmed that her beauty was underpinned with genuine acting ability.

Her success was overshadowed, however, by her relationship with Piero Piccioni, the son of Italy’s foreign minister, Attilio Piccioni, who was implicated in a sex and drugs scandal – the so-called Montesi scandal -  that emerged following the discovery of a young woman’s body on a beach near Ostia Antica, the old Roman resort, in 1953.

Piccioni was acquitted of any culpability in the woman’s death after Valli confirmed that she and Piccioni were together in Amalfi, 200 miles away, at the time, staying in a villa as guests of Carlo Ponti.  Valli had by then separated from her husband, Oscar De Mejo.

Valli with Stewart Granger in Luchino Visconti's Senso
During the next decade Alida struggled to rebuild her film career and turned to working more in theatre and television, before her reputation was re-established with parts in such films as Pier Paolo Pasolini's Oedipus Rex (1967) and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Spider's Strategem (1970), 1900 (1976) and La Luna (1979).

Valli encountered tragedy in her personal life when her lover as a young actress, the fighter pilot Carlo Cugnasca, was killed in action over Africa. In 1944, Alida married De Mejo, a jazz pianist, with whom she had a son, Carlo, in 1945, by which time Alida had been offered a Hollywood contract.  They had another son, Larry, but parted after eight years.

Valli's death at her home in Rome was announced by the office of the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni. The Italian president, CarloAzeglio Ciampi, described her passing as “a great loss for the cinema, the theatre and Italian culture.”

The 15th century facade of Como's Duomo
The 15th century facade of Como's Duomo
Travel tip:

Como, where Valli grew up, can be found at the southern tip of the eastern branch of Lake Como. It is a pleasant town with an impressive cathedral in the historical centre, the construction of which spanned almost 350 years, which is why it combines features from different architectural areas, including Gothic and Renaissance. The façade was built in 1457, its characteristic rose window and a portal flanked by Renaissance statues of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, both of whom were from Como. This Duomo replaced the earlier 10th-century cathedral, San Fedele.

Travel tip:

The Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia can be found off Via Tuscolana to the south of Rome, nextdoor to the Cinecittà studio complex. It is the oldest film school in Western Europe, founded in 1935 during the Mussolini era by his head of cinema, Luigi Freddi. It is still financed by the Italian government to provide training, research and experimentation in the field of cinema.  Apart from Alida Valli, other actors and actresses to have emerged from the school include Claudia Cardinale, Domenico Modugno and Francesca Neri. Directors among the alumni include Michelangelo Antonioni, Giuseppe De Santis and Luigi Zampa.

More reading:

23 March 2017

Ugo Tognazzi - comic actor

Achieved international fame through La Cage aux Folles

Ugo Tognazzi became known for playing suave bon viveurs in Commedia all'Italiana
Ugo Tognazzi became known for playing
suave bon viveurs in Commedia all'Italiana
Ugo Tognazzi, the actor who achieved international fame in the film La Cage aux Folles, was born on this day in 1922 in Cremona.

Renowned for his wide repertoire in portraying comic characters, Tognazzi made more than 62 films and worked with many of Italy's top directors.

Along with Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi and Nino Manfredi, Tognazzi was regarded as one of the four top stars of Commedia all'Italiana - comedy the Italian way - in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1981 he won the award for best actor at the Cannes International Film Festival for his role in Bernardo Bertolucci's Tragedia di un Uomo Ridicolo (The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man).

His work was widely acclaimed in Italy, but it was not until he was cast in the role of homosexual cabaret owner Renato Baldi in the French director Édouard Molinaro's 1979 movie La Cage Aux Folles that he became known outside Italy.   The film became in its time the most successful foreign language film ever released in the United States, with box office receipts of more than $20 million.

A publicity poster from the French film La Cage aux Folles in which Tognazzi starred
A publicity poster from the French film La
Cage aux Folles in which Tognazzi starred
The film spawned two sequels in which Tognazzi reprieved the role of the mincing Baldi, who in the story was the joint owner of a night club in St Tropez that specialised in drag acts.

The son of an insurance agent, Tognazzi left school at 14 to help supplement the family income, taking a job as an accountancy clerk in the Negroni salami factory in his home town.  His father had wanted him to become a musician, his mother a priest.

Although he had made his stage debut as a four-year-old child in a charity show at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo, he had no thoughts of an acting career until he began participating in amateur dramatics via Negroni's recreational club.

During his military service with the Navy, he became involved with putting on entertainment for his fellow sailors.  After the Second World War, he moved to Milan in search of opportunities in theatre and found work with a number of companies, but it was after he landed his first film role in 1950, in I cadetti di Guascogna, directed by Mario Mattoli.  that his career began to take off.

The following year he met his fellow comic actor Raimondo Vianello, and their collaboration led them to form a successful comedy duo for the fledgling RAI television network.  Their show Un Due Tre (One Two Three) became famous for its wry satire and was among the first to be censored on Italian television.  It ran from 1954 to 1960.

Ugo Tognazzi as Il Commissario Pepe in Ettore Scola's  1969 film of the same name
Ugo Tognazzi as Il Commissario Pepe in Ettore Scola's
1969 film of the same name 
After his first major big screen success in Il Federale (The Fascist), a 1961 film by Luciano Salce, Tognazzi became one of the leading performers of Commedia all'Italiana. 

Excelling as bon vivants, adulterous husbands and other suave individuals, he made many films with the writer-director  Marco Ferreri.  He also worked with Mario Monicelli, Carlo Lizzani, Dino Risi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ettore Scola and Pupi Avati among others.

Risi's Marcia su Roma (The March on Rome) brought him praise but it was with Ferreri that he enjoyed sustained success. Together they made films that included Una Storia Moderna: L'Ape Regina (also called The Conjugal Bed) in 1963, La Donna Scimmia (The Ape Woman) in 1964, Marcia Nuziale (Wedding March) in 1966, L'Udienza (The Audience) in 1971 and La Grande Bouffe in 1973.

As well as La Cage Aux Folles, in which he surprised critics by accepting a role so different from his usual range, he appeared before wider film audiences after Roger Vadim cast Tognazzi as Mark Hand, the Catchman, opposite Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968).

He had children by three women - the Irish dancer Pat O'Hara, with whom he had a son, Ricky, the Norwegian actress Margarete Robsahm, the mother of his second son, Thomas Robsahm, and Franca Bettoia, an actress, with whom he settled in Velletri, near Rome, after their marriage in 1972.  They had a son, Gianmarco, and a daughter, Maria Sole.  All of his children followed him into the movie business.

Tognazzi, a passionate supporter of AC Milan and a lover of food who also put his name to a number of recipe books, died in 1990 after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

The Duomo and Baptistery in the centre of Cremona
The Duomo and Baptistery in the centre of Cremona
Travel tip:

Cremona, well known for its tradition of violin making, is a prosperous city in Lombardy with a wealth of fine medieval architecture, much of it concentrated around the Piazza del Comune, including the cathedral, finished in 1107 and rebuilt in 1190 after suffering damage in an earthquake, which includes impressive frescoes - the Storie di Cristo - by Pordenone.  A chapel inside the Duomo contains what is said to be a thorn from Jesus's crown of thorns.

The Corso della Repubblica in Velletri is typical of the  narrow streets in the town near Rome where Tognazzi died
The Corso della Repubblica in Velletri is typical of the
narrow streets in the town near Rome where Tognazzi died
Travel tip:

Velletri, a town of 50,000 inhabitants, lies just southeast of the Castelli Romani to the south of Rome.  It was once a popular place for Rome's wealthiest to build their country villas.  It suffered considerable damage soon after the Allied landing at Anzio during the Second World War after the advancing army met resistance from German forces in and around the town.  Many monuments were beyond repair, sadly, but the town remains an attractive alternative to staying in the capital and the towns of the Colli Albani are close by, including Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Pope.

More reading:

The comic genius of Alberto Sordi

Cesare Danova - from medical school to Mean Streets

Was Otto e mezzo (8½) Fellini's finest work?

Also on this day:

1919: The founding of Mussolini's Fascist Party

(Picture credits: Cremona cathedral by Jakub Halun; Velletri street by Deblu68; via Wikimedia Commons)


16 March 2017

Bernardo Bertolucci - film director

Caused outrage with Last Tango in Paris

Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci
The controversial film maker Bernardo Bertolucci was born on this day in 1940 in Parma.

Bertolucci won an Oscar for best director as The Last Emperor picked up an impressive nine Academy Awards in 1988 but tends to be remembered more for the furore that surrounded his 1972 movie Last Tango in Paris.

Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, caused outrage for its portrayal of sexual violence and emotional turmoil and was banned in Italy.

Although the storm died down over time, it blew up again in 2007 when Schneider, who was only 19 when the film was shot, claimed she felt violated after one particularly graphic scene because she had not been told everything that would happen.  Schneider died from cancer in 2011.

The controversy has overshadowed what has otherwise been an outstanding career, his movies placing him in the company of Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli among the greatest Italian directors of all time.

As a young man, Bertolucci wanted to become a poet, inspired by his father, Attilio Bertolucci, who was a poet as well as an art historian.

He moved to Rome to study modern literature at Sapienza University yet it was his father's part-time occupation as a film critic that was to shape his career.

Marlon Brando in a scene from Last Tango in Paris
Marlon Brando in a scene from Last Tango in Paris
He had helped Pier Paolo Pasolini find a publisher for his first novel and Pasolini in turn took on Bernardo as his first assistant when he began his film directing career with Accattone in 1961.  It was not long afterwards that Bertolucci quit university and at the age of 22, in 1962, he directed his first movie, La commare secca, with a screenplay by Pasolini and produced by Tonino Cervi.

Last Tango came 10 years later, by which time Bertolucci was beginning to acquire a reputation as a director of talent, having attracted particular acclaim for his 1970 film, The Conformist, based on a novel by Alberto Moravia.

It was Last Tango that thrust him into the spotlight, however.  Though there was an Oscar nomination, it was overshadowed by the backlash of moral outrage.  The Italian authorities, as well as ordering initially that all copies of the film should be destroyed - an appeal court later allowed three to be saved - launched a prosecution for obscenity against Bertolucci, who was given a four-month suspended jail sentence and a five-year revoking of his civil rights.

Nonetheless, his career moved to another level.  He made his comeback in 1976 with 1900, an epic that ran to five hours and 17 minutes in its uncut version, telling the story of two men from different ends of the social spectrum in Bertolucci's native Emilia-Romagna, set against the background of political turmoil in Italy in the first half of the 20th century.  Boasting a cast that include Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Burt Lancaster, 1900 was hailed as a masterpiece.

A publicity poster for Bertolucci's acclaimed 1976 epic tale, 1900
A publicity poster for Bertolucci's
acclaimed 1976 epic tale, 1900
More success followed with La Luna and Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man before The Last Emperor, his British-Italian biographical film about Puyi, the last emperor of China before the People's Republic of China imposed communist rule.  The first western feature film for which the producers were authorized to film in the Forbidden City in Beijing, it won nine Academy Awards, including best picture and Bertolucci's best director.   The Last Emperor marked the beginning of his working relationship with the British producer, Jeremy Thomas.

Although hampered by serious back problems that now mean he is increasingly wheelchair-bound, Bertolucci continued to work into his 70s.  In 2007, he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for his life's work, and in 2011 the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Married to Clare Peploe, a writer who worked on the screenplay of Antonioni's 1970 classic Zabriskie Point, Bertolucci is a former supporter of the Italian Communist Party.  He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on November 19, 2013.

Parma's cathedral and octagonal baptistery
Parma's cathedral and octagonal baptistery
Travel tip:

Bertolucci's home city of Parma suffers a little from living in the shadow of Modena and Bologna, both of which have achieved greater fame.  Yet the home of prosciutto di Parma and parmigiano reggiano is an elegantly wealthy city with a virtually car free centre, a host of fine churches - including the Romanesque cathedral and baptistery and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata - and some beautiful palaces.

Travel tip

Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest regions in Europe, let alone Italy. Its capital, Bologna, is the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, while the region is a major centre for food and car production. It is the home of companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati, and a thriving tourist trade based around the popular coastal resorts of Cervia, Cesenatico, Rimini and Riccione.

More reading:

The brilliant legacy of Federico Fellini

How Shakespeare adaptations made Zeffirelli a household name

Why Francesco Rosi can be counted among Italian cinema's greats

Also on this day:

1886: The birth of Emilio Lunghi, Italy's first Olympic medallist

1978: The terrorist kidnapping of former prime minister Aldo Moro


15 November 2016

Francesco Rosi - film director

Documentary style put him among greats of Italian cinema

Francesco Rosi
Francesco Rosi
The film director Francesco Rosi, one of Italy's most influential movie-makers over four decades, was born on this day in 1922 in Naples. 

Rosi, who made his directing debut in 1958 and filmed his last movie in 1997, built on the fashion for neo-realism that dominated Italian cinema in the immediate post-war years and his films were often highly politicised.

Many of his works were almost pieces of investigative journalism, driven by his revulsion at the corruption and inequality he witnessed in the area in which he grew up, and the dubious relationships between local government and figures from the crime world.

His film Hands Over the City, for example, starring Rod Steiger as unscrupulous land developer, sought to show how the landscape of Naples was shaped by greed and political interests.  The film's disclaimer stated that “All characters and events narrated in this film are fictitious, but the social reality that created them is authentic.”

The Mattei Affair, which starred Gian Maria Volonté - himself a political activist - tells the story of Enrico Mattei, a former Italian resistance fighter who rose to be head of ENI, the state-owned oil company, and died in a plane crash in Sicily. Conspiracy theorists linked his death with his attempt, in the middle of the Cold War, to break America's dominance of the Italian market, sign deals with Arab countries and even court Russia as a possible trading partner.

The project took Rosi's team into such dangerous political territory that one of his researchers, the journalist Mauro de Mauro, disappeared. He was never found and it is presumed he was murdered for finding out too much about the case.

Gian Maria Volonté in a scene from The Mattei Affair
Gian Maria Volonté (centre) in a scene from The Mattei Affair
Lucky Luciano, which featured Volonté and Steiger, was another movie filmed in the style of a documentary investigation, this time with its focus on the controversial role of a repatriated Sicilian-American Mafia boss in the Allied liberation of Sicily and the assault on the Italian mainland towards the end of the Second World War.

Later, with Illustrious Corpses, Rosi sought to shine light on the dark machinations of what would come to be known as 'The Strategy of Tension' during the 1980s, in which a series of deadly attacks carried out by right-wing extremists with the apparent collusion of the secret services would be blamed on activists on the hard left in order to derail an alliance being proposed between the Christian Democrat Party and the Communist Party.

Among his many awards was a Palme d'Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival for The Mattei Affair, a Golden Lion at the 1963 Venice Biennale for Hands Over the City and ten David di Donatello awards from the Academy of Italian Cinema.

In 2012, he was awarded an honorary Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for lifetime achievement and leaving "an indelible mark on the history of Italian film-making".

Rosi was born in Montecalvario, a neighbourhood of central Naples that includes part of the Spanish Quarter, the Piazza Carità and the bustling Via Toledo.  His father worked in the shipping industry, but also drew satirical cartoons, once earning a reprimand for his insulting depictions of Benito Mussolini and King Vittorio Emmanuel III.

Giorgio Napoletana, a schoolfriend of Francesco Rosi, who would go one to become President of the Republic
Giorgio Napoletana, a schoolfriend of Francesco Rosi,
who would go one to become President of the Republic
Rosi went to college with Giorgio Napolitano, who would later become Italian President, and they would remain lifelong friends.  He studied law but his career took him in a different direction, first as an illustrator of children's books, then as a reporter with Radio Napoli.

The connections he made through the radio station led him into theatre work and film.  After several films as assistant director, learning from Ettore Giannini and Luchino Visconti among others, he made his solo debut in 1958 with La Sfida (The Challenge), an expose of corruption in the retail trade in Naples which quickly made clear Rosi's preoccupation with social justice and the complex labyrinths in Italian society.

His breakthrough in terms of international acclaim came in 1962 with Salvatore Giuliano, a fictional exploration of the life of the Sicilian bandit of the title, his connections with the state and the church, and his role in fighting against communism in Sicily.  Rosi's aim was to use the bandit’s life and death to convey the complexities of post-war Sicilian politics and society in which "resolving the truth was an impossibility."

Salvatore Giuliano won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1962 and established Rosi as one of the central figures of the post-neorealist phase in Italian cinema, along with Gillo Pontecorvo, Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Taviani brothers, Ettore Scola and Valerio Zurlini.

Rosi’s later movies were accomplished productions but critics felt they lacked the power of his earlier work, although in his adaptation of Christ Stopped at Eboli, Carlo Levi's memoir about his experiences as a doctor exiled in southern Italy for his anti-Fascist views, with Volonté in the title role, came close, winning a BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film.

After ending his career in film with The Truce, based on holocaust survivor Primo Levi's memoir of returning to Italy after his liberation from Auschwitz, he returned to theatre, notably directing the Neapolitan comedies of Eduardo De Filippo.

He spent his last years living in Rome on Via Gregoriana, near the Spanish Steps.   He died in 2015 aged 92.

The Via Toledo in Naples has a typical flavour of the city
The Via Toledo in Naples has a typical flavour of the city
Travel tip:

Montecal- vario, where Francesco Rosi was born, is said by many visitors to capture the essence of Naples.  Bordered on one side by the Via Toledo, the busy shopping street which links Piazza Dante with Piazza Trieste e Trento, it includes the part of the Spanish Quarter in which can be found the Teatro Nuovo, an historic theatre originally built in 1724 and twice destroyed by fire.  The theatre became famous for comic opera in the 19th century and in the 20th century staged the plays of the great Neapolitian comic dramatist, Eduardo de Filippo.

Hotels in Napoli by

Travel tip:

The Via Gregoriana, where Francesco Rosi spent his last years, is a street almost in the centre of Rome, very close to the tourist hubbub of Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, yet still retains the air of a peaceful residential thoroughfare, the kind you might expect to find in a well-to-do suburb.  Commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575, it runs from the church of Trinita dei Monti, which looks down over Piazza di Spagna, towards Via del Tritone and has long been popular with artists and intellectuals.

Rome hotels by

More reading:

Ennio Morricone, the film music maestro enters his 89th year

Anna Magnani - Oscar winning star of neo-realist fashion

The legacy of Fellini and La Dolce Vita

Also on this day:

1905: The birth of conductor Annunzio Mantovani

(Picture credits: Francesco Rosi by Georges Biard; Gian Maria Volonté by Pèter; Giorgio Napoletana by Ralf Roletschek; Via Toledo by Inviaggiocommons all via Wikimedia Commons)


10 November 2016

Ennio Morricone - film music maestro

Composer who scored some of cinema's greatest soundtracks

Ennio Morricone, pictured in 2012
Ennio Morricone, pictured in 2012
Ennio Morricone, who composed some of the most memorable soundtracks in the history of the cinema, was born on this day in 1928 in Rome.

Still working even as he enters his 89th year, Morricone has written more than 500 film and television scores, winning countless awards.

Best known for his associations with the Italian directors Sergio Leone, Giuseppe Tornatore and Giuliano Montaldo, he has also worked among others with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Brian de Palma, Roland Joffé, Franco Zeffirelli and Quentin Tarantino, whose 2015 Western The Hateful Eight finally won Morricone an Oscar that many considered long overdue.

Among his finest soundtracks are those he wrote for Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy in the 1960s, for the Leone gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America two decades later, for Joffé's The Mission and De Palma's The Untouchables.

He composed the score for Tornatore's hauntingly poignant Cinema Paradiso and for Maddalena, a somewhat obscure 1971 film by the Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz that included the acclaimed Come Maddalena and Chi Mai, which later reached number two in the British singles chart after being used for the 1981 TV series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.

Much of Morricone's film music, as well as his more than 100 classical compositions and numerous jazz and pop songs from the 1960s and 70s, has been recorded and his commercial sales have topped 70 million records worldwide.

Listen to Morricone's beautiful Gabriel's Oboe from The Mission

Morricone, whose parents moved to Rome from Arpino, an ancient hill town near Frosinone in southern Lazio, was brought up in the Trastevere district of the capital, one of five children raised by his father, Mario, a professional musician who played the trumpet, and mother Libera, who ran a small textile business.

He learned the fundamentals of music from his father before entering the National Academy of St Cecilia, where he first met Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone, the director behind the 'Dollars' trilogy
Sergio Leone, the director  behind
 the 'Dollars' trilogy
On graduating, he had some success writing for the theatre as well as for radio. After marrying his girlfriend of six years, Maria Travia, in 1956, and becoming a father a year later, he began supporting his family by playing in a jazz band and arranging pop songs for the Italian public broadcaster, RAI.

Over the next few years he composed pop songs for Rita Pavone, Mario Lanza, Paul Anka and Francoise Hardy among many others.

He branched into film music for the first time in the early 1960s, taking the commission that was to change his life when Leone, his friend from St Cecilia's, asked him to write the score for his groundbreaking Western, A Fistful of Dollars.

Starring the 34-year-old American actor, Clint Eastwood, in his first major role, A Fistful of Dollars was a huge success, spawning two more in the genre that became known as 'Spaghetti Westerns'.  For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly each grossed more than $20 million.

A Fistful of Dollars made $14.5 million, which was incredible given that Leone made it on a budget of less than $250,000.  With only limited access to a full orchestra, Morricone had to improvise, incorporating gunshots, cracking whips, a whistle, a jew's harp, trumpets, and a Fender electric guitar into his score, as well as using human, mainly female voices as musical instruments. The result was a highly distinctive score that it became a classic in the history of cinema music, as instantly recognizable today as it was then, and several of Morricone's innovative measures became part of his repertoire.

Listen to Morricone's music for the opening scene of The Hateful Eight

The trilogy began a relationship with Sergio Leone that would last 20 years and opened many doors for Morricone, whose career prospered from then on.

His first nomination for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards came in 1979 for Days of Heaven, directed by the American Terence Malick.  There were two nominations in the 1980s, for Joffé's The Mission in 1986 and De Palma's The Untouchables in 1987, and probably would have been a third had the American distributors of Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984) submitted the paperwork on time.

Morricone was particularly disappointed not to win with The Mission, which features the wonderful melody Gabriel's Oboe as its main theme, complaining that jazz musician Herbie Hancock's score for Bertrand Tavernier's Round Midnight, while beautifully done, used existing music.

The Hateful Eight: Morricone's score for Quentin Tarantino's film won an Oscar
The Hateful Eight: Morricone's score for
Quentin Tarantino's film won an Oscar
Further nominations came for Barry Levison's Bugsy (1991) and Tornatore's Malena (2000), and by the second decade of the new millennium Morricone's 50-year movie career had brought him 44 major awards.

It appeared, though, that the award he craved above all would elude him, and an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his overall contribution to film music seemed a slightly hollow consolation prize.

But then, late in 2014, just past his 86th birthday, he was approached by Quentin Tarantino, with whom he had collaborated previously but had had a difficult relationship. Morricone had not scored a complete Western for 35 years and had not worked on a high-profile Hollywood production since 2000 but The Hateful Eight, set just after the American Civil War, appealed to him.

He produced a score that was magnificent, one that would sit comfortably alongside anything he had done previously, from the sweeping L'Ultima Diligenza per Red Rock that accompanies the chillingly atmospheric opening scenes, to Regan's Theme, a melody of gathering pace with echoes of what he did for Leone half a century previously.

It earned Morricone his third Golden Globe, to go with The Mission and the ragtime-jazz score he wrote for Tornatore's Legend of 1900 and then, at the 87th Academy Awards night of February 22, 2016, the one he thought would never come and which made him, at 87 years, the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar.

Morricone, who has never left Italy despite being offered a villa in Hollywood by one of the studios he worked with, remains an active composer.  He and Maria had four children - Marco, Alessandra, Andrea, who himself became a film music composer, and Giovanni, who is a film director and producer in New York.

UPDATE: Morricone died in July 2020, aged 91, as a result of injuries sustained in a fall. Following a private funeral, he was entombed in Cimitero Laurentino in Rome.

The unspoilt hill town of Arpino
The unspoilt hill town of Arpino
Travel tip:

Arpino, home of Morricone's parents, is a hill town situated about 120km south-east of Rome, 46km north-west of Frosinone in Lazio. Clinging to a ridge on top of a hill, it is relatively accessible from a nearby station on one of the Rome-Naples railway lines, yet attracts few tourists and therefore has the unspoilt feel of a traditional southern Italian community.

Travel tip:

The Trastevere district of Rome, which sits alongside the River Tiber, is regarded as one of the city's most charming neighbourhoods, full of winding, cobbled streets and well preserved medieval houses.  Increasingly fashionable with Rome's young professional class as a place to live, it has an abundance of restaurants and bars and a lively student music scene.

More reading:

How Shakespeare adaptations made Franco Zeffirelli a household name

Sergio Leone - distinctive style of 'Spaghetti Western' creator

How Nino Rota found fame for The Godfather theme

Also on this day: 

1816: Lord Byron, the English poet and aristocrat, sets foot in Venice for the first time.

(Picture credit: First photo of Morricone by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons)
(Videos from YouTube)


26 September 2016

Anna Magnani - Oscar-winning film star

Roman one of only three Italians to land best actor award

Anna Magnani, the Rome-born actress who died in 1973
Anna Magnani, the Rome-born
actress who died in 1973
Anna Magnani, who found fame for her performance in Roberto Rossellini's neorealist classic movie Rome, Open City and went on to become one of only three Italian actors to win an Academy Award, died on this day in Rome in 1973.

Magnani had been quietly suffering from pancreatic cancer and her death at the age of just 65 shocked her fans and even close friends. Rossellini, with whom she had a tempestuous five-year relationship before he ditched her for the Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, was at her bedside along with her son, Luca.  Rossellini was considered to be Magnani’s one great love. The American playwright Tennessee Williams, who wrote two parts for her in his plays (Serafina in The Rose Tattoo and Lady in Orpheus Descending) specifically with Magnani in mind, was so devastated he could not bring himself to attend her funeral.

Instead he sent 20 dozen roses to signify the bond they developed while working together over 24 years.  When Williams was in Rome they would meet for cocktails on the roof-top terrace of her home, overlooking the city, always at eight o'clock - "alle venti" in Italy, where times are generally expressed according to the 24-hour clock.  They would sign off letters and telegrams to one another with the words "Ci vediamo alle venti" or "See you at eight."

The funeral procession attracted crowds in the tens of thousands. Countless businesses closed and many streets were shut to traffic as Magnani's coffin was taken to the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, near the Pantheon in central Rome, where the service took place.  The Piazza Minerva was thronged with people, who broke into spontaneous cheering when the coffin appeared.

The original movie poster for the film  of the Tennessee Williams play, The Rose Tattoo.
The original movie poster for the film
of the Tennessee Williams play
It was the movie version of The Rose Tattoo, for which Williams wrote the screenplay, that won Magnani her Oscar in 1955, playing opposite Burt Lancaster. She was the first of two Italian actresses to win the Academy Award, to be followed six years later by Sophia Loren for Vittorio De Sica's La Ciociara, which was renamed Two Women for the American market.

Loren’s role was originally designed for Magnani and Loren was supposed to play the role of her daughter. Magnani refused to play opposite Loren, who was already 26 years old and not right for a teenaged virgin, and actually gave De Sica the idea to cast Loren as the mother; a role for which she would win the Best Actress Oscar in 1962.

Roberto Benigni is the only Italian-born male actor to win an Oscar, for Life is Beautiful in 1998.

Magnani's acting was notable in that she was able to bring her own personality, her affinity with the ordinary people she grew up with, to her roles, in which she was often cast as una popolana - a coarse woman of working class background.  Raised largely by her grandparents in a poor, working-class part of Rome, Anna was a product of a short-lived marriage between her mother, Marina Magnani, and an itinerant Calabrian father (who worked in Egypt) whom she met only once.

Some erroneous biographical notes suggest she was born in Alessandria, Egypt but Magnani herself insisted that while her mother may have been in Egypt when she fell pregnant, she had moved back to Rome and was living in the Porta Pia area by the time she gave birth.  Magnani was given her maternal surname, the last name of both her mother and grandmother.

While Anna had a tough upbringing in Rome, her grandmother managed to send her to a convent school, learned French, played piano, and, at age 17, went on to study at the Eleonora Duse Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome for two years. She often said she felt more at home with the more down-to-earth people in her own neighborhood as it taught her to become streetwise at a young age. Magnani soon was supporting herself by singing in cabarets and nightclubs, where her performances drew comparisons with the French singer, Edith Piaf.

Magnani had her first film role in the 1920s, although it was 20 years before her breakthrough in Rossellini's 1945 movie Rome, Open City, which is generally regarded as the first film in the Italian neorealist genre to achieve commercial success. Magnani's performance as Pina, the pregnant widow of an Italian resistance fighter murdered by the occupying Germans forces as she tries to protect her fiance, was acclaimed for its brilliance. Although she was not regarded as a conventional beauty, she had an earthy sensuality that audiences found captivating.

Anna Magnani, centre, in a scene from Rome, Open City, the film that was the turning point in her career
Anna Magnani, centre, in a scene from Rome, Open City,
the film that was the turning point in her career
Her relationship with Rossellini, often punctuated with violent rows in which they were renowned for throwing crockery at one another, foundered after five years, when Rossellini began an affair with Bergman, reneging on a promise to make Magnani the star of his 1950 film, Stromboli, and giving the role instead to the Swedish actress.  Magnani retaliated  by making her own film with director William Dieterle entitled Vulcano.

Yet Magnani's career never faltered as it this very time, in 1949-50, that her friendship with American playwright Tennessee Williams would blossom. She went on to work with many of the great Italian directors, such as Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini, whose 1972 film, Roma, would be her last.

Magnani married Italian director, Goffredo Alessandrini, in the 1930s but they were together only briefly before the marriage was annulled.  Her son, Luca, was born in 1942, the product of an affair with an Italian actor, Massimo Serato. Luca was stricken with polio as a child (1944) but Anna dedicated her life to caring for him in his younger years and providing him with the best (Swiss) medical care. Luca Magnani - Anna fought in court for him to keep her maternal surname - would go on to be a noted architect and real estate developer.

Luca Magnani's daughter, Olivia Magnani, born in Bologna in 1975, has followed her grandmother in becoming a movie actress. She is the fifth generation to carry on the Magnani name.

The stage play, Roman Nights, by Italo-American playwright Franco D’Alessandro recounts the inspired, fruitful, and tumultuous friendship between Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams. 

The beautiful vaulted ceiling of the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome
The beautiful vaulted ceiling of the Basilica
di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome
Travel tip:

The Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva is the only existing example of an oroginal Gothic church in Rome, its Renaissance-style frontage concealing a Gothic interior featuring an arched vaulted ceiling painted blue with gilded stars.  It contains a marble sculpture, Cristo della Minerva, by Michelangelo, and the strikingly beautiful Carafa Chapel, with frescoes by Filippino Lippi.  Buried in the church are Saint Catherine of Siena, the Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, and at least four popes.

Travel tip:

Porta Pia, from which the neighbourhood in which Anna Magnani was born takes its name, is a gate in Rome's Aurelian Walls, designed by Michelangelo and named after Pope Pius IV.  It was close to Porta Pia that a breach of the walls made by Bersaglieri soldiers from the north of Italy enabled Rome to be captured and completed the unification of Italy in 1870.  It was also the scene of a failed assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini in 1926 by anti-Fascist activist Gino Lucetti.

Also on this day:

(Photo of interior of Basilica by Tango7174 GFDL)