Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio De Sica
Vittorio De Sica

De Sica in the 1950s
Born 7 July 1901/1902
Sora, Lazio, Italy
Died 13 November 1974 (aged 73)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Years active 1917-1974
Spouse Giuditta Rissone (m. 1933-68)
María Mercader (m. 1968-74)

Vittorio De Sica (7 July 1901 or 1902 – 13 November 1974) was an Italian director and actor, a leading figure in the neorealist movement.

In his career, four of the films he directed won Academy Awards: Sciuscià and Ladri di biciclette were awarded honorary Oscars, while ieri, oggi, domani and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Indeed, the great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Ladri di biciclette helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Oscar. These two films generally are considered part of the canon of classic cinema[1]. Ladri di biciclette was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.[2]

Ironically, for an artist considered one of the Italian cinema's greatest and most influential directors[3] , De Sica's sole Academy Award nomination was for acting, when he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for playing Major Rinaldi in American director Charles Vidor's 1957 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms , a movie that was panned by critics and proved a box office flop. De Sica's acting was considered the highlight of the film.[4]


Life and career

Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (in either 1901 or 1902 - sources are divided), he began his career as a theatre actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova's theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged plays by Beaumarchais and worked with famous directors like Luchino Visconti.

His meeting with Cesare Zavattini was a very important event: together they created some of the most celebrated films of the neorealistic age, like Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, released as The Bicycle Thief in the U.S.A.), both of which De Sica directed.

De Sica appeared in the British television series The Four Just Men (1959).

Private Life

His passion for gambling was well known. Because of it, he often lost large sums of money and accepted work that might not otherwise have interested him. He never kept his gambling a secret from anyone; in fact, he projected it on characters in his own movies, like Count Max (which he acted in but did not direct) and The Gold of Naples.

In 1937 he married Giuditta Rissone, whom he met ten years before and who gave birth to his daughter, Emi. In 1942, on the set of Un garibaldino al convento, he met Spanish actress Maria Mercader (sister of Ramon Mercader, Trotsky's assassin), with whom he started a relationship.

After divorcing Rissone in Mexico in 1954, he married Mercader in 1959, again in Mexico, but this union was not considered valid under Italian law. In 1968 he obtained French citizenship and married Mercader in Paris. Meanwhile he had already had two sons with her: Manuel, in 1949, a musician, and Christian, in 1951, who would follow his father's path as an actor and director.

Although divorced, De Sica never parted from his first family. He led a double-family life, with double celebrations on holidays. It is said that, on Christmas and New Year's Eve, for example, he used to put back the clocks by two hours in Mercader's house so that he could make a toast at midnight with both families. His first wife agreed to keep up the facade of a marriage so as not to leave her daughter without a father.

Vittorio De Sica died at 73 after a surgery at the Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital in Paris.

Filmography as director

Italian title English title Notes Released
Rose scarlatte N/A Co-director 1940
Maddalena, zero in condotta Maddalena, Zero for Conduct 1940
Teresa Venerdì Do You Like Women, Doctor Beware 1941
Un garibaldino al convento A Garibaldian in the Convent 1942
I bambini ci guardano The Children Are Watching Us, The Little Martyr 1944
La porta del cielo The Gate of Heaven 1945
Sciuscià Shoeshine Academy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Original Screenplay (Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci & Cesare Zavattini) 1946
Cuore Heart, Heart and Soul Co-director 1948
Ladri di biciclette Bicycle Thieves, The Bicycle Thief Academy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Writing-Screenplay (Cesare Zavattini) 1948
Miracolo a Milano Miracle in Milan 1951
Umberto D. N/A Academy Award nominee, Best Writing-Story (Cesare Zavattini) 1952
Villa Borghese It Happened in the Park Co-director 1953
Stazione Termini Terminal Station, Station Terminus, Indiscretion of an American Wife 1953
L'oro di Napoli The Gold of Naples 1954
Il Tetto The Roof 1956
Anna di Brooklyn Anna of Brooklyn, Fast and Sexy Co-director 1958
It Started in Naples 1960
La Ciociara Two Women Academy Award-winner, Best Actress (Sophia Loren) 1961
Il Giudizio universale The Last Judgement 1961
I sequestrati di Altona The Condemned of Altona 1962
Boccaccio '70 N/A Short film - segment La riffa 1962
Il Boom N/A 1963
Ieri, oggi e domani Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Academy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film[5] 1963
Matrimonio all'italiana Marriage Italian-Style Academy Award-nominee, Best Foreign Film,[6] Best Actress (Sophia Loren) 1964
Un monde nouveau A New World 1966
Caccia alla volpe After the Fox 1966
Sette Volte Donna Woman Times Seven 1967
Le streghe The Witches Short film - segment Sera come le altre, Una 1967
Amanti A Place for Lovers 1968
I Girasoli Sunflower 1970
Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini The Garden of the Finzi-Continis Academy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film 1970
Le Coppie The Couples Short film - segment Il Leone 1970
Dal referendum alla costituzione: Il 2 giugno From Referendum to the Constitution: June 2 Documentary 1971
I Cavalieri di Malta The Knights of Malta Documentary 1971
Lo chiameremo Andrea We'll Call Him Andrea 1972
Una Breve vacanza A Brief Vacation 1973
Il viaggio The Voyage 1974

Filmography as actor

Note: on many sources, Fontana di Trevi by Carlo Campogalliani (1960) and La pappa reale by Robert Thomas (1964) are included but de Sica does not appear in those films.

Television as actor

  • The Four Just Men, by Sapphire Films (1959) (10 of the 39 episodes made)

Awards and nominations

Vittorio De Sica was given the Interfilm Grand Prix in 1971 by the Berlin Film Festival


"There is no crisis in cinema. There are negative periods. There are times when some films are received well and others aren't. The past teaches us that some films were received badly, while others go sailing on. There are two films doing very well right now in the Italian market: One is Il gattopardo, which earns seven million lire a day, and the other is Il diavolo, starring Sordi, which earns 3 1/2 million. So there are films that are doing very well. What I notice is that producers have been known to make errors in judgment, which have caused them to be overly daring. For example, I've been told many millions were spent, somewhere around half a billion, for a film entrusted to a young person. We must make room for young people , but with half a billion we could have made eight of Ladri di biciclett. Experimental cinema should be inexpensive cinema. Half a billion lire should be entrusted to those professionals who we can be sure will bring home the half billion spent. We should be cautious with new initiatives. Producers should be cautious. As for television as a competitor, yes, there I see a danger. Let television do television, let them do documentaries, but cinema as such should be shown on screens, because there's no one more lazy than the public. When people don't have to leave their homes, they're very happy. A film shown in the home encourages the audience not to budge."


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Vittorio De Sica — Données clés Naissance 7 juillet 1901 Sora, Latium Italie Nationalité Italien Décès …   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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