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Vittorio Gassman

Vittorio Gassman

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Also Known As: Died: June 29, 2000
Born: September 1, 1922 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Italy Profession: actor, screenwriter, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Handsome, occasionally grandiloquent, Vittorio Gassman has been a popular and successful stage and screen actor in his native Italy for well over fifty years. American cineastes will recall his performances in such classics as "Bitter Rice" (1948) and "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1956). Less discerning filmgoers may remember him as Anatole in King Vidor's 1956 version of "War and Peace" or the crime lord King Benny in Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" (1996). Born in Genoa but raised in Rome, Gassman first studied for a law degree before attending the National Dramatic Academy. He joined the Elsa Mellini Company in 1943 and quickly became established as a rising star, appearing in numerous classical roles. His striking good looks and talent were soon put to use in Italian cinema playing the romantic figure in a number of period pieces. His performance as Silvana Mangano's lover in his fourth film, "Riso amaro/Bitter Rice" (1949), made him an international star. The pair proved so popular they were reunited for 1951's "Anna," in which Gassman undertook a less heroic role. Inevitably, Hollywood beckoned and Gassman was put under contract at MGM but the studio did not know how best to exploit the actor's...

Handsome, occasionally grandiloquent, Vittorio Gassman has been a popular and successful stage and screen actor in his native Italy for well over fifty years. American cineastes will recall his performances in such classics as "Bitter Rice" (1948) and "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1956). Less discerning filmgoers may remember him as Anatole in King Vidor's 1956 version of "War and Peace" or the crime lord King Benny in Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" (1996).

Born in Genoa but raised in Rome, Gassman first studied for a law degree before attending the National Dramatic Academy. He joined the Elsa Mellini Company in 1943 and quickly became established as a rising star, appearing in numerous classical roles. His striking good looks and talent were soon put to use in Italian cinema playing the romantic figure in a number of period pieces. His performance as Silvana Mangano's lover in his fourth film, "Riso amaro/Bitter Rice" (1949), made him an international star. The pair proved so popular they were reunited for 1951's "Anna," in which Gassman undertook a less heroic role.

Inevitably, Hollywood beckoned and Gassman was put under contract at MGM but the studio did not know how best to exploit the actor's capabilities, relegating him to roles as stereotypical Europeans in such fare as "The Glass Wall" (1953) and "Mambo" (1954), the latter opposite his then-wife Shelley Winters. His last US film for many years was a turn as Anatole in King Vidor's filming of "War of Peace" (1956).

Returning to Europe, Gassman undertook a dream project, writing, starring and co-directing (with Francesco Rosi) "Kean" (1956), a biopic of the legendary British actor Edmund Kean. Many critics noted Gassman's tendency to overact in the role and that hammy quality has informed many of his subsequent film roles. But he could rein in his talent to offer fine comic turns as one of a group of bumbling thieves in "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1958) and a jet-setting playboy in "The Easy Life" (1961). (The latter was one of 16 film projects he collaborated on with director Dino Risi.) Throughout much of the early 1960s, Gassman divided his time between his Teatro Popolare Italiano and the cinema. On stage, he tackled roles from Agamemnon in "Oresteia" to several in the Shakespearean canon while on screen he was usually seen in comic roles. A career highlight came with his turn as a blind army captain in 1975's "Profumo di donne/Scent of a Woman" for which he was named the year's best actor at the Cannes Film Festival. (The film was the basis for the 1992 Americanized remake that starred Al Pacino.) After neatly 30 years, the actor returned to US films as the groom's father in Robert Altman's uneven "A Wedding" (1978) and was wasted in Altman's dreadful "Quintet" (1979). A number of his other American features were equally unworthy (e.g., "The Nude Bomb" 1980; "Tempest" 1983). In 1983, he and his son Alessandro co-wrote and co-starred in "Di Padre in figlio/From the Father to the Son." Four years later, he shone in dual roles as a patriarch and the patriarch's father in flashbacks in Ettore Scola's "La Famiglia/The Family" (1987). As the 90s dawned, Gassman's film work dwindled a bit, but he offered a fine turn as an aging crime lord in Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" (1996).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Affabulazione (1985) Director
2.
  Di Padre in Figlio (1983) Director
4.
  Kean (1956) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Dinner, The (1999) Maestro Pezzulo
3.
 Sleepers (1996) King Benny
4.
 Once a Year, Every Year (1995) Giuseppe
6.
 Largo Invierno, El (1992) Claudio
7.
 Palermo Connection, The (1991) Prince
8.
9.
 Sheherazade (1990) Sinbad
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Milestones close milestones

:
Born in Genoa, Italy
1927:
Moved with family to Rome
1943:
Made stage debut as member of Elsa Mellini Company
1946:
Film acting debut in "Preludio d'amore"
1949:
Breakthrough screen role opposite Silvana Mangano in "Riso amaro/Bitter Rice"
1951:
Reteamed with Mangano in "Anna"
1952:
Signed contract with MGM
1954:
Starred opposite then-wife Shelley Winters in "Mambo"
1956:
Co-starred in "War and Peace", directed by King Vidor
1957:
Wrote, co-directed (with Francesco Rosi) and starred in the biopic "Kean", about British actor Edmund Kean
1958:
Had featured role in "Big Deal on Madonna Street", directed by Mario Monicelli
1958:
Founded theater company Teatro Popolare Italiano
1959:
Enjoyed a stage success in "Irma La Douce"
1959:
Reteamed with Monicelli for "The Great War"; starred opposite Albert Sordi
1959:
First of 16 films with writer-director Dino Risi, "Il Mattatore"; originally made for Italian TV
1960:
Directed and starred in a stage production of "Oresteia" in Syracuse, Greece
1961:
Initial collaboration with Vittoria De Sica, "The Last Judgement"
1963:
Played a short season at London's Aldwych Theatre with his Teatro Popolare Italiano
1964:
Essayed multiple roles in Ettore Scola's "Parliamo di donne/Let's Talk About Women"
1967:
Appeared opposite Shirley MacLaine in one segment of the anthology film "Woman Times Seven", directed by De Sica
1969:
With Adolfo Celi, co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in "L'Alibi"
1972:
First feature as solo director "Senza famiglia nullatenenti cercano affetto/Without Family"
1975:
Won critical praise for his portrayal of a blind army captain in the black comedy "Profumo di donna/Scent of a Woman", directed by Risi
1978:
Returned to US features as co-star of Robert Altman's "A Wedding"
1979:
Reteamed with Altman for "Quintet"
1981:
Appeared opposite Burt Reynolds in "Sharkey's Machine"
1983:
With son Allesandro, co-wrote and co-starred in "Di Padre in figlio/From Father to Son"; also directed
1984:
Toured USA in one-man stage show "Viva Vittorio!"
1985:
Last feature (to date) as director "Affabulazione"
1987:
Reteamed with Scola for "La Famiglia/The Family"; played dual role
1990:
Cast as Sinbad in Philippe DeBroca's "Sheherazade/Les 1,001 nuits/A Thousand and One Nights"
1991:
Last screen collaboration with Risi (to date), "Tolgo il disturbo/I'll Be Going Now"
1996:
Delivered a fine turn as an aging crime lord in Barry Levinson's "Sleepers"
1997:
Recorded Italian volume of poetry written by Pope John Paul II; released c, December
1999:
Reteamed with Scola for "Tavole apparechchiate e charienti/The Dinner"
1999:
Appeared in new version of "Il Mattatore" for Italian TV
1999:
Had featured role in "La Bomba/Once Upon a Time in Little Italy"
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Education

Law University of Rome: -
Accademia Nazionale di Arti Drammatica: -

Notes

"Vittorio was Italian theater--an extraordinary artist who seemed immortal." --frequent co-star Claudia Cardinale quoted in Daily Variety, June 30, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Nora Ricci. Actor. Born in 1924; married in the mid-1940s; divorced in the early 1950s; mother of Paola.
wife:
Shelley Winters. Actor. Second wife; married in 1952; divorced in 1955; mother of Vittoria.
wife:
Juliet Mayniel. Actor. Mother of Allesandro.
wife:
Diletta D'Andrea. Survived him.
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Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Paola Gassman. Actor. Mother, Nora Ricci.
daughter:
Vittoria Gassman. Born c. 1953; mother, Shelley Winters.
son:
Alessandro Gassman. Actor, screenwriter. Born in February 1965; mother, Juliet Mayniel.
son:
Jacopo Gassman. Mother, Diletta D'Andrea.
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Bibliography close complete biography

"Luca Dei Numeri"
"A Great Future Behind Me"

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