Alberto Sordi (June 15, 1920-February 25, 2003)

An icon of Italian cinema dies

by Donato Totaro Volume 7, Issue 1 / January 2003 2 minutes (259 words)

All of Italy is in mourning after the death of actor-director Alberto Sordi. In a career that spanned an incredible seven decades, Sordi established himself as an icon of Italian cinema with his representative skill at both comedy and drama. Sordi worked with many of the great Italian directors, including Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Alberto Lattuada, Dino Risi, Francesco Rosi, Luigi Comencini, and Nanni Loy. Sordi distinguished himself by not being averse to playing unsympathetic characters, such as the pompous Valentino-esque star of the photoromanza-within-a-film in Fellini’s directorial debut The White Shiek (1951), or the lazy, mama’s boy in Fellini’s groundbreaking I Vitelloni (1953). In the process, Sordi enriched the emotional and social landscape of Italian comedy. Few actors were able to shift tone as convincingly as Sordi did, for example, in Il Mafioso (1961), where he plays a Sicilian working in a Milan factory who ends up an unwilling mafia hitman. Although Sordi was typically cast as an unlikeable character, he became an extremely popular figure in Italy as much for his on-screen contributions as his offscreen dedication to cherished Italian values (family, children, Catholicism), and will be sorely missed by his country. His loss is compounded by the recent passing of one of Sordi’s important contemporaries, the actor Leopoldo Trieste (May 3, 1917-January 25, 2003). Trieste starred alongside Sordi in several films, including the White Shiek and I Vitelloni, and made an impact internationally with appearances in such films as Don’t Look Now, The Godfather Pt. 2, The Black Stallion, Name of the Rose, Cinema Paradiso and The Starmaker.

Alberto Sordi (June 15, 1920-February 25, 2003)

Donato Totaro has been the editor of the online film journal Offscreen since its inception in 1997. Totaro received his PhD in Film & Television from the University of Warwick (UK), is a part-time professor in Film Studies at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) and a longstanding member of AQCC (Association québécoise des critiques de cinéma).

Volume 7, Issue 1 / January 2003 Obits   italian cinema   italian comedy