Gassman, Vittorio

(1922-2000)
   Actor. Celebrated as Italy's greatest stage and screen actor of the postwar period, Gassman was born in Genoa but grew up in Rome. As a teenager he showed great promise as a basketball player but eventually the lure of the stage won out and he enrolled to receive classical training in theater at the National Academy of Dramatic Art. His talent was soon recognized and even before formally graduating from the academy he was called to work with the prestigious company of Alda Borelli in Milan. By 1944 he had formed his own touring company and by 1946 he was not only appearing on stage but had also, in collaboration with Luciano Salce, published a handbook on acting, L'educazione teatrale (Training for the Theater). Following a successful tour of Paris and London, in 1948 he was called to work with director Luchino Visconti and won high praise, particularly for his interpretation of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's A Streecar Named Desire and as Troilus in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. After three years as principal actor for the National Theater, in 1952 he joined with director Luigi Squarzina to give birth to the Teatro d'Arte Italiano (Italian Art Theater), in which he performed many of the classics to great acclaim.
   By this time he had, almost naturally, also begun to appear in films, his first role being one of the male leads in Giovanni Paolucci's romantic melodrama Preludio d'amore (Shamed, 1946). There followed several other romantic leads in Mario Soldati's Daniele Cortis (1947) and Mario Camerini's La figlia del capitano (The Captain's Daughter, 1947), but, especially in the wake of his performance as the evil Walter in Giuseppe De Santis's Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, 1949), he was frequently cast as the melodramatic villain, as in Alberto Lattuada's Anna (1951) or Luigi Comencini's La tratta delle bianche (The White Slave Trade, 1952). Following his marriage in 1952 to the American actress Shelley Winters, he began appearing in a number of American films, including Maxwell Shane's The Glass Wall (1952), in which he played an illegal immigrant to the United States who eventually commits suicide from desperation, and Joseph H. Lewis's Cry of the Hunted (1952), in which he is an escaped convict on the run. Overall, however, and in spite of appearing with American actresses of the caliber of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, Gassman's career in Hollywood remained a relatively modest affair.
   Back in Italy (and having divorced Winters) he was slightly more successful directing his first film, Kean: Genio e sregolatezza (Kean: Genius or Scoundrel, 1956), in which he himself played the role of the famous 19th-century English actor Edmund Kean. The real break in his film career, however, came with his appearance as the stuttering ex-boxer, Peppe, in Mario Monicelli's I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958), a role that finally revealed his extraordinary propensity for comedy and which was recognized with the award of his first Nastro d'argento. The critical and box office triumph of I soliti ignoti was then repeated in Monicelli's La grande guerra (The Great War, 1960), in which Gassman's performance as the reluctant infantryman Giovanni Busacca won him his first David di Donatello. With the fundamental parameters of his comic persona firmly established, there followed a host of films in which he played variations on a basic characterization, a superficial bragadoccio and a loud can-do-anything attitude masking a more basic wiliness and feeling of insecurity. It was thus as something of a personification of an Italy nervously riding the wave of the so-called economic miracle that Gassman came to appear in so many of the key films of the commedia all'italiana, from Dino Risi's Il sorpasso (The Easy Life, 1962) and I mostri (1963) to Ettore Scola's C'eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much, 1973). Perhaps his most nuanced performance of this characterization, the retired and blind military officer in Risi's Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman, 1974), earned him not only another Nastro and a David but also the prize for Best Actor at Cannes. The film's widespread international success also prompted a number of further appearances in American films in the late 1970s, the most notable being in Robert Altman's A Wedding (1978) and Quintet (1978).
   Although he continued to alternate between stage and screen, as he had done throughout his career, Gassman reduced his involvement in films during the 1980s while still providing many memorable performances, the most outstanding being in the role of the patriarch in Scola's La famiglia (The Family, 1987), for which he was awarded the sixth David of his career, and as the zany but lovable uncle in Franco Brusati's Lo zio indegno (The Sleazy Uncle, 1989). Having collected a host of honors and prizes throughout his career, in 1993 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Urbino for his contribution to Italian culture. In 1996 he received a Career David and a Golden Lion at the Venice Festival for his extraordinary lifetime achievement.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gassman, Vittorio — (1922 2000)    Actor. Celebrated as Italy s greatest stage and screen actor of the postwar period, Gassman was born in Genoa but grew up in Rome. As a teenager he showed great promise as a basketball player but eventually the lure of the stage… …   Historical dictionary of Italian cinema

  • Gassman, Vittorio — ▪ 2001  Italian actor and director (b. Sept. 1, 1922, Genoa, Italy d. June 29, 2000, Rome, Italy), epitomized the quintessential Italian leading man “tall, dark, and handsome” but his conventional good looks sometimes obscured his talent and… …   Universalium

  • Gassman, Vittorio — • ГА СМАН (Gassman) Витторио (р. 1.9.1922)    итал. режиссёр, актёр. Учился в рим. Академии драм, иск ва. В т ре с 1943. В 1948 49 в труппе под рук. Л. Висконти. С 1949 выступает как режиссёр т ра. В 1950 создал (с Т. Сальвини) собств. труппу Нац …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Gassman, Vittorio — ► (1922 2000) Actor y director de cine y teatro italiano. Interpretó y dirigió obras de dramaturgos clásicos y modernos, entre ellas Macbeth. Entre los galardones recibidos figuran: el Globo de Oro (1975) y el premio Príncipe de Asturias (1997) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Gassman — Gassman, Vittorio …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Vittorio Gassman — Nombre real Vittorio Gassman Nacimiento 1 de septiembre de 1922 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Vittorio Gassman — (* 1. September 1922 in Genua; † 29. Juni 2000 in Rom) war einer der bedeutendsten italienischen Schauspieler der Nachkriegszeit. Er arbeitete auch als Regisseur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Vittorio Gassmann — Vittorio Gassman Vittorio Gassman Portrait Naissance 1er septembre 1922 Gênes Nationalité(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Vittorio Gassman — Infobox Actor name = Vittorio Gassman imagesize = 200px birthdate = birth date|1922|9|1 birthplace = Genoa, Liguria, Italy deathdate = death date and age|2000|6|29|1922|9|1 deathplace = Rome, Italy othernames = Il Mattatore Laurence Olivier of… …   Wikipedia

  • Vittorio Gassman — Portrait Données clés Naissance 1er …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.