We The Italians | Great Italians of the Past: Vittorio De Sica

Great Italians of the Past: Vittorio De Sica

Great Italians of the Past: Vittorio De Sica

  • WTI Magazine #121 Nov 17, 2019
  • 1609

Vittorio De Sica was an Italian director and actor, a leading figure in the neorealist movement and the Italian Father of the Comedy Genre.

Four of the films he directed won Academy Awards: "Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves" (honorary), while "Yesterday"," Today and Tomorrow" and "Il giardino dei Finzi Contini" won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Indeed, the great critical success of Sciuscià (Shoeshine), the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Award. These two films are considered part of the canon of classic cinema. Bicycle Thieves was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.

De Sica was also nominated for the 1957 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor 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.

In De Sica’s films people go unrewarded and his stories take forward, leaving beyond the real sense of suffer that he actually wants to tell. At the close of Bicycle Thieves,for example, when driven beyond despair, the father and son take each other’s hands as they move among the anonymous crowd, it’s a symbol of human compassion and solidarity that proves almost unbearably moving. Yet as they walk on, they are lost from view. They have each other, but are gone. For De Sica, there is an answer to everything, except death and for these times this is huge.

What always hits us is the nostalgia for a lost Italy even though he never forgets how fascism had compromised and stained that past. We can feel a dissatisfaction with the country in the era of economic reconstruction, the boom years of the late 50s and 60s, is palpable.

To finance his directorial efforts, De Sica worked as an actor throughout his career. He turned almost exclusively to acting in the late 1950s, enjoying great popularity in the role of the rural police officer in Comencini’s “Bread Love and Dreams” (1954), and in a subsequent comedy series of the same name co-starring Gina Lollobrigida. He was at his best playing light roles requiring deft irony and flashy charm, but proved himself capable of a solid dramatic performance in Rossellini’s “General Della Rovere”

Vittorio De Sica died at 73 after a surgery due to lung cancer at the Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital in Paris. But as all the Greats of the past, he's still living. Not only because his movies are eternal, but also because the stories that he told are more current now than ever.

"I've lost all my money on these films. They are not commercial. But I'm glad to lose it this way and have them as a souvenir of my life"

Vittorio De Sica