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Monica Vitti
Vitti in 1965
Maria Luisa Ceciarelli

(1931-11-03)3 November 1931
Rome, Italy
Died2 February 2022(2022-02-02) (aged 90)
Rome, Italy
Years active1954–1992
Roberto Russo
(m. 2000)

Monica Vitti (born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli; 3 November 1931 – 2 February 2022) was an Italian actress who starred in several award-winning films directed by Michelangelo Antonioni during the 1960s. She appeared with Marcello Mastroianni, Alain Delon, Richard Harris, Terence Stamp, and Dirk Bogarde. On her death, Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini called her "the Queen of Italian cinema".[1][2]

Vitti won five David di Donatello Awards for Best Actress, seven Italian Golden Globes for Best Actress, the Career Golden Globe, and the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award.[3]

Early life

Born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome on 3 November 1931 to Adele Vittiglia and Angelo Ceciarelli. She took her stage name from her mother's maiden name.[4][5] Vitti acted in amateur productions as a teenager, then trained as an actress at Rome's National Academy of Dramatic Arts (graduating in 1953) and at Pittman's College, where she played a teen in a charity performance of Dario Niccodemi's La nemica. She toured Germany with an Italian acting troupe, and her first stage appearance in Rome was for a production of Niccolò Machiavelli's La Mandragola.[citation needed]

Vitti as Marisa Ceciarelli early in her career (1953)

Film career

Early roles

Vitti's first film role was an uncredited bit part in Edoardo Anton's Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! (1954).[citation needed] She was in Adriana Lecouvreur (1955),[citation needed] the TV series L'alfiere (1956)[citation needed] and the TV movies Questi ragazzi (1956)[citation needed] and Il tunnel (1958).[citation needed] She did an episode of the television series Mont-Oriol (1958)[citation needed] and dubbed Rossana Rory's voice in Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958).[citation needed]

Vitti's first widely noted performance was at 26, in Mario Amendola's Le dritte (1958) with Franco Fabrizi.[6] She was in the TV movie Il borghese gentiluomo (1959).[7] [8]


In 1957 she joined Michelangelo Antonioni's Teatro Nuovo di Milano and dubbed the voice of Dorian Gray in the director's Il Grido (The Cry, 1957). Over the next several years in several "intense portraits of alienation she became the perfect mouthpiece for Antonioni himself".[9] She played a leading role in Antonioni's internationally praised film L'Avventura (1960) as a detached and cool protagonist drifting into a relationship with the lover of her missing girlfriend.[citation needed] Giving a screen presence that has been described as "stunning", she is also credited with helping Antonioni raise money for the production and sticking with him through daunting location shooting. L'Avventura made Vitti an international star.[citation needed] Her image later appeared on an Italian postage stamp commemorating the film.[10] According to The New York Times, Vitti's "air of disenchantment perfectly conveys the unreal aura of her heroines."[11]

Vitti received critical praise for her starring roles in the Antonioni film La Notte (Night, 1961),[citation needed] with Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni. Vitti starred in a TV movie Le notti bianche (1962),[citation needed] then did a third with Antonioni, L'Eclisse (1962) with Alain Delon.[12]

Vitti was one of many stars in an anthology movie, Three Fables of Love (1962).[citation needed] She had a cameo in Sweet and Sour (1963) and played the lead in a comedy for Roger Vadim, Nutty, Naughty Chateau (1963).[citation needed] Vitti was then in another anthology film High Infidelity (1964)[citation needed] and made a fourth with Antonioni, Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert, 1964), with Richard Harris.[citation needed] The director said Vitti "certainly inspires me, because I like to watch and direct her, but the parts I give her are a long way from her own character."[13] After Vitti's relationship with Antonioni ended, the two did not work together again until Il mistero di Oberwald (1980).[14]

Vitti starred in a comedy for Tinto Brass, The Flying Saucer (1964), and appeared in the anthology, The Dolls (1964).[15]

International films

Vitti in The Girl with a Pistol (1968)

Vitti's first English-language film was Modesty Blaise (1966), a mod James Bond spy spoof that co-starred Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde and was directed by Joseph Losey, it had only mixed success and received harsh critical reviews.[16]

She performed in the anthology movie The Queens (1966),[citation needed] a television series Les fables de La Fontaine (1966),[citation needed] Kill Me Quick, I'm Cold (1967) with Jean Sorel,[citation needed] and I Married You for Fun (1967).[citation needed]

Vitti appeared in On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... (1967) with Tony Curtis,[citation needed] The Girl with a Pistol (1968) with Stanley Baker,[17] The Bitch Wants Blood (1969) with Maurice Ronet,[citation needed] and Help Me, My Love (1969) with Alberto Sordi.[18]


Vitti in Duck in Orange Sauce (1975)

Vitti starred with Marcello Mastroianni in Ettore Scola's highly successful romantic comedy, Dramma della gelosia (The Pizza Triangle, 1970).[citation needed] She followed it with Ninì Tirabusciò, la donna che inventò la mossa (1970),[citation needed] Le coppie (1970) with Sordi,[citation needed] The Pacifist (1970),[citation needed] La supertestimone (1971),[citation needed] That's How We Women Are (1971),[citation needed] and Orders Are Orders (1972).[19]

Vitti was in a version of La Tosca (1973)[4] and in several comedies directed by Carlo Di Palma, who was her partner for several years in the 1970s, beginning with Teresa the Thief (1973).[20] She made Polvere di stelle (1973), directed by Alberto Sordi,[4] for which she won the 1974 David di Donatello award for Best Actress.[citation needed]

Vitti played a key part in one of vignettes in Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty (1974).[21] She did two films with Claudia Cardinale, The Immortal Bachelor (1975)[22] and Blonde in Black Leather (1975).[20][23]

She was in Duck in Orange Sauce (1975),[24] Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino (1976),[20] Basta che non si sappia in giro!.. (1977),[citation needed] L'altra metà del cielo (1977),[citation needed] State Reasons (1978),[citation needed] Il cilindro (1978, for television),[citation needed] Per vivere meglio, divertitevi con noi (1978),[citation needed] Amori miei (1978),[25] and Tigers in Lipstick (1979) (with Ursula Andress).[citation needed]

Vitti's second English-language film was An Almost Perfect Affair (1979), directed by Michael Ritchie and co-starring Keith Carradine, which was set during the Cannes Film Festival.[26] A New York Times article from that period reported Vitti had resisted starring in American films as she did not like long travel, especially by air, and believed that her English was not of a high enough standard.[27] Indeed, such was her aversion to travelling from Europe that Paramount Pictures was apparently forced to cancel the first leg of a publicity tour organised in the US to promote the release of An Almost Perfect Affair.[28]

Later career

Vitti in 1990

Vitti reunited with Antonioni in The Mystery of Oberwald (Il mistero di Oberwald, 1980).[27] She followed it with I Don't Understand You Anymore (1980), Camera d'albergo (1981), Tango of Jealousy (1981), I Know That You Know That I Know (1982) with Sordi, Scusa se è poco (1982), Flirt (1983), and Francesca è mia (1986).[citation needed] She also co-wrote the last two films.[citation needed] In 1984, France awarded her the Order of Arts and Letters. French Culture Minister Jack Lang praised her for helping spur a renewal of Italian films: "We need Italian cinema to find its health again so that French cinema will not remain an island in the middle of other European countries," Lang said.[29] On 26 January 1995, she was raised to the rank of Commander of that Order.[30] By 1986, Vitti had returned to the theatre as an actress and teacher.[citation needed]

In 1989, Vitti tried writing and directing and created Scandalo Segreto (1990), in which she also starred alongside Elliott Gould.[14] The film was unsuccessful and she then retired from cinema.[citation needed] During the 1990s, she did television work, acting in the television miniseries Ma tu mi vuoi bene? (1992).[31]

In 1993, Vitti was awarded the Festival Tribute at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival in France.[32]

Personal life and death

Antonioni and Vitti met in the late 1950s, and their relationship grew stronger after L'Avventura was made, because it had shaped both their careers. However, by the late 1960s, they ceased working on films, making the relationship strained until it officially ended.[citation needed] In a later interview, Vitti stated that Antonioni ended their relationship.[citation needed]

For several years in the 1970s her partner was Carlo Di Palma, best known as a cinematographer though she starred in three films he directed.[20]

In 2000, Vitti married Roberto Russo, with whom she had been in a relationship since 1973.[33] She made her last public appearance in 2002 when she attended the Paris premiere of the stage musical Notre-Dame de Paris.[34][35] In 2011, it was disclosed that Alzheimer's disease had "removed her from the public gaze for the last 15 years".[36] In 2018, her husband confirmed she was still living at home with him in Rome and that he looked after her with the assistance of a caregiver.[37]

Vitti died of complications from Dementia with Lewy bodies disease in Rome on 2 February 2022, at the age of 90.[1][38]