Maria Luisa Ceciarelli
3 November 1931
|Died||2 February 2022 (aged 90)|
Monica Vitti (born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli; 3 November 1931 – 2 February 2022) was an Italian actress known for her starring roles in films directed by Michelangelo Antonioni during the early-to-mid 1960s. After working with Antonioni, Vitti changed focus and began making comedies, working with director Mario Monicelli on many films. She appeared with Marcello Mastroianni, Alain Delon, Richard Harris, Terence Stamp, and Dirk Bogarde. She was known as the "Queen of Italian cinema".
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.
Born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome on 3 November 1931 to Adele (née Vittiglia) and Angelo Ceciarelli, she later took her stage name from her mother’s maiden name. 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.
Vitti's first film role was an uncredited bit part in Edoardo Anton's Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! (1954). She was in Adriana Lecouvreur (1955), the TV series L'alfiere (1956) and the TV movies Questi ragazzi (1956) and Il tunnel (1958). She did an episode of Mont-Oriol (1958) and dubbed Rossana Rory's voice in Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958).
Vitti's first widely noted performance was at the age of 26, in Mario Amendola's Le dritte (1958) with Franco Fabrizi. She was in the TV movie Il borghese gentiluomo (1959).
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). 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. Giving a screen presence which 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. Her image later appeared on an Italian postage stamp commemorating the film. According to The New York Times, Vitti's "air of disenchantment perfectly conveys the unreal aura of her heroines."
Vitti received critical praise for her starring roles in the Antonioni film La Notte (Night, 1961), with Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni. Vitti starred in a TV movie Le notti bianche (1962) then did a third with Antonioni, L'Eclisse (1962) with Alain Delon.
Vitti was one of many stars in an anthology movie, Three Fables of Love (1962). She had a cameo in Sweet and Sour (1963) and played the lead in a comedy for Roger Vadim, Nutty, Naughty Chateau (1963). Vitti was then in another anthology film High Infidelity (1964) and made a fourth with Antonioni, Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert, 1964), with Richard Harris. 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." After Vitti's relationship with Antonioni ended, the two did not work together again until Il mistero di Oberwald (1980).
Vitti starred in a comedy for Tinto Brass, The Flying Saucer (1964), and appeared in the anthology, The Dolls (1964).
Vitti's first English-language film was Modesty Blaise (1966), a mod James Bond spy spoof in which she performed in July 1965. Co-starring Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde, directed by Joseph Losey, it had only mixed success and received harsh critical reviews.
She performed in the anthology movie The Queens (1966), a television series Les fables de La Fontaine (1966), Kill Me Quick, I'm Cold (1967) with Jean Sorel, and I Married You for Fun (1967).
Vitti appeared in On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... (1967) with Tony Curtis, The Girl with a Pistol (1968) with Stanley Baker, The Bitch Wants Blood (1969) with Maurice Ronet, and Help Me, My Love (1969) with Alberto Sordi.
Vitti starred with Marcello Mastroianni in Ettore Scola's highly successful romantic comedy Dramma della gelosia (The Pizza Triangle, 1970). She followed it with Ninì Tirabusciò, la donna che inventò la mossa (1970), Le coppie (1970) with Sordi, The Pacifist (1970), La supertestimone (1971), That's How We Women Are (1971), and Orders Are Orders (1972).
Vitti was in a version of La Tosca (1973) and a comedy Teresa the Thief (1973). She made Polvere di stelle (1973), directed by Alberto Sordi, for which she won the 1974 David di Donatello award for Best Actress.
Vitti played a key part in one of the episodic vignettes in Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty (1974). She did two films with Claudia Cardinale, The Immortal Bachelor (1975) and Blonde in Black Leather (1975).
She was in Duck in Orange Sauce (1975), Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino (1976), Basta che non si sappia in giro!.. (1977), L'altra metà del cielo (1977), State Reasons (1978), Il cilindro (1978), Per vivere meglio, divertitevi con noi (1978), Amori miei (1978), and Tigers in Lipstick (1979) (with Ursula Andress).
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. 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. Indeed, such was her aversion to travelling from Europe that Paramount Pictures was apparently forced to cancel the first leg of a publicity tour that had been organised in the US to promote the release of An Almost Perfect Affair.
Vitti reunited with Antonioni in The Mystery of Oberwald (Il mistero di Oberwald, 1980). 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). She also co-wrote the last two films. In 1984, she was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Jack Lang, who 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. By 1986, Vitti had returned to the theatre as an actress and teacher.
In 1989, Vitti tried writing and directing, and created Scandalo Segreto (1990), which she also starred in alongside Elliott Gould. The film was not a success and she then retired from cinema. During the 1990s she did television work, acting and directing, including Ma tu mi vuoi bene? (1992).
In 1993, Vitti was awarded the Festival Tribute at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival, in France.
Michelangelo 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. In a later interview, Vitti stated that Antonioni ended their relationship.
In 2000, Vitti married Roberto Russo, with whom she had been in a relationship since 1973. She made her last public appearance in 2002 at the Paris premiere of the stage-musical Notre-Dame de Paris. In 2011, it was disclosed that Alzheimer's disease had "removed her from the public gaze for the last 15 years." In 2018, her husband confirmed she was still living at home with him in Rome and that he looked after her personally, with the assistance of a caregiver.
Vitti died of complications from Alzheimer's disease in Rome on 2 February 2022, at the age of 90.