Valentina Cortese
Valentina Cortese1941.png
Cortese in The Jester's Supper (1942)
Born(1923-01-01)1 January 1923
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Died10 July 2019(2019-07-10) (aged 96)
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Other namesValentina Cortesa
Years active1941–1993
(m. 1951; div. 1960)
ChildrenJackie Basehart

Valentina Cortese (1 January 1923 – 10 July 2019) was an Italian actress. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973).[1][2]

Personal life

Cortese was born in Milan to a family from Stresa, Piedmont. In 1940, she met conductor Victor de Sabata, who was 31 years older and married with children. She left high school to follow him to Rome, and there she graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art. They separated in 1948.[3] Cortese married Richard Basehart, her co-star in The House on Telegraph Hill, in 1951, and had one son with him, the actor Jackie Basehart; they divorced in 1960. She never remarried.[4] Jackie Basehart died in Milan in 2015, predeceasing Cortese.

Cortese died on 10 July 2019, aged 96.[5]


Cortese in 2012
Cortese in 2012

Cortese made her screen debut in Italian films in 1940, leading to her first internationally acclaimed roles in Riccardo Freda's 1948 Italian film Les Misérables with Gino Cervi and a very young Marcello Mastroianni, in which she played both Fantine and Cosette, and the 1949 British film The Glass Mountain (1949),[6] which led to a number of roles in American films of the period, but continued to make films in Europe with such directors as Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini and François Truffaut.[6][7]

She signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1948. She starred in Malaya (1949), a Second World War film about smuggling and guerrilla warfare against the Japanese with Spencer Tracy and James Stewart, Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (1949) with Richard Conte and Lee J. Cobb, The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) directed by Robert Wise and co-starring Richard Basehart and William Lundigan, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954), with Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner and Edmond O'Brien. In Europe she starred in Michelangelo Antonioni's Le Amiche (1955), Gérard Brach's The Boat on the Grass (1971), Terry Gilliam's British film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), and in Franco Zeffirelli projects such as the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), the miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977) and the film Sparrow (1993). Her final American film role was in When Time Ran Out (1980).[8]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  2. ^ Bergan, Ronald; Lane, John Francis (10 July 2019). "Valentina Cortese obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  3. ^ "È morta Valentina Cortese, la gran dama del cinema dal foulard perenne" by Debora Attanasio, Marie Claire, 10 July 2019 (in Italian)
  4. ^ Profile,; accessed 21 May 2015.
  5. ^ Addio Valentina Cortese, l'ultima diva
  6. ^ a b IMDb profile
  7. ^ Antonio Gnoli (18 May 2014). "Cortese: 'La mia avventura a Hollywood finì con un whisky in faccia al re della Fox' ". La Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  8. ^ Maurizio Porro (2 April 2012). "Cortese: i foulard, l'amore e la mia bimba mai nata". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 9 January 2020.