|Died||10 July 2019 (aged 96)|
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
|Other names||Valentina Cortesa|
Valentina Cortese (1 January 1923 – 10 July 2019), sometimes credited as Valentina Cortesa, was an Italian film and theatre actress. In her 50 years spanning career, she appeared in films of Italian and international directors like Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Franco Zeffirelli, François Truffaut, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and others.
Cortese was born in Milan to a single mother and raised in the countryside, before being sent to Turin to live with her maternal grandparents in 1930. After meeting conductor Victor de Sabata, then married with children and 31 years her senior, she quit high school and followed him to Rome, where she enrolled at (and later graduated from) the National Academy of Dramatic Arts (Accademia d'arte drammatica). She first appeared on stage before receiving a contract at Scalera Film in 1941 and giving her film debut with a small role in L'orizzonte dipinto.
Cortese's first important film roles were in Roma Città Libera (1946), Les Misérables and The Wandering Jew (both 1948). 1948 also saw the end of her relationship with de Sabata. Her appearance in the British production The Glass Mountain (1949) led to numerous roles in international productions, including Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (1949), opted by her then-partner Dassin over the originally cast Shelley Winters, and Robert Wise's The House on Telegraph Hill (1951). In 1951, she married her The House on Telegraph Hill co-star Richard Basehart, with whom she returned to Italy. Cortese continued to appear in national and international productions; the most notable of this era include Joseph Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Le Amiche (1955). For the latter, she received the Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1960, Cortese and Basehart divorced, and Basehart returned to the US, leaving in her custody their only child, Jackie. In the following years, she worked for directors as diverse as Mario Bava (The Girl Who Knew Too Much, 1963), Bernhard Wicki (The Visit, 1964), Federico Fellini (Juliet of the Spirits, 1965), Robert Aldrich (The Legend of Lylah Clare, 1968) and Joseph Losey (The Assassination of Trotsky, 1972). For her performance in François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973) she received the BAFTA Award, the National Society of Film Critics Award and the New York Film Critics Circle Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award.
While her later films were mostly of lesser artistic interest, Cortese was continuously successful on stage, working with Giorgio Strehler, with whom she had a long lasting relationship, Franco Zeffirelli, Luchino Visconti and Patrice Chéreau. In 1980, she married industrialist Carlo De Angeli. Her last film was Zeffirelli's 1993 Sparrow.
Cortese died on 10 July 2019, aged 96. In 2017, Francesco Patierno documented her life in the film Diva!, based on her 2012 autobiography Quanti sono i domani passati ("How many tomorrows have gone by").