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Vittorio De Sica
Il generale Della Rovere (1959) Vittorio De Sica (cropped).png
De Sica in General Della Rovere (1959)
Born(1901-07-07)7 July 1901
Died13 November 1974(1974-11-13) (aged 73)
Occupation(s)Film director, actor
Years active1917–1974
  • (m. 1937; div. 1954)
  • (m. 1968)

Vittorio De Sica (/də ˈskə/ SEE-kə, Italian: [vitˈtɔːrjo de ˈsiːka]; 7 July 1901 – 13 November 1974) was an Italian film director and actor, a leading figure in the neorealist movement.

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 (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.[1] Bicycle Thieves was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine's poll of filmmakers and critics in 1958,[2] and was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.[3]

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.[4]

Life and career

De Sica at the end of the 20's
De Sica at the end of the 20's

He was born on 7 July 1901 in Sora, Lazio, the son of Neapolitan parents.[5] His father was an officer of the Bank of Italy, and was transferred from Naples to Sora, Italy.[6] De Sica began his career as a theatre actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova's theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged plays by Beaumarchais and worked with famous directors like Luchino Visconti.[7]

His meeting with the screenwriter Cesare Zavattini was a very important event: together they created some of the most celebrated films of the neorealistic age, like Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Bicycle Thieves (released as The Bicycle Thief in America), both of which De Sica directed.[8]

De Sica appeared in the British television series The Four Just Men (1959).[9]

Personal life

His passion for gambling was well known and because of it, he often lost large sums of money and accepted work that might not otherwise have interested him. He never kept his gambling a secret from anyone; in fact, he projected it on characters in his own movies, like Count Max (which he acted in but did not direct) and The Gold of Naples,[9] as well as in General Della Rovere, a film directed by Rossellini in which De Sica played the title role.[10]

In 1937 Vittorio De Sica married the actress Giuditta Rissone, who gave birth to their daughter, Emilia (Emi). In 1942, on the set of Un garibaldino al convento, he met Spanish actress María Mercader (cousin of Ramon Mercader, Leon Trotsky's assassin), with whom he started a relationship. After divorcing Rissone in France in 1954, he married Mercader in 1959 in Mexico, but this union was not considered valid under Italian law. In 1968 he obtained French citizenship and married Mercader in Paris. Meanwhile, he had already had two sons with her: Manuel, in 1949, a musician, and Christian, in 1951, who would follow his father's path as an actor and director.[11]

He was a Roman Catholic[12] and a communist.[13][14] Although divorced, De Sica never parted from his first family. He led a double family life, with double celebrations on holidays. It is said that, at Christmas and on New Year's Eve, he used to put back the clocks by two hours in Mercader's house so that he could make a toast at midnight with both families. His first wife agreed to keep up the facade of a marriage so as not to leave her daughter without a father.

Vittorio De Sica died at 73 after surgery due to lung cancer at the Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital in Paris.[15]

Awards and nominations

Vittorio De Sica was given the Interfilm Grand Prix in 1971 by the Berlin International Film Festival.


Filmography as director

Italian title English title Notes Released
Rose scarlatte Co-director 1940
Maddalena, zero in condotta Maddalena, Zero for Conduct 1940
Teresa Venerdì Do You Like Women, Doctor Beware 1941
Un garibaldino al convento A Garibaldian in the Convent 1942
I bambini ci guardano The Children Are Watching Us, The Little Martyr 1944
La porta del cielo The Gate of Heaven 1945
Sciuscià Shoeshine Academy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Original Screenplay (Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci & Cesare Zavattini) 1946
Cuore Heart, Heart and Soul Co-director 1948
Ladri di biciclette Bicycle Thieves, The Bicycle Thief Academy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Writing-Screenplay (Cesare Zavattini) 1948
Miracolo a Milano Miracle in Milan 1951
Umberto D. Academy Award nominee, Best Writing-Story (Cesare Zavattini) 1952
Stazione Termini Terminal Station, Station Terminus, Indiscretion of an American Wife 1953
L'oro di Napoli The Gold of Naples 1954
Il Tetto The Roof 1956
Anna di Brooklyn Anna of Brooklyn, Fast and Sexy Co-director 1958
La Ciociara Two Women Academy Award-winner, Best Actress (Sophia Loren) 1960
Il Giudizio universale The Last Judgment 1961
I sequestrati di Altona The Condemned of Altona 1962
Boccaccio '70 Short film – segment La riffa 1962
Il Boom 1963
Ieri, oggi e domani Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Academy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film[19] 1963
Matrimonio all'italiana Marriage Italian-Style Academy Award-nominee, Best Foreign Film,[20] Best Actress (Sophia Loren) 1964
Un monde nouveau A New World 1966
Caccia alla volpe After the Fox 1966
Sette Volte Donna Woman Times Seven 1967
Le streghe The Witches Short film – segment Una sera come le altre 1967
Amanti A Place for Lovers 1968
I Girasoli Sunflower 1970
Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini The Garden of the Finzi-Continis Academy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film[21] 1970
Le Coppie The Couples Short film – segment Il Leone 1970
Dal referendum alla costituzione: Il 2 giugno From Referendum to the Constitution: 2 June Documentary 1971
I Cavalieri di Malta The Knights of Malta Documentary 1971
Lo chiameremo Andrea We'll Call Him Andrea 1972
Una breve vacanza A Brief Vacation 1973
Il viaggio The Voyage 1974

Filmography as actor

Note: on many sources, Fontana di Trevi by Carlo Campogalliani (1960) and La bonne soupe by Robert Thomas (1964) are included but de Sica does not appear in those films.

Television appearances as actor


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves (1949)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (19 March 1999). "The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves (1949) review". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger. "TCM's 15 most influential films of all time, and 10 from me". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  4. ^ "A Farewell To Arms - TV Guide". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  5. ^ Lambiase, Sergio (20 February 2013). "Foto e lettere inedite di De Sica, il ciociaro cosmopolita che voleva essere napoletano". Corriere del Mezzogiorno (in Italian). Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  6. ^ "De Siza - Actor Director". Continental Film Review. July 1965. p. 14. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  7. ^ Cardullo 2002, p. 29.
  8. ^ Cardullo 2002, pp. 128, 164.
  9. ^ a b Curle & Snyder 2000, p. 12.
  10. ^ Bondanella, Peter (1993). The Films of Roberto Rossellini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-521-39236-5.
  11. ^ Cardullo 2002, p. 3.
  12. ^ "Famous Catholics". www.adherents.com. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ Ariela Bankier (22 April 2010). "All About My Father". Haaretz. Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 26 June 2021. "They were both communists, both Cesare and De Sica," his son says.
  14. ^ Gino Moliterno (2000). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture. Routledge. p. 409. ISBN 9780415145848.
  15. ^ Kaufman, Michael T. (14 November 1974). "Vittorio De Sica, 73, Dies; Neorealist Movie Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  16. ^ "IMDB.com: Awards for Anna di Brooklyn". imdb.com. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  17. ^ "4th Moscow International Film Festival (1965)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  18. ^ "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  19. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  20. ^ "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  21. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 27 November 2011.

Further reading