Alberto Sordi, the star of Italian comedy  

This year he would have been 103 years old, the legendary and unforgettable Alberto Sordi: actor, director, comedian, screenwriter, composer, voice actor and Italian singer, his image is still extremely vivid despite 20 years have passed since his death. 

Alberto Sordi has left an indelible mark not only in cinema, but in the entire Italian culture. What makes him timeless is his extraordinary career, marked by so many successes that it is almost impossible to mention them all. Thanks to his character, his artistic genius, his determination and his unflappable desire to engage in ever new roles. 

The birth and the beginnings 

Alberto Sordi was born in Rome on 15 June 1920 in the district of Trastevere. His father, Pietro Sordi, is a music teacher and instrumentalist, while his mother is an elementary school teacher. The last of four children, he dreamed of becoming a successful actor from an early age, playing in the first school performances with great ease.


His first experiences date back to the Thirties, when he began working as an extra at Cinecittà and as a voice actor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who commissioned him to give the voice to the legendary Oliver Hardy. His voice work continued until 1956, allowing him to “lend” his voice to well-known faces of the show such as Bruce Bennett and Anthony Quinn, Franco Fabrizi and Marcello Mastroianni. But not only that, because his unmistakable voice is also recognizable in “Life is wonderful” by Frank Capra and in “Bicycle Thieves” by Vittorio De Sica.  

In the world of cinema, Sordi literally enters on tiptoe: initially he plays minor roles in almost unknown films, while the success comes between 1953 and 1955 with his performance in “The Vitelloni” by Federico Fellini before and in “Piccola Posta” by Steno. But the favor from the general public comes with “Un giorno in pretura”, in which Sordi plays the role of Nando, a Roman boy extremely talkative and obsessed with the myth of America.  

The success was so great that the director decided to re-present the same character in the film “Un americano a Roma” and, later, in the episode “Il Fuoco” of the film “What sign are you?” by Sergio Corbucci.  

From this moment on, Sordi’s fame grew and, despite various controversies, thanks to the trust placed in him by Fellini, he became the giant that everyone remembers today with great affection.  

The Italian comedy and the role of the average Italian 

In the Fifties there was the advent of the Italian comedy, which brought on the stage characters with characteristics similar to those typical of the average Italian and in which Sordi played a leading role. Some of the characters he plays, in fact, have recurring peculiarities: they tend to be overbearing with the weak and assertive with the powerful and they do it to get some privileges in return.


The most important interpretations of the period include:  

  • Impallato, the elementary substitute teacher who, discovering a student prodigy in opera singing, tries to exploit it to have an economic and personal advantage in “Bravissimo”; 
  • Peppino, the junk dealer in “Fortunella”; 
  • the rival gondolier in love with Nino Manfredi in “Venice, the moon and you” by Dino Risi; 
  • the indebted husband in “The Widower”. 
  • His versatility is manifested in the role of a soldier forced to die as a hero in the 1960 film “The Great War” by Mario Monicelli, where Sordi ventures for the first time in a dramatic role. From here, the actor starts a series of interpretations of great importance, which mark the sixties as the most flourishing period of his career: 
  • Lieutenant Innocenzi of “Tutti a casa” by Luigi Comencini; 
  • the inflexible vigil forced to bend to the demands of the powerful on duty in “Il vigile” by Luigi Zampa; 
  • the journalist Silvio Magnozzi of “A difficult life” by Dino Risi; 
  • the small entrepreneur overwhelmed by debts willing to do anything to fill his finances and satisfy a wife too demanding in “The boom” of Vittorio De Sica; 
  • the young doctor willing to make any compromise to make a career in the diptych “The doctor of mutual” of Luigi Zampa; 
  • the publisher left in search of the brother-in-law dispersed in Africa in “Will our heroes manage to find the friend mysteriously disappeared in Africa?” by Ettore Scola. 
  • Source: mymovies
  • The success continued throughout the seventies with the interpretation of other characters who became part of the Italian film history: 
  • the surveyor imprisoned without cause during a holiday of “Detainee awaiting trial” of Nanni Loy; 
  • the light-hearted emigrant in “Beautiful, honest, emigrated Australia would marry fellow illiterate villager” of Luigi Zampa; 
  • the shack that once a year with his wife organizes endless games at cards in the luxurious villa of a rich and bizarre lady in “Lo scopone scientifico” by Luigi Comencini.

Through his characters, his inspiration and his formidable way of involving directors and spectators, Alberto Sordi has won 5 Nastri d’Argento, 7 David di Donatello and many other awards of great prestige, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 1995 Venice Film Festival.  


The last public appearances and death 

In 2001 Sordi became ill with lung cancer, which led him to appear less and less in public. One of the last television appearances is that of December 18, 2001 in the program of Bruno Vespa “Porta a Porta”, on the occasion of an episode entirely dedicated to him and his career.  

In 2002 he received two honorary degrees, one from the IULM in Milan and the other from the University of Salerno. 

The protagonist of the Italian comedy of the sixties died at the age of 82 on 24 February 2003. After two days in the Sala Giulio Cesare of Palazzo Senatorio al Campidoglio to allow friends, fans and relatives to pay him a last greeting, the solemn funeral takes place in the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano.  

His body rests in the family chapel in the monumental cemetery of the Verano in Rome, where it is possible to admire a parchment-shaped plaque bearing the famous phrase “Sor Marchese, è l’ora” taken from one of his most famous films, “Il marchese del Grillo”.

Copertina: liminarivista

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