Vittorio De Sica (1901-1974) was one of the most important filmmakers in the history of Italian cinema. He seemed destined for a career in banking or politics, but became an actor while still in his teens. His good looks helped make him a matinee idol and he eventually starred in 166 films. In 1940, he turned to directing and quickly made his mark as one of the most important directors of the Italian neorealism movement. Neorealism was interested in real, everyday people and capturing the life of poverty-stricken Italy with gritty accuracy. Like other neorealist directors, he rejected the conventions of Hollywood and worked with inexperienced actors. He was especially gifted at this, and his skill in directing children in particular is notable. During much of his career, he worked closely with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, making his most famous films together. Towards the end of his career, he strayed away from neorealism, as many other important Italian filmmakers were doing. His most important and famous film was The Bicycle Thief (1948), and if you haven't seen it, you should.

De Sica directed 35 films. Some of the most important include:

The Children Are Watching Us 1942
Shoeshine 1946
Miracle in Milan 1950
Umberto D 1951
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 1963
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis 1971
A Brief Vacation 1974

Italian Film Director Pantheon:
Fellini Antonioni Rossellini
Moretti Visconti Pasolini

Vittorio De Sica, best remembered for his masterpiece of neorealism, The Bicycle Thieves is one of the most important and influential Italian film directors. The 1948 film was an international sensation and received a special Academy Award because at that time there was not yet a category for Foreign Films. Two years earlier, he had received this same award for Shoeshine, which was given the following citation:

The high quality of this motion picture, brought to eloquent life in a country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.

It is a little know fact that the Oscar category for Best Foreign Language Film was created mostly because of these two films.

Vittorio De Sica was born in Sora, Italy on July 7, 1901 and was raised in Naples. As a youth he worked as an office clerk to support his family, but became interested in film and acting more than advancing in business. He made his acting debut in 1918 in The Clemenceau Affair. He joined a Tatiana Pavlova’s theater troup in 1923 and by the end of the decade was one of Italy’s favorite matinee idols. His dashing good looks coupled with his acting talent made him very popular, especially amongst the female population.

He made his directing debut in 1940 and produced mostly light comedies until 1942’s The Children Are Watching Us, which showed an incredible depth of emotion and sensitivity unexpected and previously unexplored. It was also his first collaboration with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, with whom he would produce his greatest films, including The Bicycle Thieves.

In 1951, De Sica and Zavattini made Umberto D, a poignant and powerful study of old age. Although the film was critically acclaimed, it’s bleakness made it unpopular with audiences and was a financial disaster. De Sica returned to light comedies and many considered his career as a great film maker to be over. He also returned to working in front of the camera more than behind it and during his lifetime, he starred in over 150 films. He also received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the 1957 movie A Farewell to Arms

De Sica won two more Academy Awards for directing, one in 1963 for Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and another in 1971for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. He also directed Sophia Loren to her first Oscar in La Ciociara.

Vittorio De Sica died in 1974 from complications from surgery


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