We The Italians | Italian entertainment: Alberto Sordi

Italian entertainment: Alberto Sordi

Italian entertainment: Alberto Sordi

  • WTI Magazine #128 Jun 20, 2020
  • 67

If you think about Rome, the magnificence of the glorious Coliseum, the magical atmosphere you can breathe on the banks of the Tiber river and the deliciousness of some typical culinary products, such as pizza and pasta come to your mind.

What about that famous picture of a man wearing a cap and eating with greed a huge dish of pasta, pronouncing one of the most famous jokes in the history of Italian cinema, which is actually in Roman dialect: “Maccarone, tu m’hai provocato, e io me te magno” (Maccarone, you provoked me and now I'm gonna eat you)...?

Well that man is one of the greatest Italian comedian actors of the 20th century and, this year on June 15, he would have turned 100. Alberto Sordi was considered one of the greatest interpreters of the Italian comedy, along with Vittorio Gassmann, Ugo Tognazzi and Nino Manfredi. He died in 2003 and he left the Italians (and not only) a filmography of nearly 200 movies. Alberto was also seen as the symbol of the “Romanity”, he was indeed born in one of the historical neighborhoods of the Eternal City, Trastevere, and he never abandoned his loved native city.

The above-mentioned scene, that has become famous throughout the entire world, was taken during the shooting of a renowned movie “Un americano a Roma”, which tells the story of an Italian guy whose myth is the United States and tries to conduct his life in an “American way”. The story takes place during the second Post-War period and it has an incredible comic vein, full of misunderstandings and fun jokes.

It must be said that Sordi did not start his working career as an actor, but indeed as a dubber. In 1939 he was no other than the voice of Oliver Hardy, the exceptional actor who interpreted Hardy in the famous comic duo. Then Alberto’s voice was recognizable in some great movies, among them “La vita è meravigliosa” of the renowned Italian American director Frank Capra and “Ladri di biciclette” of the Italian celebrated director Vittorio De Sica.

Nevertheless, Sordi had his first successes thanks to the radio between 1946 and 1953. During his participations in some radiophonic programs, he began to delineate, through his verbal acting, some typical characters that will later end up identifying him for the rest of his life.

He started building an important reputation as an actor in 1953, when he interpreted “Nando Moriconi”, a Roman long-winded guy, obsessed by the American dream, in “Un americano a Roma”. After this utmost interpretation, he was invited to Kansas City (comically cited several times during the movie) where he was received at the presence of the President of the United States of America Eisenhower and nominated honorary citizen and governor of the American Royal.

Afterwards his characters started to be considered as symbols of that period: the so-called “italiano medio” (average Italian) had a great success among the Italian people, especially with the advent of the Italian Comedy. Sordi masterfully performed this figure, usually a man from the middle-class, bully towards the weak and servile towards the powerful, always seeking for some privilege.

At the end of the ‘50s, his reputation improved thanks to some dramatic roles, for example in “La grande guerra” directed by Mario Monicelli, where he interpreted a lazy soldier who was finally led to die as a hero. For all the ‘60s, Alberto carried on this dramatic vein in several movies, until its best reached in “Un borghese piccolo piccolo” (1977), once again directed by Mario Monicelli, which has been considered by the critics the most intensive interpretation of the famous actor.

During the years, Sordi continued his career also as a director, directing 19 movies in total. But his fame as actor never declined, indeed it was confirmed by one of his last magnificent interpretation in “Il Marchese del Grillo”, by Mario Monicelli, in 1981.