Alida Valli

Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg (31 May 1921 – 22 April 2006), better known by her stage name Alida Valli (or simply Valli), was an Italian actress who appeared in more than 100 films, including Mario Soldati's Piccolo mondo antico, Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido, Luchino Visconti's Senso, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, Georges Franju's Les Yeux sans Visage, and Dario Argento's Suspiria.[1]

Alida Valli
Valli in 1947
Freiin Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg

(1921-05-31)31 May 1921
Died22 April 2006(2006-04-22) (aged 84)
Other namesValli
OccupationActress, Singer
Years active1936 – 2002
Oscar de Mejo
(m. 1944; div. 1952)

Giancarlo Zagni
(m. 196?; div. 1970)
Children2, including Carlo De Mejo


Early life

Valli was born in Pola, Istria, Italy (today Pula, Croatia; until 1918 it had formed part of Austria-Hungary). Her paternal grandfather was the Baron Luigi Altenburger (also: Altempurger), an Austrian-Italian from Trento, a descendant of the Counts d'Arco; her paternal grandmother was Elisa Tomasi from Trento, a cousin of the Roman senator Ettore Tolomei. Valli's mother, Silvia Oberecker della Martina, born in Pola, was the daughter of Felix Oberecker (also: Obrekar) from Laibach, Austria (now Ljubljana, Slovenia); her mother was Virginia della Martina from Pola, Istria (then part of Austria). Valli's maternal granduncle, Rodolfo, was a close friend of Gabriele D'Annunzio. Valli was christened Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg. During her lifetime she also gained the titles Dr.h.c. of the III. University of Rome, Chevalier of Arts of France and Cavaliere of the Italian Republic.


At fifteen, she went to Rome, where she attended the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, a school for film actors and directors. At that time, she lived with her uncle Ettore Tolomei. Valli started her movie career in 1934, in Il cappello a tre punte (The Three Cornered Hat) during the so-called Telefoni Bianchi cinema era. Her first big success came with the movie Mille lire al mese (1939). After many roles in a large number of comedies, she earned her success as dramatic actress in Piccolo mondo antico (1941), directed by Mario Soldati, for which she won a special Best Actress award at Venice Film Festival. During the Second World War, she starred in many movies, including Stasera niente di nuovo (1942) (whose song "Ma l'amore no" became the leitmotif of the Italian forties) and the diptych Noi Vivi / Addio Kira! (1943) (based on Ayn Rand's novel We the Living). These latter two movies were nearly censored by the Italian government under Benito Mussolini, but they were finally permitted because the novel upon which they were based was anti-Soviet. The films were successful, and the public easily realized that they were as much against Fascism as Communism. After several weeks, however, the films were pulled from theaters as the German and Italian governments, which abhorred communism, found out the story also carried an anti-fascist message.

By her early 20s already widely regarded as the "most beautiful woman in the World", Valli had a career in English-language films through David Selznick, who signed her to a contract, thinking that he had found a second Ingrid Bergman. In Hollywood, she performed in great successes and memorable movies, as Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece The Paradine Case (1947); with Frank Sinatra, in the first non-musical performance of the latter, The Miracle of the Bells (1948); alongside Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), regarded as one of the best movies ever made worldwide and the greatest British film of all time; and again with Cotten in Walk Softly, Stranger (1950). Through these and other movies she became a Hollywood star and gained international renown, often credited but with the cursive word Valli, which would become her characteristic 'wordmark' in America. However, as the actress couldn't stand the strict rules of Selznick, who, as it is widely known, used to impose total control on his actors, Valli managed to get her contract's rescission, though with the payment of a high penalty from her part.[2]

She returned to Europe in the early 1950s, and starred in many French and Italian films. In 1954, she had great success in the melodrama Senso, directed by Luchino Visconti. In that film, set in mid-19th-century Venice during the Risorgimento, she played a Venetian countess torn between nationalistic feelings and an adulterous love for an officer (played by Farley Granger) of the occupying Austrian forces.

In 1956, Valli decided to stop making movies, concentrating instead on the stage. She was in charge of a company that produced Broadway plays in Italy.[3]

In 1959, she appeared in Georges Franju's horror masterpiece Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face). From the 1960s, she worked in several pictures with famous directors, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini's Edipo re (Oedipus Rex), 1967; Bernardo Bertolucci's La strategia del ragno, 1972; Novecento, 1976, and Dario Argento's Suspiria, 1977. Her final movie role was in Semana Santa (2002), with Mira Sorvino. In Italy, she was also well known for her stage appearances in such plays as Ibsen's Rosmersholm; Pirandello's Henry IV; John Osborne's Epitaph for George Dillon; and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. At the 54th Venice International Film Festival in 1997 Alida Valli obtained the Golden Lion award for her career.

Name used in billing

When Valli went to the United States, she was billed by only her last name "to make her sound even more exotic."[4] In 1951, she complained that she disliked the single-name reference. "I feel silly going around with only one name," she said. "People get me mixed up with Rudy Vallée."[4]

Personal life

Her teenage love, Carlo Cugnasca, was a famous Italian aerobatic pilot. He served as a fighter pilot with the Regia Aeronautica and was killed during a mission over British-held Tobruk on 14 April 1941.[5][6]

Valli's movie career suffered in 1953 from a scandal surrounding the death of Wilma Montesi, whose body was found on a public beach near Ostia; prolonged investigations resulted, involving allegations of drug and sex orgies in Roman society. Among the accused – all of whom were acquitted, leaving the case unsolved – was Valli's lover, jazz musician Piero Piccioni (son of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs).[7]

Valli married Oscar de Mejo in 1943 and filed for divorce from him in 1949, but they reconciled.[8] They had two sons together before their marriage ended in divorce in 1952 and she returned to Italy.[9][10] She married Italian film director Giancarlo Zagni in the early 1960s, divorcing in 1970.[10]


Valli's death at her home on 22 April 2006 was announced by the office of the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni.

The critic David Shipman wrote in his book The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, that on the basis of her best known films before 1950, she might seem to be "one of Hollywood's least successful continental imports", but a viewer of "any two or three of the films she has made since then ... will probably regard her as one of the half-dozen best actresses in the world".[11] The French critic Frédéric Mitterrand wrote: "[She] was the only actress in Europe to equal Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo".



  • I Figli di Medea (1959) as Medea / Alida Valli
  • Il caso Mauritius (1961)
  • Doughboy (episode of Combat!, 1963) as Marie
  • Desencuentro (series, 1964)
  • Rome Will Never Leave You, three episodes of Dr. Kildare (1964) as Luisa Brabante
  • Il consigliere imperiale (1974)
  • Les grandes conjurations: Le tumulte d'Amboise (1978)
  • L'altro Simenon (series, 1979)
  • L'eredità della priora (serial, 1980) as Priora
  • Dramma d'amore (serial, 1983)
  • Piccolo mondo antico (serial, 1989) as La marchesa Maironi
  • Una vita in gioco 2 (serial, 1992)
  • Delitti privati (1992) as Matilde Pierboni


  • La casa dei Rosmer (1956) Henrik Ibsen (aka Rosmersholm)
  • L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù (1956), Luigi Pirandello
  • Gli innocenti (1956), William Archibald
  • Enrico IV (1958), Luigi Pirandello
  • Il sole e la luna (1965), Guglielmo Biraghi
  • Epitaffo per George Dillon (1966), John Osborne and Anthony Creighton (Epitaph for George Dillon)
  • Uno sguardo dal ponte (1967), Arthur Miller (A View from the Bridge)
  • La bambolona (1968), Raf Vallone
  • Il dio Kurt (1969), Alberto Moravia
  • I parenti terribili (1969), Jean Cocteau (Les parents terribles)
  • LSD-Lei, scusi, divorzierebbe? (1970), Carlo Maria Pensa
  • Uno sporco egoista (1971), Francois Dorin
  • Lulu (Lo spirito della terra – Il vaso di Pandora) (1972), Frank Wedekind (Lulu [Erdgeist-Die Büchse der Pandora])
  • Le massacre à Paris (1972), Christopher Marlowe (The Massacre at Paris)
  • Il Gabbiano (1973), Anton Cechov
  • L'uomo che incontrò de stesso (1981), Luigi Antonelli
  • La Venexiana (1981), Anonimo del Cinquecento
  • La fiaccola sotto il moggio (1981), Gabriele d'Annunzio
  • Ekaterina Ivanovna (1983), Leonid Andreev
  • Il malinteso (1984), Albert Camus (Le malentendu)
  • Romeo e Giulietta (1985), William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)
  • A porte chiuse, da Sartre a Mishima (1986), di Jean-Paul Sartre e Yukio Mishima (Huis clos – Aoi – Hanjo)
  • La città morta (1988), Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • La nave (1988), Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • I paraventi (1990), Jean Genet (Les paravents)
  • Improvvisamente l'estate scorsa (1991), Tennessee Williams (Suddenly Last Summer)
  • Più grandiose dimore (1993), Eugene O'Neill
  • Così è (se vi pare) (1994), Luigi Pirandello
  • Questa sera si recita a soggetto (1995), Luigi Pirandello

Radio appearances

1948Lux Radio TheatreThe Miracle of the Bells[12]

Lux Radio Theatre broadcast "The Paradine Case" in a radio adaptation of the film on 9 May 1949, starring Joseph Cotten, with Alida Valli and Louis Jourdan reprising their role


  1. Adam Bernstein (2006-04-24). "'The Third Man' Actress Alida Valli, 84". Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  2. Adele Cambria, «Alida mi raccontava il cinema come una favola»L'ultimo intimo sa luto all'attrice. Veltroni: volevamo organizzare una serata con i suoi film, ma se ne è andata prima Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine, L'Unità, 25 aprile 2006.
  3. "Alida Valli To Try Stage". The Decatur Herald. January 3, 1956. p. 12. Retrieved July 11, 2015 via
  4. "Alida Valli Wants Her First Name Restored". Statesville Record And Landmark. January 22, 1951. p. 20. Retrieved July 11, 2015 via
  5. Lyman, Robert. The Longest Siege: Tobruk- The Battle that Saved North Africa 2009, p. 152.
  6. Giovanni Pesce. "Famiglia Pesce".
  7. "(photo caption)". The Times Record. March 22, 1954. p. 1. Retrieved July 11, 2015 via
  8. Parsons, Louella O. (July 6, 1949). "Alida Valli Fails To Show Up In Court To Get Her Divorce". Lubbock Evening Journal. p. 18. Retrieved July 11, 2015 via
  9. "Actress Has Son". Lubbock Morning Avalanche. March 2, 1950. p. 28. Retrieved July 11, 2015 via
  10. Lane, John Francis (2006-04-26). "Alida Valli: Italian film star idolised by Mussolini and betrayed by Harry Lime". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  11. David Shiopman The Great Movie Stars, London: Macdonald, 1989, p.586
  12. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 35 (2): 32–39. Spring 2009.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.