Vittorio De Sica

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

Vittorio De Sica
De Sica in 1959
Born(1901-07-07)7 July 1901
Died13 November 1974(1974-11-13) (aged 73)
OccupationDirector, actor
Years active1917–1974

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 cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.[2]

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.[3]

Life and career

Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (1901), he 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.

His meeting with 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.

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

Private life

His passion for gambling was well known. 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, as well as in General Della Rovere, a film directed by Rossellini in which De Sica played the title role.

In 1937 Vittorio De Sica married the actress Giuditta Rissone, who gave birth to their daughter, Emi. In 1942, on the set of Un garibaldino al convento, he met Spanish actress Maria Mercader (sister 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.

He was a Roman Catholic.[4] 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 a surgery due to lung cancer at the Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital in Paris.

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 scarlatteN/ACo-director1940
Maddalena, zero in condottaMaddalena, Zero for Conduct1940
Teresa VenerdìDo You Like Women, Doctor Beware1941
Un garibaldino al conventoA Garibaldian in the Convent1942
I bambini ci guardanoThe Children Are Watching Us, The Little Martyr1944
La porta del cieloThe Gate of Heaven1945
SciusciàShoeshineAcademy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Original Screenplay (Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci & Cesare Zavattini)1946
CuoreHeart, Heart and SoulCo-director1948
Ladri di bicicletteBicycle Thieves, The Bicycle ThiefAcademy Award-winner (Special Award); Academy Award nominee, Best Writing-Screenplay (Cesare Zavattini)1948
Miracolo a MilanoMiracle in Milan1951
Umberto D.N/AAcademy Award nominee, Best Writing-Story (Cesare Zavattini)1952
Villa BorgheseIt Happened in the ParkCo-director1953
Stazione TerminiTerminal Station, Station Terminus, Indiscretion of an American Wife1953
L'oro di NapoliThe Gold of Naples1954
Il TettoThe Roof1956
Anna di BrooklynAnna of Brooklyn, Fast and SexyCo-director1958
La CiociaraTwo WomenAcademy Award-winner, Best Actress (Sophia Loren)1960
Il Giudizio universaleThe Last Judgment1961
I sequestrati di AltonaThe Condemned of Altona1962
Boccaccio '70N/AShort film – segment La riffa1962
Il BoomN/A1963
Ieri, oggi e domaniYesterday, Today and TomorrowAcademy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film[8]1963
Matrimonio all'italianaMarriage Italian-StyleAcademy Award-nominee, Best Foreign Film,[9] Best Actress (Sophia Loren)1964
Un monde nouveauA New World1966
Caccia alla volpeAfter the Fox1966
Sette Volte DonnaWoman Times Seven1967
Le stregheThe WitchesShort film – segment Sera come le altre, Una1967
AmantiA Place for Lovers1968
I GirasoliSunflower1970
Il Giardino dei Finzi-ContiniThe Garden of the Finzi-ContinisAcademy Award-winner, Best Foreign Film[10]1970
Le CoppieThe CouplesShort film – segment Il Leone1970
Dal referendum alla costituzione: Il 2 giugnoFrom Referendum to the Constitution: 2 JuneDocumentary1971
I Cavalieri di MaltaThe Knights of MaltaDocumentary1971
Lo chiameremo AndreaWe'll Call Him Andrea1972
Una Breve vacanzaA Brief Vacation1973
Il viaggioThe Voyage1974

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. "TCM's 15 most influential films of all time, and 10 from me". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  3. "A Farewell To Arms - TV Guide".
  4. "Famous Catholics".
  5. " Awards for Anna di Brooklyn". Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  6. "4th Moscow International Film Festival (1965)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  7. "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  8. "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  9. "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  10. "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 27 November 2011.
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