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09 August 2012

Nino Manfredi

Italian actor Nino Manfredi (1921 - 2004) was one of the most prominent stars in the commedia all'italiana genre. He was equally adept at drama and comedy, and also had success as a film director and screenwriter.

 Nino Manfredi
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 1643. Photo G.B. Poletto / Titanus. Publicity still for the film Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (1960, Nanni Loy).

A Hairdresser in Love
Nino Manfredi was born Saturnino Manfredi in Castro dei Volsci, Italy in 1921. He studied law and later took acting lessons at the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica in Rome. He made his stage debut in the theatre company of Vittorio Gassman  and Evi Maltagliati. There he played mainly dramatic roles. He made a name for himself in the world of Italian show business as a radio and music hall performer in the World War II years. In 1948 he made his film debut in the short film Tenori per forza/Contents necessarily. In 1949 he played for the Piccolo Teatro in Milan and Rome under Giorgio Strehler, in such tragedies as Romeo and Juliet and The Storm. In 1952-1952 he collaborated with Eduardo De Filippo, along with Paolo Panelli and Bice Valori. During the 1950’s, he mainly played small parts in the cinema and also worked as a voice actor. He dubbed the voice of Gérard Philipe in Italy. He got a bigger role as a hairdresser in love with his colleague in Gli innamorati/The Lovers (1955, Mauro Bolognini) starring Antonella Lualdi and Franco Interlenghi. The film was presented at Cannes and is still well known. In 1959, Manfredi finally had his first important lead role in the satire L’impiegato/The employee (1959, Gianni Puccini) with Eleonora Rossi Drago, for which he also wrote the scenario.

Eleonora Rossi Drago
Eleonora Rossi Drago. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, nr. 624. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Mistaken for an Influential Fascist
In the early 1960’s, Nino Manfredi definitively established himself both on stage and in the cinema. In 1962, he played the eponymous character in the stage musical Rugantino. In the cinema he had his breakthrough with the role of the inept thief in A cavallo della tigre/Jail Break (1961, Luigi Comencini) and Gli Anni ruggenti/Roaring Years (1962, Luigi Zampa) as a junior office employee, who is mistaken for an influential fascist. He had his real breakthrough as the endearing Geppetto in the film/mini-series Le Avventure di Pinocchio/The Adventures of Pinocchio (1972, Luigi Comencini) with Gina Lollobrigida. Until the late 1970’s, he was involved in a number of Italian-French co-productions and became a popular comedy star of the Italian cinema. Manfredi worked several times together with director Ettore Scola on such films as Pane e cioccolata/Bread and Chocolate (1974, Ettore Scola) with Johnny Dorelli, and C'eravamo tanto amati/We All Loved Each Other So Much (1975, Ettore Scola) with Vittorio Gassman and Stefania Sandrelli. His internationally best known character is probably the one-eyed patriarch Giacinto Mazzatella in Brutti, sporchi e cattivi/Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976, Ettore Scola), who lives with four generations of his relatives cramped together in a shack, managing to get by mainly on thieving and whoring. His grotesque film characters, also including a church dignitary in In nome del Papa Re/In the Name of the Pope King (1977, Luigi Magni), the pompous Trafficone in La Mazzetta/The Payoff (1978, Sergio Corbucci) and the illegal coffee representative Café Express (1980, Nanni Loy) won him a wide audience.

Nino Manfredi
Russian postcard, no. 757, 1990. Retail price: 8 K.

Embodying The Commedia All’Italiana
Nino Manfredi also frequently appeared in TV shows, branched out into film directing and even composed songs for the soundtrack of one of his films. His first film directorial effort was one of the four episodes of L'amore difficile/Erotica (1962, Alberto Bonucci, Luciano Lucignani, Nino Manfredi, Sergio Sollima). His feature debut, the commedia all’italiana Per Grazia Ricevuta/Between Miracles (1971) won the Best First Film award at Cannes. His next film Nudo di donna (1981, Nino Manfredi, Alberto Lattuada) incurred only moderate success. In the 1980’s, he reduced his work in film and television in favor of more frequent live performances. He continued appearing in films and on television into old age. His later films include Colpo di luna/Moon Shadow (1995, Alberto Simone) with Tchéky Karyo, the Dutch production De vliegende Hollander/The Flying Dutchman (1995, Jos Stelling), Grazie di tutto/Thanks for everything (1999) directed by his son, writer-director Luca Manfredi, and the Spanish film La luz prodigiosa/The End of a Mystery (2003, Miguel Hermoso). Nino Manfredi also published a collection of Roman phrases and a cookbook. In 2004 he died in Rome at the age of 83. Since 1955 he had been married to former model Erminia Ferrari Manfredi and they had three children: Luca, Giovanna and Roberta. Manfredi also had a daughter, Tonina (1985), from a relationship with a Bulgarian woman. Nino Manfredi was the last survivor of a generation of great Italian actors who had embodied the commedia all’italiana: Ugo Tognazzi, Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi. With him disappeared a fine quintet of satiric, talented, loud and seductive comedians.


Trailer for Brutti, sporchi e cattivi/Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976). Source: IlFilmografo (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia (French, German and English), and IMDb.

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