28 June 2019

A Neapolitan at Cinecittà, Eduardo De Filippo the Filmmaker

We're in Bologna, Italy, and like every year, EFSP follows Cinema Ritrovato! This festival we like to discover the genius of Neapolitan actor-director Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1985) as filmmaker in Cinecittà. This towering, multifaceted figure of Italian culture was best known for his plays Filumena Marturano and Napoli Milionaria. He began to direct films in 1940. During the 1950s, he turned out a string of successful light comedies, many based on his own plays. In addition to writing and directing his own films, he also wrote or collaborated on films with such directors as Vittorio De Sica.

Eduardo De Filippo
Italian postcard.

Titina and Eduardo De Filippo
Italian postcard. Film scene with at left Titina de Filippo and right Eduardo De Filippo. In between them an unknown actress.

Eduardo De Filippo
Italian postcard.

I do not pay you!


Eduardo De Filippo was born in Naples, Italy in 1900. He was the illegitimate son of actor/playwright Eduardo Scarpetta and theatre seamstress/costumer Luisa De Filippo. His sister was actress Titina De Filippo and his brother was actor/writer Peppino De Filippo.

Eduardo began acting at the age of four or five, the sources differ. According to Italica, the website of Rai International, he made his debut in 1904 as a Japanese child in La geisha (The Geisha), written by his father. The next year, he was Peppiniello in his father's comedy Miseria e nobiltà (Poverty and Nobility).

In 1914 he joined the regular staff of his step-brother Eduardo Scarpetta's theatre company, where he stayed until 1920 when he was called up for military service. In 1922, on completing his military service, he resumed his acting career in the theatre.

Like his father, he also started to write for the stage. Among his early plays are Farmacia di turno (The All-night Chemist, 1920), Uomo e galantuomo (Man and Gentleman, 1922), Requie a l'anema soja/I morti non fanno paura (May his soul rest, 1926) and Filosoficamente (Philosophically, 1928).

In the early 1930s, he wrote Ogni anno punto e da capo (Every Year Back from the Start, 1931), È arrivato 'o trentuno (The 31st is Here, 1931), Natale in casa Cupiello (Christmas at the Cupiello's, 1931) and La voce del padrone/Il successo del giorno (Success of the Day, 1932).

In 1932 he formed a theatre company with his brother Peppino and sister Titina, called Compagnia del Teatro Umoristico I De Filippo.

From 1933 they also appeared in films. In the French-Italian comedy Tre uomini in frack/Three Lucky Fools (Mario Bonnard, 1933), Eduardo co-starred with opera tenor Tito Schipa and French actor Fred Pasquali.

It was followed by Il cappello a tre punte/Three Cornered Hat (Mario Camerini, 1934) and Quei due/These two (Gennaro Righelli, 1935). He started to directed the comedies he starred in, like In campagna è caduta una stella/In the Country Fell a Star (Eduardo De Filippo, 1939).

With Titina and Peppino De Filippo, he played in the comedy Non ti pago!/I do not pay you! (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1942), which he also co-wrote. The trio enjoyed success in both mediums, but broke up soon after World War II ended.

Eduardo De Filippo
Italian postcard. Photo: publicity still of Casanova farebbe così/Casanova Would Do It That Way! (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1942) with Peppino and Eduardo De Filippo and in between them Clelia Matania.

Eduardo De Filippo and Toto
Italian postcard. Eduardo De Filippo and Totò in one of their many comedies.

Titina, Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo
Italian postcard. Photo of Titina, Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo.

Life Begins Anew


Eduardo De Filippo founded the Compagnia di Eduardo, which in 1946 staged Questi fantasmi (Ghosts - Italian Style), followed by the hugely successful Filumena Marturano, which was to become the most famous role of his sister Titina.

Other plays were Napoli milionaria (The Millions of Naples, 1945), Le voci di dentro (Inner Voices, 1948), Mia famiglia (Family of Mine, 1955) and Sabato, domenica e lunedì (Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 1959).

In the cinema, he appeared with Alida Valli and Fosco Giachetti in the drama La vita ricomincia/Life Begins Anew (Mario Mattoli. 1945). It was the second most popular Italian film of the year after Roberto Rossellini's Paisan.

He also appeared in dramas like Assunta Spina/Scarred (Mario Mattoli, 1948) starring Anna Magnani, but De Filippo is better known for his comedies like Napoli milionaria/The Millions of Naples (Eduardo De Filippo, 1950) based on his own play, Filumena Marturano (Eduardo De Filippo, 1951) featuring Titina and the anthology film L'oro di Napoli/The Gold of Naples (Vittorio De Sica, 1954). In a segment with Tina Pica he played ‘professor’ Ersilio Micci, a ‘wisdom seller’ solving problems.

In 1964, Filomena Maurano was filmed again as Matrimonio all'italiana/Marriage Italian Style (Vittorio De Sica, 1964) starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

One of De Filippo’s most successful films as a director was Fortunella/Happy-go-lucky Girl (Eduardo De Filippo, 1958) featuring Giulietta Massina. Other interesting films are L'amore più bello/The Most Beautiful Love (Glauco Pellegrini, 1958) with Alida Valli and child star Edoardo Nevola, the war drama Tutti a casa/ Everybody Go Home (Luigi Comencini, 1960) with Alberto Sordi, and the fantasy Fantasmi a Roma/Ghosts of Rome (Antonio Pietrangeli, 1961) starring Marcello Mastroianni.

Later he mostly appeared on television. In 1973 his play Sabato, domenica e lunedì (Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 1959), was put on at the Old Vic theatre in London. The production directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Laurence Olivier, won the London drama critics' award.

In 1981, Eduardo De Filippo was appointed life senator of the Italian Republic. He died four years later in Rome at the age of 84.

His last screen appearance was in the TV mini-series Cuore/Heart (Luigi Comencini, 1984) with Johnny Dorelli.

De Filippo was married three or maybe four times: to Vanna Polverosi (?), Dorothy Pennington (1928-1956), Thea Prandi (1956-1959), with whom he had two children, and to Isabella Quarantotti (1977-1984). His artistic legacy has been carried over by his son, Luca De Filippo.

His plays are often used for TV films, such as Filumena Marturano (Franza Di Rosa, 2010) featuring Mariangela Melato and Sabato, domenica e lunedì/Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Franza Di Rosa, 2012) with Massimo Ranieri.

Peppino De Filippo
Peppino De Filippo. Italian postcard in the series Gli Artisti di Napoli.

Eduardo De Filippo
Italian postcard in the series Gli Artisti di Napoli.

Eduardo De Filippo in Traviata '53 (1953)
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 969. Photo: ENIC. Eduardo De Filippo in Traviata '53 (Vittorio Cottafavi, 1953).

Sources: Gianluca Toscano (IMDb), Italica, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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