13 February 2020

Adriana Benetti

Adriana Benetti (1919–2016) was an Italian actress, who peaked in the 1940s and 1950s. She made her film debut under Vittorio De Sica in Teresa Venerdi (1941). Benetti specialised in simple or naive characters.

Adriana Benetti
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1942. Photo: Bragaglia. Adriana Benetti in Teresa Venerdi (Vittorio De Sica, 1941).

Adriana Benetti
Italian postcard by B.F.F. (Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze) Editori, no. 43710. Photo: Bragaglia.

Mastery in melodramatics


Adriana Benetti was born in Quacchio, a town east of Ferrara, Italy, in 1919.

She graduated from the Istituto Magistrale at Ferrara, after which she moved to Rome where she was admitted to the film academy Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.

While attending her courses she was discovered by Vittorio De Sica, who directed her debut in 1941 with the role of protagonist in Teresa Venerdí/Doctor Beware (Vittorio De Sica, 1941). Benetti showed her mastery in the scene in which she tries to separate her favourite man, dr. Pietro Vignali (De Sica himself) from his spendthrift vaudeville girlfriend Loletta Prima (Anna Magnani), by giving it all the melodrama needed to chase the girlfriend.

Benetti's film career since then catapulted and peaked in the 1940s and early 1950s. She was directed by Alessandro Blasetti in his famous Quattro passi fra le nuvole/A Walk in the Clouds (1942), where she was first paired with Gino Cervi, and by Luigi Zampa in C'è sempre un ma!/There's always a but! (1942).

In 1942, she starred next to Andrea Checchi and Aldo Fabrizi in the comedy Avanti c'è posto/Before the Postman (Mario Bonnard, 1942), Fabrizi's first starring film. Alongside Massimo Serato and Vittorio Sanipoli, she played in Quartieri alti/In High Places (Mario Soldati, 1943-1944). The latter was started in May 1943 but interrupted after a few weeks because of the war, only to resume in June 1944 after the liberation of Rome.


Adriana Benetti
Italian postcard by A. Terzoli, Roma / Stabilimenti Angeli, Terni, no. 263. Photo: Bragaglia. Adriana Benetti in Teresa Venerdi (Vittorio De Sica, 1941).

Bikini scandal


After the war, Adriana Benetti took part in two musical films, becoming first the partner of Gino Bechi in Torna ... a Sorrento/Come Back to Sorrento (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1945), and then of opera singer Tito Gobbi in O sole mio/O my sun (Giacomo Gentilomo, 1945).

Later she acted with Fosco Giachetti in Il sole di Montecassino/Fear No Evil (G.M. Scotese, 1946), with Eduardo and Titina De Filippo in Uno tra la folla/One Between the Crowd (Ennio Cerlesi, 1946). She was also directed by Goffredo Alessandrini in Furia/Fury (1947), a film in which she once again starred alongside Cervi and in which Rossano Brazzi was present as well.

After that, she returned to the set with Fabrizi in Tombolo, paradiso nero/Tombolo (Giorgio Ferroni, 1947). In 1950 she was partner of Totò in 47 morto che parla/47 dead speaking (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1950). In France, she also acted in Les petites du quai aux fleurs/Rondini in volo (Marc Allégret, 1944), in which she was accompanied by Bernard Blier and Gérard Philipe, while French director André Cayatte co-directed her in the Italian film Manù il contrabbandiere/Manù the smuggler (Lucio De Caro, 1947).

Marcel L'Herbier and Paolo Moffa directed her in Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei/The Last Days of Pompeii (1950), with Micheline Presle and Georges Marchal. Benetti played Nidia. Unfortunately, in the original novel on which the film is based, Nidia is one of the central characters, but in this film she is killed off early in the film by the evil priest Arbax (Marcel Herrand). Benetti also acted in some Spanish and Argentinian films, such as I desperados della verde jungla (Hugo del Carril, 1952).

Benetti specialised in roles characterised by simplicity or naivety. She was called the "fidanzatina d'Italia" (Italy's little fiancee), a term that was coined to distinguish her from Assia Noris who was called the "fiancee". In the fifties, though, she gradually lost popularity, with the fading of the characteristics that distinguished her so much, playing e.g. the teacher in Le diciottenni/Eighteen Year Olds (Mario Mattoli, 1955), a remake of Ore 9: lezione di chimica/Schoolgirl Diary (Mario Mattoli, 1941).

She closed her film career with the role of the mature girlfriend in A vent'anni è sempre festa/At twenty it's always a party (Vittorio Duse, 1957). Precisely because of that aura of the eternal naive one, that so distinguished her and that had made her famous, she scandalised Italy in 1947 by posing in bikini for the illustrated weekly Tempo.

Adriana Benetti died in Rome in 2016, at the high age of 96 years.


The subtitled version of Teresa Venerdi (1941)> Source: Jules Dassin (YouTube).


Trailer for Quattro passi fra le nuvole (1942). Source: rileysfilm (YouTube).


Trailer for Quartieri alti (1943-1944). Source: Film&Clips (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia (Italian and English), and IMDb.

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