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Antonio De Curtis
15 February 1898
|Died||15 April 1967 69) (aged|
|Other names||Principe della risata|
|Occupation||comic actor, poet, writer, singer, songwriter|
Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno Porfirogenito Gagliardi De Curtis di Bisanzio (15 February 1898 – 15 April 1967), best known by his stage name Totò [toˈtɔ] ) or simply as Antonio De Curtis, and nicknamed il Principe della risata ("the Prince of laughter"), is commonly referred to as the most popular Italian comedian of all time. He was a film and stage actor as well as a writer, singer and songwriter. He is best known for his funny and sometimes cynical character as a comedian in theatre and then in many successful films shot from the 1940s to the 1960s, all regularly still on TV, but he also worked with many iconic Italian film directors in dramatic/poetic roles.(Italian pronunciation:
While he first gained his popularity as a comic actor, his dramatic roles, poetry, and songs are all deemed to be outstanding; his style and a number of his recurring jokes and gestures have become universally known memes in Italy.Writer and philosopher Umberto Eco has thus commented on the importance of Totò in Italian culture:
A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.
Umberto Eco was an Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician, and university professor. He is widely known for his 1980 novel Il nome della rosa, a historical mystery combining semiotics in fiction with biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory. He later wrote other novels, including Il pendolo di Foucault and L'isola del giorno prima. His novel Il cimitero di Praga, released in 2010, topped the bestseller charts in Italy.
"[...] in this globalized world where it seems that everyone sees the same movies and eats the same food, there are still unbridgeable divisions between cultures. How can two peoples ever come to understand each other when one of them is ignorant of Totò?"
Mario Monicelli, who directed some of the most appreciated of Totò's movies, thus described his artistic value:
Mario Monicelli was an Italian director and screenwriter and one of the masters of the Commedia all'Italiana. He was nominated six times for an Oscar.
With Totò, we got it all wrong. He was a genius, not just a grandiose actor. And we constrained him, reduced him, forced him into a common human being, and thus clipped his wings.
Totò was born Antonio Clemente on 15 February 1898 in the Rione Sanità, a poor district of Naples, the illegitimate son of Anna Clemente (1881–1947), a Sicilian woman, and the Neapolitan marquis Giuseppe De Curtis (1873–1944). His father did not legally recognize him until 1937. He so regretted growing up without a father that, at age 35, he managed to have the marquis Francesco Maria Gagliardi Focas adopt him in exchange for a life annuity. As a consequence, when Marquis de Curtis recognized him, Totò had become an heir of two noble families, hence claiming an impressive slew of titles.
Rione Sanità is a neighbourhood in Naples, part of the Stella quarter. It is located north of Naples' historical centre, adjacent to the Capodimonte hill.
Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.
A life annuity is an annuity, or series of payments at fixed intervals, paid while the purchaser is alive. A life annuity is an insurance product typically sold or issued by life insurance companies. Life annuities may be sold in exchange for the immediate payment of a lump sum or a series of regular payments, prior to the onset of the annuity.
In 1946, when the Consulta Araldica — the body that advised the Kingdom of Italy on matters of nobility—ceased operations, the Tribunal of Naples recognized his numerous titles, so his complete name was changed from Antonio Clemente to Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Ducas Komnenos Gagliardi de Curtis of Byzantium, His Imperial Highness, Palatine Count, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Exarch of Ravenna, Duke of Macedonia and Illyria, Prince of Constantinople, Cilicia, Thessaly, Pontus, Moldavia, Dardania, Peloponnesus, Count of Cyprus and Epirus, Count and Duke of Drivasto and Durazzo . For someone born and raised in one of the poorest Neapolitan neighbourhoods, this must have been quite an achievement, but in claiming the titles (at the time they had become meaningless) the comedian also mocked them for their intrinsic worthlessness. In fact, when he was not using his stage name Totò, he mostly referred to himself simply as Antonio De Curtis.
Totò's mother wanted him to become a priest, but as early as 1913, at the age of 15, he was already acting as a comedian in small theatres, under the pseudonym Clerment. His early repertoire mostly consisted in imitations of Gustavo De Marco's characters.In the minor venues where he performed, Totò had the chance to meet famous artists like Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo. He served in the army during World War I and then went back to acting. He learned the art of the guitti , the Neapolitan scriptless comedians, heirs to the tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte, and began developing the trademarks of his style, including a puppet-like, disjointed gesticulation, emphasized facial expressions, and an extreme, sometimes surrealistic, sense of humor, largely based on emphasizing primitive urges such as hunger and sexual desire.
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In 1922, he moved to Rome to perform in bigger theatres. He performed in the genre of avanspettacolo , a vaudevillian mixture of music, ballet and comedy preceding the main act (hence its name, which roughly translates as "before show"). He became adept at these shows (also known as rivista – Revue ), and in the 1930s he had his own company, with which he travelled across Italy. In 1937, he appeared in his first movie Fermo con le mani , and later starred in 96 other films, many of which still are broadcast frequently on Italian television.[ citation needed ]
As the vast majority of his movies were essentially meant to showcase his performances, many have his name "Totò" in the title. Some of his best-known films are Fifa e Arena , Totò al Giro d'Italia , Totò Sceicco , Guardie e ladri , Totò e le donne , Totò Tarzan , Totò terzo uomo , Totò a colori (the first Italian color movie, 1952, in Ferraniacolor), I soliti ignoti , Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina , La legge è legge . Pierpaolo Pasolini's The Hawks and the Sparrows and the episode "Che cosa sono le nuvole" from Capriccio all'italiana (the latter released after his death), showed his dramatic skills.
In his vast cinematographic career, Totò had the opportunity to act side by side with virtually all major Italian actors of the time. With some of them he paired in several films, the most renowned and successful teams being established with Aldo Fabrizi and Peppino De Filippo. De Filippo was one of the few actors to have his name appear in movie titles along with that of Totò, for example in Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina and Totò e Peppino divisi a Berlino .
Partly because of the radical, naive immorality of his roles, some of his more spicy gags raised much controversy in a society that was both strictly Catholic and ruled by the conservative Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy) party. For example, Totò's 1964 movie Che fine ha fatto Totò Baby? ("What ever happened to Totò Baby?", a parody of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ) included a cheeky and gross celebration of cannabis in an era when drugs were perceived by the Italian audience as something as exotic as depraved and dangerous. Nevertheless, such controversies never affected the love of the Italian audience for him.
During the 1950s, he started to compose poetry. The best-known is probably 'A Livella, in which an arrogant rich man and a humble poor man meet after their deaths and discuss their differences. Totò was also a songwriter: Malafemmena (Wayward Woman), dedicated to his wife Diana after they separated, is considered a classic of the Neapolitan popular music.
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Totò had a reputation as a playboy. One of his lovers, the well known chanteuse and dancer Liliana Castagnola, committed suicide after their relationship ended. This tragedy marked his life. He buried Liliana in his family's chapel, and named his only daughter Liliana (born 10 May 1933 to his first wife, Diana Bandini Rogliani, whom he married in 1935).
Another personal tragedy was the premature birth of his son Massenzio in 1954. The child died a few hours later. He was the son of Totò's mistress Franca Faldini. During a tour in 1956, he lost most of his eyesight due to an eye infection that he had ignored to avoid cancelling his show and disappointing his fans. The handicap however almost never affected his schedule and acting abilities.
Totò died at the age of 69 on 15 April 1967 in Rome after a series of heart attacks. Due to overwhelming demand, there were no fewer than three funeral services: the first in Rome, a second in his birth city of Naples—and a few days later, in a third one by the local Camorra boss, an empty casket was carried along the packed streets of the popular Rione Sanità quarter where he was born.
Totò starred in 97 films:
Saturnino "Nino" Manfredi was one of the most prominent Italian actors in the commedia all'italiana genre. He was also a film and stage director, a screenwriter, a playwright, a comedian, a singer, an author, a radio and television presenter and a voice actor. During his career he won several awards, including six David di Donatello awards, six Nastro d'Argento awards and the Prix de la première oeuvre at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival for Between Miracles. Typically playing losers, marginalised, working-class characters yet "in possession of their dignity, morality, and underlying optimism", he was referred to as "one of the few truly complete actors in Italian cinema".
Eduardo De Filippo, also known simply as Eduardo was an Italian actor, playwright, screenwriter, author and poet, best known for his Neapolitan works Filumena Marturano and Napoli Milionaria. Considered as one of the most important italian artists of 20th century was author of many theatrical dramas put on play and directed by himself first and later awarded and played outside Italy. For his artistic merits and contribution to the culture was nominee senatore a vita by Italian Presidente della Repubblica Sandro Pertini.
Peppino De Filippo was an Italian actor.
Aldo Giuffrè was an Italian film actor and comedian who appeared in over 90 films between 1948 and 2001. He was born in Naples and was the brother of actor Carlo Giuffrè.
Enzo Petito was an Italian film and stage character actor. A theatre actor under Eduardo De Filippo in the 1950s in the Teatro San Ferdinando of Naples, with whom he was professionally closely associated, Petito also appeared in several of his films, often co-starring Eduardo or/and brother, Peppino De Filippo, brothers who are considered to be amongst the greatest Italian actors of the 20th century. Petito played minor roles in some memorable commedia all'Italiana movies directed by the likes of Dino Risi and Mario Monicelli in the late 1950s and early 1960s, often appearing alongside actors such as Nino Manfredi, Alberto Sordi, Peppino De Filippo, Anna Maria Ferrero, and Totò.
Aldo Fabrizi was an Italian actor, director, screenwriter and comedian, best known in United Kingdom for the role of the heroic priest in Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City and as partner of Totò in a number of successful comedies.
Franco Interlenghi was an Italian actor.
Alessandro Cicognini was an Italian film music composer.
Dante Maggio was an Italian film actor. He appeared in 115 films between 1940 and 1975.
Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy is an Italian comedy film directed by Camillo Mastrocinque in 1956. It stars the comedy duo of Totò and Peppino De Filippo. The film also stars the popular singer Teddy Reno, and features Reno singing some of his songs as well as Malafemmena, Totò's most famous work as a songwriter.
"Malafemmena" is a song written by the Neapolitan actor Totò in 1951. It has become one of the most popular Italian songs, a classic of the Canzone Napoletana genre, and has been recorded by many artists.
Mario Castellani was an Italian comic actor, best known as the sidekick of famous comic actor Antonio De Curtis (Totò). He appeared with the latter in all his major movies, as well as many of Totò's theatre productions.
Totò Diabolicus is a 1962 Italian black comedy film directed by Steno. The film consists in a parody of Italian noir comic books and giallo, and in it Totò plays six different characters.
Arrangiatevi!, internationally released as You're on Your Own, is a 1959 Italian comedy film directed by Mauro Bolognini.
Totò e Peppino divisi a Berlino, internationally released as Toto and Peppino Divided in Berlin, is a 1962 Italian comedy film directed by Giorgio Bianchi.
Totò, Peppino e...la dolce vita is a 1961 Italian comedy film directed by Sergio Corbucci.
Who Hesitates Is Lost is a 1960 Italian comedy film directed by Sergio Corbucci. The title is based on a slogan of Benito Mussolini's regime.
La cambiale is a 1959 Italian comedy film directed by Camillo Mastrocinque.
Toto, Peppino and the Outlaws is a 1956 Italian comedy film directed by Camillo Mastrocinque.
What Ever Happened to Baby Toto? is a 1964 Italian black comedy film written and directed by Ottavio Alessi. It is a parody of Robert Aldrich's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.