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Alida Valli

Alida Valli
Valli in 1947
Born Baroness[1] Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg
(1921-05-31)31 May 1921
Pola, Istria, Kingdom of Italy[2]
Died 22 April 2006(2006-04-22) (aged 84)
Rome, Italy
Other names Valli
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1936 – 2002
Oscar de Mejo (1944–1952; divorced; 2 children)
Children Carlo De Mejo
Lorenzo "Larry" De Mejo

Alida Valli (31 May 1921 – 22 April 2006), sometimes simply credited as Valli, stage name of Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein u. Frauenberg, was an Italian actress who appeared in more than 100 films, including Mario Soldati's Piccolo mondo antico, Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido, Luchino Visconti's Senso, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 and Dario Argento's Suspiria.[3]


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Career 1.2
    • Name used in billing 1.3
    • Personal life 1.4
  • Death 2
  • Filmography 3
  • Television 4
  • Theatre 5
  • Radio appearances 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Early life

Valli was born in Pola, Istria, Italy (today Pula, Croatia; until 1918 it had formed part of Austria-Hungary). Her paternal grandfather was the Baron Luigi Altenburger (also: Altempurger), an Austrian-Italian from Trento, a descendant of the Counts d'Arco; her paternal grandmother was Elisa Tomasi from Trento, a cousin of the Roman senator Ettore Tolomei. Valli's mother, Silvia Oberecker della Martina, born in Pola, was the daughter of Felix Oberecker (also: Obrekar) from Laibach, Austria (now Ljubljana, Slovenia); her mother was Virginia della Martina from Pola, Istria (then part of Austria). Valli's maternal granduncle, Rodolfo, was a close friend of Gabriele d'Annunzio. Valli was christened Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg. During her lifetime she also gained the titles Dr.h.c. of the III. University of Rome, Chevalier of Arts of France and Cavaliere of the Italian Republic.


Alida Valli with Farley Granger, scene of the film Senso, 1954

At fifteen, she went to Rome, where she attended the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, a school for film actors and directors. At that time, she lived with her uncle Ettore Tolomei. Valli started her movie career in 1934, in Il cappello a tre punte (The Three Cornered Hat) during the so-called Telefoni Bianchi cinema era. Her first big success came with the movie Mille lire al mese (1939). After many roles in a large number of comedies, she earned her success as dramatic actress in Piccolo mondo antico (1941), directed by Mario Soldati, for which she won a special Best Actress award at Venice Film Festival. During the Second World War, she starred in many movies including Stasera niente di nuovo (1942) (whose song "Ma l'amore no" became the leitmotif of the Italian forties) and the diptych Noi Vivi / Addio Kira! (1943) (based on Ayn Rand's novel We the Living). These latter two movies were nearly censored by the Italian government under Benito Mussolini, but they were finally permitted because the novel upon which they were based was anti-Soviet. The films were successful, and the public easily realized that they were as much against Fascism as Communism. After several weeks, however, the films were pulled from theaters as the German and Italian governments, which abhorred communism, found out the story also carried an anti-fascist message.

By her early 20s already widely regarded as the "most beautiful woman in the World," Valli had a career in English language films through David Selznick, who signed her to a contract, thinking that he had found a second Ingrid Bergman. In Hollywood, she performed in several movies: she was the murder suspect Maddalena Paradine in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), and the mysterious Czech refugee wanted by the Russians in post-war Vienna in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949). But her foreign experience was not a great success, owing to the financial problems of Selznick's production company.

She returned to Farley Granger) of the occupying Austrian forces.

In 1956, Valli decided to stop making movies, concentrating instead on the stage. She was in charge of a company that produce Broadway plays in Italy.[4]

In 1959, she appeared in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. At the 54th Venice International Film Festival in 1997 Alida Valli obtained the Golden Lion award for her career.

Name used in billing

When Valli came to the United States, she was billed by only her last name "to make her sound even more exotic."[5] In 1951, she complained that she disliked the single-name reference. "I feel silly going around with only one name," she said. "People get me mixed up with Rudy Vallee."[5]

Personal life

Her teenage love, Carlo Cugnasca, a fighter pilot with the Regia Aeronautica, was posted as missing after failing to return from a mission over British-held Tobruk on 14 April 1941. Cugnasca had been a famous Italian aerobatic pilot before the war. He was confirmed to have been shot down and killed in action by Flight Lieutenant James Smith, an ace from No. 73 Squadron RAF. Smith died in action later that day.[6][7]

Valli's movie career suffered in 1953 from a scandal surrounding the death of Piero Piccioni (son of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs).[8]

Valli married Oscar de Mejo in 1943 and filed for divorce from him in 1949, but they reconciled.[9] She had two sons with him.[10]


Valli's death at her home on 22 April 2006 was announced by the office of the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, whose statement read, "The Italian cinema has lost one of its most intense and striking faces". Another official statement by the Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi read, "La scomparsa di Alida Valli è una grave perdita per il cinema, il teatro e la cultura italiana" ("The death of Alida Valli is a great loss for the cinema, the theatre and Italian culture"). Her body lay in state for two days on the Capitoline Hill. Afterwards her body was housed in a freezer in Milan for 6 months awaiting a place in Rome's popular Campo Verano cemetery. It was only after her son, Carlo De Mejo, wrote an open letter complaining of her treatment that she was able to be buried in the Campo Verano Cemetery.

The critic David Shipman wrote in his book The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, that on the basis of her best known films before 1950, she might seem to be "one of Hollywood's least successful continental imports", but a viewer of "any two or three of the films she has made since then ... will probably regard her as one of the half-dozen best actresses in the world".[11] The French critic Frédéric Mitterrand wrote: "[C]ette actrice fut la seule en Europe à égaler Marlène Dietrich ou Garbo" (This was the only actress in Europe to equal Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo).




Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1948 Lux Radio Theatre The Miracle of the Bells[12]


  1. ^ Freiin (German).
  2. ^ Now part of Croatia.
  3. ^ Adam Bernstein (2006-04-24). The Third Man' Actress Alida Valli, 84"'". Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  4. ^ "Alida Valli To Try Stage". The Decatur Herald. January 3, 1956. p. 12. Retrieved July 11, 2015 – via  
  5. ^ a b "Alida Valli Wants Her First Name Restored". Statesville Record And Landmark. January 22, 1951. p. 20. Retrieved July 11, 2015 – via  
  6. ^ Lyman, Robert. The Longest Siege: Tobruk- The Battle that Saved North Africa 2009, p. 152.
  7. ^ Giovanni Pesce. "Famiglia Pesce". 
  8. ^ "(photo caption)". The Times Record. March 22, 1954. p. 1. Retrieved July 11, 2015 – via  
  9. ^ Parsons, Louella O. (July 6, 1949). "Alida Valli Fails To Show Up In Court To Get Her Divorce". Lubbock Evening Journal. p. 18. Retrieved July 11, 2015 – via  
  10. ^ "Actress Has Son". Lubbock Morning Avalanche. March 2, 1950. p. 28. Retrieved July 11, 2015 – via  
  11. ^ David Shiopman The Great Movie Stars, London: Macdonald, 1989, p.586
  12. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest 35 (2): 32–39. Spring 2009. 

External links

  • Alida Valli webpage
  • film noir
  • Istria on the Internet, Prominent Istrians
  • Alida Valli at the Internet Movie Database
  • Alida Valli at the TCM Movie Database
  • Alida Valli at Reel Classics
  • Obituary in The Telegraph. April 24, 2006.
  • Obituary in The Guardian. April 24, 2006.
  • Obituary in New York Times. April 25, 2006.
  • André Soares (7 June 2006). "Alida Valli (1921–2006)". Alternative Film Guide. Retrieved 2007-03-09. 
  • "Alida Valli". Archived from the original on 9 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  • Photographs of Alida Valli
  • "Alida Valli".  
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