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Alida Valli
Valli in 1947
Alida Maria Laura, Freiin Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg

(1921-05-31)31 May 1921
Pola, Kingdom of Italy (now Croatia)
Died22 April 2006(2006-04-22) (aged 84)
Rome, Italy
Other namesValli
Occupation(s)Actress, Singer
Years active1936–2002
Oscar de Mejo
(m. 1944; div. 1952)

Giancarlo Zagni
(m. 196?; div. 1970)
Children2, including Carlo De Mejo

Alida Maria Laura, Freiin Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg (31 May 1921 – 22 April 2006), better known by her stage name Alida Valli (or simply Valli), was an Italian actress who appeared in more than 100 films in a 70-year career, spanning from the 1930s to the early 2000s. She was one of the biggest stars of Italian film during the Fascist era, once being called "the most beautiful woman in the world" by Benito Mussolini, and was internationally successful post-World War II.[1][2] According to Frédéric Mitterrand, Valli was the only actress in Europe to equal Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo.

Valli worked with many significant directors both in Italy and abroad, including Alfred Hitchcock (The Paradine Case; 1947), Carol Reed (The Third Man; 1949), Luchino Visconti (Senso; 1954), Michelangelo Antonioni (Il Grido; 1957), Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face; 1960), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Oedipus Rex; 1967), Mario Bava (Lisa and the Devil; 1972), Bernardo Bertolucci (1900, 1976; La Luna; 1979), and Dario Argento (Suspiria; 1977). Within her lifetime, Valli was invested a Knight of the Italian Republic, and received the Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Film Festival for her contributions to cinema.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • The Paradine Case (1947) Hitchcock Film Noir Starring Gregory Peck
  • Alida Valli
  • The Killer Nun 1979 Revisited


Early life

Valli was born in Pola, Istria, Italy (today Pula, Croatia; until 1918 part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before then under Venitian rule). She was of Austrian, Slovenian and Italian descent, although "she was never considered to be anything other than Italian."[3] 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 a "culturally sophisticated" housewife of half-Slovene and half-Italian descent.[4][3] Valli's mother was the daughter of Felix Oberecker (also: Obrekar) from Laibach, Austria (now Ljubljana, Slovenia) and 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 multi-lingual. She grew up speaking Slovene, Italian, and German and was also fluent in Serbo-Croatian, French, and English.[citation needed] In European films with international casts she would routinely film her dialogue in the language of the actors opposite her and dub herself (usually in Italian) for the soundtrack.

Valli was christened Freiin Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg. During her lifetime she also gained the titles Dr.h.c. of the III. University of Rome, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France and Knight of the Italian Republic.


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

Intellectually gifted, at fifteen Valli travelled to Rome, where she attended the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the oldest school for film actors and directors in Western Europe and still one of the most prestigious. 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 a dramatic actress in Piccolo mondo antico (1941), directed by Mario Soldati, for which she won a special Best Actress award at the 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 theatres as the German and Italian governments, which abhorred communism, found out the story also carried an anti-fascist message.

Frank Sinatra and Valli, circa 1940s

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 a contract, thinking that he had found a second Ingrid Bergman. In Hollywood, she performed in great successes and memorable movies, in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947) with Gregory Peck; with Fred MacMurray and Frank Sinatra (in his first non-musical performance), in The Miracle of the Bells (1948); alongside Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), regarded as one of the best movies ever made worldwide and the British Film Institute selection as the greatest British film of all time; and again with Cotten in Walk Softly, Stranger (1950). Through these and other films, she gained international renown, often credited with the cursive word Valli, which would become her characteristic 'wordmark' in America "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 Vallée."[5] The actress could not tolerate the strict rules of Selznick, who imposed total control on his actors, and managed to gain her contract's rescission, though with the payment of a high penalty.[6]

She returned to Europe in the early 1950s and starred in many French and Italian films. In 1954, she had great success in the melodrama Senso, directed by Luchino Visconti. In that film, set in mid-19th-century Venice during the Risorgimento, she played a Venetian countess torn between patriotic ideals and an adulterous love for an officer (played by 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 produced Broadway plays in Italy.[7]

She appeared in Georges Franju's horror film Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans visage, 1959) (Eyes Without a Face, 1959) with Pierre Brasseur. From the 1960s, she worked in several pictures with prominent directors, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini's Edipo re (Oedipus Rex), 1967; Bernardo Bertolucci's La strategia del ragno, 1972; Novecento, 1976, and Dario Argento's Suspiria, 1977. Her final movie role was in Semana Santa (2002), with Mira Sorvino. In Italy, she was also well known for her stage appearances in such plays as Ibsen's Rosmersholm; Pirandello's Henry IV; John Osborne's Epitaph for George Dillon; and 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.

Personal life

Oscar de Mejo and Valli

Her teenage love, Carlo Cugnasca, was a famous Italian aerobatic pilot. He served as a fighter pilot with the Regia Aeronautica and was killed during a mission over British-held Tobruk on 14 April 1941.[8][9]

Valli married Oscar de Mejo in 1943 and filed for divorce from him in 1949, but they reconciled.[10] They had two sons together before their marriage ended in divorce in 1952 and she returned to Italy.[11][12] She married Italian film director Giancarlo Zagni in the early 1960s, divorcing in 1970.[12]

Valli's movie career suffered in 1953 from a scandal surrounding the death of Wilma Montesi, whose body was found on a public beach near Ostia. Prolonged investigations resulted, involving allegations of drug and sex orgies in Roman society. Among the accused – all of whom were acquitted, leaving the case unsolved – was Valli's lover, jazz musician Piero Piccioni (son of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs).[13]


Valli's death at her home on 22 April 2006 was announced by the office of the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni.

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".[14] The French critic Frédéric Mitterrand wrote: "[She] was the only actress in Europe to equal Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo".



Year Title Role Notes
1935 The Three-Cornered Hat Uncredited
1936 The Two Sergeants Una commessa dell'emporio 'Au Bon Marché' as Alida Altenburger
1937 It Was I! Lauretta
The Ferocious Saladin Dora Florida / La bella Sulamita
1938 A Lady Did It Maria Sardo
L'amor mio non muore! Maria D'Alba
The House of Shame La ragazza
1939 A Thousand Lire a Month Magda
Unjustified Absence Vera Fabbri
The Castle Ball Greta Larsen
1940 Manon Lescaut Manon Lescaut
Red Tavern Susanna Sormani
The Last Enemy A friend of Anna
Beyond Love Vanina Vanini
The First Woman Who Passes Gabrielle de Vervins
1941 Piccolo mondo antico Luisa Rigey Maironi
Light in the Darkness Marina Ferri
Schoolgirl Diary Anna Campolmi
The Secret Lover Renata Croci
1942 We the Living Kira Argounova
Invisible Chains Elena Silvagni
The Two Orphans Enrichetta
Addio Kira Kira Argounova
Nothing New Tonight Maria
1943 Laugh, Pagliacci Giulia
I'll Always Love You Adriana
Apparition Andreina
1944 The Za-Bum Circus segments "Gelosia", "Il postino" and "Galop finale al circo"
1945 Il canto della vita Patrizia Martini
Life Begins Anew Giovanna
1946 Eugenia Grandet Eugenia Grandet
1947 The Paradine Case Maddalena Anna Paradine
1948 The Miracle of the Bells Olga
1949 The Third Man Anna Schmidt
1950 The White Tower Carla Alton
Walk Softly, Stranger Elaine Corelli
1951 Miracles Only Happen Once Claudia
Last Meeting Lina Castelli
1953 Lovers of Toledo Doña Inés de Arévalo Blas
The World Condemns Them Renata Giustini
We, the Women Alida Segment: "Alida Valli"
1954 The Stranger's Hand Roberta Gleukovitch
Senso La contessa Livia Serpieri
1957 Il Grido Irma
This Angry Age Claude
The Wide Blue Road Rosetta
1958 The Night Heaven Fell Florentine
L'amore più bello Carolina
1959 Signé Arsène Lupin Aurélia Valéano
1960 Treno di Natale
Eyes Without a Face Louise
Dialogue with the Carmelites Mère Thérèse de Saint-Augustin
The Gigolo Agathe
Il peccato degli anni verdi Elena's mother
1961 The Long Absence Thérèse Langlois
The Happy Thieves Duchess Blanca
La fille du torrent Livia Boissière
1962 Disorder Carlo's Mother
Al otro lado de la ciudad
Homage at Siesta Time Constance Fischer
1963 A la salida
Ophelia Claudia Lesurf
The Castilian Reina Teresa
The Paper Man La Italiana
Una cara para escapar
1964 L'Autre Femme Annabel
1965 Black Humor The Widow segment: "La vedova"
1967 Edipo re Merope
1970 The Mushroom Linda Benson
La strategia del ragno Draifa
1972 Eye in the Labyrinth Gerda
La prima notte di quiete Marcella Abati - Vanina's mother
1973 Lisa and the Devil Countess
Diario di un italiano Olga
1974 Lola Louise
Tender Dracula Héloïse
The Antichrist Irene
1975 La Chair de l'orchidée La folle de la gare
Cher Victor Anne
Il caso Raoul Elsa
1976 Novecento Signora Pioppi
Le jeu du solitaire Germaine
The Cassandra Crossing Nanny
1977 Suspiria Miss Tanner
Un cuore semplice Mrs. Obin
Berlinguer, I Love You Mrs. Cioni
1978 Porco mondo Teresina
The Perfect Crime Lady Clementine De Revere
1979 Zoo zéro Yvonne, la mère
Killer Nun Mother Superior
La luna Giuseppe's Mother
Licanthropus, il figlio della notte
1980 Inferno Carol, the caretaker
Aquella casa en las afueras Isabel
Puppenspiel mit toten Augen
1981 Peacetime in Paris
The Fall of the Rebel Angels Bettina
1982 Aspern Juliana Bartes
Sogni mostruosamente proibiti Marina's mother
1985 Secrets Secrets Gina
1987 Le jupon rouge Bacha
1988 À notre regrettable époux Catarina
1991 La bocca Countess Bianca Rospigliosi
The Party's Over Clara
1993 The Long Silence Carla's Mother
Bugie rosse Caterina, Andrea's mother
1995 A Month by the Lake Signora Fascioli
1996 Fotogrammi mortali Countess Alessandra Mirafiori
1999 Il dolce rumore della vita Sofia's grandmother
2000 Vino santo Sveva
2001 Probably Love Alida Valli
2002 Semana santa Doña Catalina Final film role


  • I Figli di Medea (1959) as Medea / Alida Valli
  • Il caso Mauritius (1961)
  • Combat! as Marie (Episode: "Doughboy", 1963)
  • Desencuentro (series, 1964)
  • Rome Will Never Leave You, three episodes of Dr. Kildare (1964) as Luisa Brabante
  • Il consigliere imperiale (1974)
  • Les grandes conjurations: Le tumulte d'Amboise (1978)
  • L'altro Simenon (series, 1979)
  • L'eredità della priora (serial, 1980) as Priora
  • Dramma d'amore (serial, 1983)
  • Piccolo mondo antico (serial, 1989) as La marchesa Maironi
  • Una vita in gioco 2 (serial, 1992)
  • Delitti privati (1992) as Matilde Pierboni


  • La casa dei Rosmer (1956) Henrik Ibsen (aka Rosmersholm)
  • L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù (1956), Luigi Pirandello
  • Gli innocenti (1956), William Archibald
  • Enrico IV (1958), Luigi Pirandello
  • Il sole e la luna (1965), Guglielmo Biraghi
  • Epitaffo per George Dillon (1966), John Osborne and Anthony Creighton (Epitaph for George Dillon)
  • Uno sguardo dal ponte (1967), Arthur Miller (A View from the Bridge)
  • La bambolona (1968), Raf Vallone
  • Il dio Kurt (1969), Alberto Moravia
  • I parenti terribili (1969), Jean Cocteau (Les parents terribles)
  • LSD-Lei, scusi, divorzierebbe? (1970), Carlo Maria Pensa
  • Uno sporco egoista (1971), Francois Dorin
  • Lulu (Lo spirito della terra – Il vaso di Pandora) (1972), Frank Wedekind (Lulu [Erdgeist-Die Büchse der Pandora])
  • Le massacre à Paris (1972), Christopher Marlowe (The Massacre at Paris)
  • Il Gabbiano (1973), Anton Cechov
  • L'uomo che incontrò de stesso (1981), Luigi Antonelli
  • La Venexiana (1981), Anonimo del Cinquecento
  • La fiaccola sotto il moggio (1981), Gabriele d'Annunzio
  • Ekaterina Ivanovna (1983), Leonid Andreev
  • Il malinteso (1984), Albert Camus (Le malentendu)
  • Romeo e Giulietta (1985), William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)
  • A porte chiuse, da Sartre a Mishima (1986), di Jean-Paul Sartre e Yukio Mishima (Huis clos – Aoi – Hanjo)
  • La città morta (1988), Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • La nave (1988), Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • I paraventi (1990), Jean Genet (Les paravents)
  • Improvvisamente l'estate scorsa (1991), Tennessee Williams (Suddenly Last Summer)
  • Più grandiose dimore (1993), Eugene O'Neill
  • Così è (se vi pare) (1994), Luigi Pirandello
  • Questa sera si recita a soggetto (1995), Luigi Pirandello

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1948 Lux Radio Theatre The Miracle of the Bells[15]

Lux Radio Theatre broadcast "The Paradine Case" in a radio adaptation of the film on 9 May 1949, starring Joseph Cotten, with Alida Valli and Louis Jourdan reprising their roles.


  1. ^ Bernstein, Adam (24 April 2006). "'The Third Man' Actress Alida Valli, 84". Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  2. ^ "VALLI, Alida in "Enciclopedia del Cinema"". (in Italian). Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b Gundle, Stephen (2013). Mussolini's Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy. Berghahn Books. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-782-38245-4.
  4. ^ Spoto, Donald (2012). Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies. Random House. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-448-16601-5.
  5. ^ a b "Alida Valli Wants Her First Name Restored". Statesville Record and Landmark. Statesville Record And Landmark. 22 January 1951. p. 20. Retrieved 11 July 2015 – via Open access icon
  6. ^ Adele Cambria, «Alida mi raccontava il cinema come una favola»L'ultimo intimo saluto all'attrice. Veltroni: volevamo organizzare una serata con i suoi film, ma se ne è andata prima Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, L'Unità, 25 April 2006.
  7. ^ "Alida Valli To Try Stage". Herald and Review. The Decatur Herald. 3 January 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 11 July 2015 – via Open access icon
  8. ^ Lyman, Robert. The Longest Siege: Tobruk- The Battle that Saved North Africa 2009, p. 152.
  9. ^ Pesce, Giovanni (2009). "Famiglia Pesce".
  10. ^ Parsons, Louella O. (6 July 1949). "Alida Valli Fails To Show Up In Court To Get Her Divorce". Lubbock Evening Journal. Lubbock Evening Journal. p. 18. Retrieved 11 July 2015 – via Open access icon
  11. ^ "Actress Has Son". Lubbock Morning Avalanche. Lubbock Morning Avalanche. 2 March 1950. p. 28. Retrieved 11 July 2015 – via Open access icon
  12. ^ a b Lane, John Francis (26 April 2006). "Alida Valli: Italian film star idolised by Mussolini and betrayed by Harry Lime". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  13. ^ "(photo caption)". The Times Record. The Times Record. 22 March 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 11 July 2015 – via Open access icon
  14. ^ David Shiopman The Great Movie Stars, London: Macdonald, 1989, p. 586[ISBN missing]
  15. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 35 (2): 32–39. Spring 2009.

External links

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