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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Walter Chiari
Walter Chiari.jpg
Chiari in 1964
Walter Annicchiarico

(1924-03-08)8 March 1924
Verona, Kingdom of Italy
Died20 December 1991(1991-12-20) (aged 67)
Milan, Italy
Years active1946–1991

Walter Annicchiarico (8 March 1924 – 20 December 1991), known as Walter Chiari [ˈvalter ˈkjaːri], was an Italian stage and screen actor, mostly in comedy roles.


Walter Annicchiarico was born in Verona, Italy on 8 March 1924 to a family originally from Apulia. During World War II he joined the Decima Flottiglia MAS, created by the Fascist regime, and then the Wehrmacht. Chiari achieved a certain degree of international success in films such as The Little Hut (1957), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), Chimes at Midnight (1966), and The Valachi Papers (1972). He appeared opposite Anna Magnani in Luchino Visconti's film Bellissima (1951).

In the late 1950s and 1960s he was one of the main protagonists of the "Dolce Vita", the glitzy and glamorous Italian jet-set scene, centred in Rome and especially focused on the booming cinema industry with which he was so at ease.

In 1951 Luchino Visconti offered him the role of the young lover, in Bellissima; he continued in the theater, in the musical comedy with Delia Scala in 1956 with Buonanotte Bettina and in 1958 with Il gufo e la gattina, and in 1960 with Sandra Mondaini, Ave Ninchi and Alberto Bonucci with Un mandarino per Teo, all by Garinei and Giovannini, but also in the prose theater, acting in 1965 with Gianrico Tedeschi in the comedy Luv by Murray Schisgal and, in 1966, with Renato Rascel in La strana coppia by Neil Simon.

During the making of The Little Hut he met Ava Gardner (still formally married to Frank Sinatra but already estranged from him), and he started a passionate and tumultuous relationship with the American superstar.

Unlike many Italian actors of the time he had a full and fluent command of English that he put to good use in his Broadway spell, which in 1961 saw him performing in The Gay Life (a musical comedy inspired by a Schnitzler piece) for 113 shows.

Chiari and wife Alida Chelli (1969)
Chiari and wife Alida Chelli (1969)

He starred in They're a Weird Mob (1966), the last of the Powell and Pressburger films, based on a popular Australian novel by John O'Grady. His then girlfriend, Italian singer and actress Alida Chelli, also appeared in the film; the two married in 1969, and had one son, television presenter Simone Annicchiarico, before their 1972 divorce. He also appeared in the Australian film Squeeze a Flower in 1970.

In 1970 he was arrested and jailed in Rome on suspicion of cocaine possession and trafficking, with 70 days passing before he was bailed. Despite being known in show business as a cocaine user, Chiari enjoyed for years the de facto impunity often accorded to members of his trade (provided he kept his addiction private). The willingness of authorities to prosecute him, mounting a nationwide scandal, was seen by some as an attempt to distract public opinion from the fruitless search for the culprits of the Piazza Fontana bombing, which had gripped Italy with fear.

After his release and partial acquittal (he was deemed not guilty of the trafficking count and received a lenient sentence for the charge of drug possession for personal use) his career never recovered. The Italian state television was off-limits for him, and all he could aspire to were bit parts in low-key comedies and local television appearances, such as on Antenna 3 Lombardia. He concentrated on theatre as a way of stopping the downward spiral and, whilst never regaining his former fame, he gave some brilliant performances in plays such as Sheridan's The Critic, Marc Terrier's Six heures plus tard and Beckett's Endgame.

Chiari died of a sudden heart attack in Milan, at home, on 21 December 1991. On that same day he had undergone a complete and positive medical check-up. Not showing up at a dinner with a theatre manager where he would have discussed his involvement in a new production, he was found by his host (who reached the residence where he was living at the time) sitting in an armchair, in front of a functioning television.

His gravestone bears the line he once mentioned to director Dino Risi as his favourite choice for an epitaph: "Don't worry, I'm merely catching up with sleep". His grave is in the Civico Mausoleo Palanti in the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano.[1]



  1. ^ "Walter Chiari", Mediane Books.
  2. ^ "Jerry Ferraro".
  3. ^ "Jerry Ferraro".

External links

This page was last edited on 4 September 2022, at 12:34
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