Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (1901), Vittorio De Sica began his career as a theatre actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova’s theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged plays by Beaumarchais and worked with famous directors like Luchino Visconti. His meeting with Cesare Zavattini was a very important event: together they created some of the most celebrated films of the neorealistic age, like Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Bicycle Thieves (released as The Bicycle Thief in America), both of which De Sica directed. De Sica appeared in the British television series The Four Just Men (1959). His passion for gambling was well known. Because of it, he often lost large sums of money and accepted work that might not otherwise have interested him. He never kept his gambling a secret from anyone; in fact, he projected it on characters in his own movies, like Count Max (which he acted in but did not direct) and The Gold of Naples, as well as in General Della Rovere, a film directed by Rossellini in which De Sica played the title role.
In 1937 Vittorio De Sica married the actress Giuditta Rissone, who gave birth to their daughter, Emi. In 1942, on the set of Un garibaldino al convento, he met Spanish actress Maria Mercader (sister of Ramon Mercader, Leon Trotsky’s assassin), with whom he started a relationship. After divorcing Rissone in France in 1954, he married Mercader in 1959 in Mexico, but this union was not considered valid under Italian law. In 1968 he obtained French citizenship and married Mercader in Paris. Meanwhile, he had already had two sons with her: Manuel, in 1949, a musician, and Christian, in 1951, who would follow his father’s path as an actor and director. Although divorced, De Sica never parted from his first family. He led a double family life, with double celebrations on holidays. It is said that, at Christmas and on New Year’s Eve, he used to put back the clocks by two hours in Mercader’s house so that he could make a toast at midnight with both families. His first wife agreed to keep up the facade of a marriage so as not to leave her daughter without a father. Vittorio De Sica died at 73 after a surgery at the Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital in Paris. He was a Roman Catholic.
- July, 07, 1901
- Sora, Lazio
- November, 13, 1974
- Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine
Cause of Death
- complications from surgery
- Cimitero Comunale Monumentale Campo Verano
- Rome, Italy