Italian comedy

The Italian comedy ( Italian  :  Commedia all’italiana ) is a genre born in Italy in 1950 and 1960 .


In line with the Commedia dell’arte , the art of comedy is one of the basic features of the Italian show. Very soon, the cinema will follow in its footsteps and it will be all the easier as it will be a reaction to neorealism which, in the post-war, takes a more than serious look at the society of the time: supposed defects, excess, abuse, rendering is black and dramatic.
A first phase of evolution of neorealism will consist in cheering up a little bit this rendering: it will be the so-called era of pink neorealismwhere, while continuing to film dramatic and distressing situations, the directors will add “happy ends”, less pessimistic purposes. The Italian reality of the post-war period will therefore benefit from a humorous, often ironic reading.
The initiators of this first trend will be Luigi Zampa with his films Living in Peace (Vivere in pace) in 1947 and The Difficult Years (Anni difficili) in 1948 and Renato Castellani who directed My son’s teacher (Mio figlio professore) in 1946 and Deux under hope(Due soldi di speranza) in 1952 awarded the Grand Prize at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival .


The actors

Like any comic cinema, the Italian comedy will have for base and essential engine the actors . In the late 1940s and early 1950s , theater and then Italian comic cinema saw the emergence of a character who would become the emblematic actor of Italian comedy: Totò slipped into the role of a miserable Italian, in the face of unemployment and petty crime, laughable but aspiring to dignity. Somewhat misplaced, in his early days, in films of very average quality, he will become a cult actor of comedy.
There will also be family De Filippo, the children of Eduardo Scarpetta whose comedies written late xix th  centuryand early xx th  century will be taken in 1950 , Titina born in 1898 , Eduardo was born in 1900 and Peppino born in 1903 , all three on the boards, and more in the comic genre since 1933 .
And then, here is Alberto Sordi who will play the role of a “middle Italian” cowardly, profligate, indolent and pull-flank.
There will also be Vittorio Gassman , the matamore, flirty, liar, crook and “big mouth”.
Vittorio De Sica, which we sometimes forget the acting skills in favor of his remarkable achievements, will also be in the game just like Aldo Fabrizi and Marcello Mastroianni , equally at ease, one like the other, in serious roles or funny roles.
Let’s not forget either Gino Cervi as communist mayor and Fernandel as Don Camillo who will also compete in this comic explosion.
Actresses, who are not exclusively “labeled” comic, will have an almost natural ability to adapt to gender. Both Gina Lollobrigida and Silvana Pampanini , Carla Gravina and Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren that Virna Lisi will make a significant contribution. Not to mention Anna Maria Ferrero , Delia Scala , Lea Padovani , Eleonora Rossi Drago …

The writers

It is necessary, of course, by way of “fuel”, subjects that “rotate” these engines. The writers will naturally be the suppliers.
Sergio Amidei , a pure product of neorealism , the author of Rome, open city , Sciuscià , Paisà , will become a master of pink neorealism .
Rodolfo Sonego will be, in a way, “the scriptwriter of Sordi  “.
Ruggero Maccari will see his writings mainly served in the 1950s by Totò , Peppino De Filippo , Alberto Sordi ,Aldo Fabrizi .
The Age-Scarpelli tandem will begin, during this period, thirty-five years of collaboration. Suso Cecchi d’Amico , with the previous tandem, will give us, among other things, the ineffable Pigeon (I soliti ignoti) in 1958 . The creation of stable tandems of screenwriters is one of the original characteristics of Italian comedy cinema: Leo Benvenuti and Piero De Bernardi , Ruggero Maccari and Ettore Scola .
Ettore Scola begins his film career as a screenwriter, at first in the comic genre, but also in the genremusical comedy . He will be the author, among others, of the American in Rome (Un americano a Roma) of Steno in 1954 and the Single (Lo scapolo) of Pietrangeli in 1955 .

The directors and their films

Actors, subjects … still need directors! This is not going to be missing … and they will be great!

  • Let us point out a brief appearance, in 1950 , of Eduardo De Filippo behind the camera for Naple millionaire (Napoli milionaria) with Totò and his sister Titina .
  • Mario Monicelli will “set the bar” Totò’s career from 1949 with Totò looking for an apartment (Totò cerca casa) and then with Gendarmes and robbers (Guardie e ladri) in 1951 co-directed with Steno or Totò and Caroline (Totò e Carolina) in 1955 . He will then play Alberto Sordi in A hero of our time (An eroe dei nostri tempi) in 1955 and The doctor and the sorcerer (Il medico e lo stregone) in 1957, then sign a masterpiece with Vittorio Gassman in The Pigeon (I soliti ignoti) in 1958 .
  • First screenwriter and co-director with Mario Monicelli from 1949 to 1952 , Steno will regale us with An American in Rome (Un americano a Roma) in 1954 with Sordi or Nero’s Weekends (Mio figlio Nerone) in 1956 with Sordi and De Sica .
  • Luciano Emmer , a very “user” of Marcello Mastroianni who also knows how to slip into heroic roles, will perform Sunday of August (Domenica d’agosto) in 1950 , Paris is still Paris (Parigi és sempre Parigi) in 1951 , Les Fiancees of Rome (The ragazze di piazza di Spagna) in 1952 and especially Bigame (Il bigamo) in 1956 .
  • Vittorio De Sica , the wonderful “key to everything”, will offer us in 1951 , Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano) in the style pink neorealism and will continue in this vein with It Happened in the Park (Villa Borghese) in 1953 , The Gold of Naples (L’oro di Napoli) in 1954 and Anna of Brooklyn (Anna di Brooklyn) in 1958 .
  • Luigi Comencini will direct Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida in Bread, Love and Fantasy (Pane, amore e fantasia) in 1953 and Bread, Love and Jealousy (Pane, amore e gelosia) in 1954 , then Sordi and Pampanini in La Belle de Rome (The bella di Roma) in 1955 .
  • Antonio Pietrangeli will make his contribution to the comic genre with Le Célibataire (Lo Scapolo) in 1955 with Sordi .
  • Dino Risi launches film comedy in 1955 , completing the series of Luigi Comencini of Bread, love … with a third component Scandal in Sorrento (Pane, amore e …) where Sophia Loren replaces Gina Lollobrigida to sides of Vittorio De Sica . He realized, then, his own trilogy with, in 1957 , Poor but beautiful (Poveri ma belli) followed by Beautiful but poor (Belle ma povere) then, in 1959 , Poor Millionaires (Poveri milionari)comedies in which young petty bourgeois struggle with a world that marginalizes them. In 1958 , he staged Alberto Sordi in Venice, the moon and you (Venezia, la luna e tu) .

The end of the 1950s and, more particularly, the year 1958 , will, in a way, mark a turn in the comic style of the Italian cinema, abandoning the neorealism – neorealism rose (drama then drama at happy-ends) to the profit a real analysis of society and a ferocious satire, in short, a veritable comedy of manners.


The neorealism lived. The Italian comedy itself as the new current of a country that so prefer to deal with humor the daily worries, social problems, “combinazioni” policies, the past and history, economic and social boom, the aspirations and hopes facing the Italians.

The actors

New actors will come to enrich the characters of the Italian comedy:
Nino Manfredi will embody characters truculent, grotesque or even monstrous, it will be the buffoon of the comedy.
Ugo Tognazzi will excel in roles of adulterous or deceived husbands and other silly and absurd characters. As for actresses, Monica Vitti , after a series of remarkable dramatic performance under the direction of Michelangelo Antonioni , experienced spectacular comic conversion, for example in The Girl with the Pistol (La ragazza con la Pistola) by Monicelli . At the dawn of the sixties, the young Catherine Spaakcreates an original character of teenager to the free manners which illuminates in the passage several classics of the genre like the Fanfaron (Il Sorpasso) , She is terrible (La voglia matta) or La calda vita .

The writers

No change among the writers. The men of the previous decade will continue to feed the comic cinema by providing him with ever more delusional subjects.

The directors and their films

This is a true revival of Italian cinema that will be attended by directors specializing in the genre. And the satire will be even more critical. The policy, the last war , the economic “boom”, morality “Catholic”, the “couple” in Italian , among others, will be subject to ridicule.

  • The master Monicelli will pose a scathing look at the futility of war in the Great War (La guerra large) with Alberto Sordi , Vittorio Gassman and Silvana Mangano in 1959 and on the vanity of intellectuals and activists in the Comrades (I compagni ) with Marcello Mastroianni and Renato Salvatori in 1963 . Then comes a joyous farce concocted by Age-Scarpelli , in 1966 , The Brancaleone Army (L’armata Brancaleone) where Vittorio Gassman will play the role of knight more atypical and swagger than ever.
  • In the series of movies in Italian , Vittorio De Sica will insert in 1962 his Marriage Italian (Matrimonio all’italiana) with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni . He then collaborated on the production of the sketch film Les Sorcières(The Streghe) in 1966 .
  • From Luigi Comencini , we must remember Alberto Sordi ‘s tragicomic end – of – war events in The Great Pagaille (Tutti a casa) in 1960 , and the misadventures of the naive Nino Manfredi escaped despite himself in Riding on the Tiger in 1961 .
  • Always more satirical, ever more sarcastic in his portraits, Dino Risi will give us, almost at a rate of one per year, great achievements where the main roles will be mainly held by Gassman , Sordi , Tognazzi and Manfredi . It will be successively the life of scammer and you saw me of the Man with a hundred faces (Il mattatore) in 1960 , the pangs of a “loser” who really A difficult life (Una vita difficult) in 1961 , the confrontation of the very serious Jean-Louis Trintignant with Gassman ,The Fanfaron (Il Sorpasso) in 1962 , a sharp look at the rise of fascism in The March on Rome (La marcia su Roma) also in 1962 , a series of portraits of individuals all more odious than each other, who lead as Monsters (I mostri) in 1963 , series which will be completed in 1969 by A hen, a train … and some monsters (Vedo nudo) and in 1977 by The New Monsters (I nuovi mostri) , as well as a iconoclastic satire of infirmity withMake me hurt but cover me with kisses(Straziami, my di baci saziami) in 1968 .
  • The spaghetti western ; Directed by the director Sergio Leone will deliver, especially with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach , characters typical of the commedia dell’arte , but transposed in a world of conquest of the West. For a handful of dollars ( 1964 ), and for a few more dollars ( 1965 ) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ( 1966 ), known as the trilogy of the dollar , will deliver characters with a typical character of this kind ancient italian theatrical.

Alongside the satirical “masters of the camera” already in place, new directors will appear.

  • Pietro Germi “specializes” in the satirical painting of the matrimonial and sexual habits of a population still very much influenced by religious morality. This will earn us the delirious Divorce Italian (Divorzio all’italiana) in 1961 with Marcello Mastroianni and Stefania Sandrelli , Seduced and Abandoned (Sedotta e abbandonata) in 1964 with Stefania Sandrelli , These Ladies (Signore & Signori) in 1965 with Virna Lisi and Much too much for one man (The immoral) in1967 with Ugo Tognazzi and Stefania Sandrelli .
  • While continuing her activity as a screenwriter, Ettore Scola will go behind the camera in the mid-1960s, often assisted by Ruggero Maccari . The Let’s Talk Women movies ( Let’s Talk With Love) in 1964 with Vittorio Gassman , Belfagor the Magnificent (L’arcidiavolo) in 1966 with Vittorio Gassman , or Will Our Heroes succeed in finding their friend mysteriously missing in Africa? (Riusciranno i nostri eroi a ritrovare the amico misteriosamente scomparso in Africa?) In 1968 with Alberto Sordi ,Bernard Blier and Nino Manfredi will be little wonders of the genre.
  • The first comic film of Lina Wertmüller is going to be an answer to Ettore Scola with Now, let’s talk about men (Questa volta parliamo di uomini) in 1965 with Nino Manfredi .
  • After the popular success of his Pigeon sequel (I soliti ignoti) , Milanese Hold-up (Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti) , Nanni Loy asserts himself as one of the unknown masters of the genre and notably signs a fierce satire of manners to the almost anthropological tone, Italian style! (Made in Italy) .
  • Several veterans also find in this new satirical turn the opportunity to pursue a discourse started in the era of pink neorealism  : Luigi Zampa with The Vigil (Il vigile) and Roaring Years (Anni ruggenti) , Alberto Lattuada with L’Homme de the mafia (Mafioso) , Alessandro Blasetti with Me, me, me … and the others (Io, io, io … e gli altri) and The Soldier’s Fiancee (The ragazza del bersagliere) .


In the wake of the 1960s, Italian comedy, which does not lack topics thanks to ever more inventive scriptwriters, will continue to look at the world with an ever more squeaky humor in its critique of society. On the economic level, the gap between Northern Italy, the most industrialized, and the agricultural Mezzogiorno is growing and the economic crisis is on the decline. In terms of manners, the new questions of society on ordinary subjects such as old age, the status of women, attacks, everyday life increasingly hectic, are watched by cameras with a caustic and critical eye.

The actors

Some actors will be less and less present on screens like Peppino De Filippo , Aldo Fabrizi or Gino Cervi  ; Totò had died in 1967 .
However, still valiant, Alberto Sordi , Vittorio Gassman , Marcello Mastroianni , Ugo Tognazzi or Nino Manfredi are still there to cheer the Italian screens.

The writers

No change among the writers.

The directors and their films

  • Mario Monicelli ridicules the Italian army in We want the colonels (Vogliamo i colonnelli) in 1973 , offers us the delusions of five happy adult drills in My dear friends (Amici miei) in 1975 then a satire of the bureaucracy that turns to drama with Alberto Sordi in A very small bourgeois (Piccolo borghese piccolo) in 1977 .
  • Luigi Comencini transposes his satire of society into a Venice where deceit and lies are daily life with Casanova, a teenager in Venice (Infanzia, vocazione e esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, Veneziano) in 1969 , presents us with an unscrupulous crooks Sordi in The Silver of the Old Woman (Lo scopone scientifico) in 1972 , paints the pangs of a misunderstanding between brother and sister who find themselves husband and wife in My God, how did I fall so low? … (Mio Dio , as sono caduta in basso!) in 1974spread the selfishness, hypocrisy and baseness of ordinary people in the turmoil of consumer society with The Great Bottling (Ingorgo – Una storia impossibile) in 1979 or shows the tartufferie of a representative in religious books with L ‘ Imposter (Cercasi Gesù) in 1982 .
  • Dino Risi  : The Woman of the Priest (La moglie del prete) in 1970 , In the name of the Italian people ( In nome del popolo italiano ) in 1971 , Rapt in Italian ( Mordi e fuggi ) in 1973 , Parfum de femme ( Profumo di donna ) in 1975, The career of a maid ( Telefoni bianchi ) in 1975 , Last love ( Primo amore ) in 1978 , Dear dad ( Caro papa) in 1979 .
  • Ettore Scola  : Drama of jealousy (Dramma della gelosia – tutti i particolari in cronaca) in 1970 , We loved each other so much (C’eravamo tanto amati) in 1974 , La Terrasse (La terrazza) in 1980 , ugly, dirty and mean (Brutti sporchi e cattivi) in 1976 .

From the 1980s to today

The sometimes condescending turn of the years by certain productions will tire the public and favor the emergence of new directors and a new generation of actors. Eager to find the essence of pure comedy, turning to the vaudeville , directors like Carlo Vanzina , and his brother, the writer and producer Enrico Vanzina, as well as the duo of actors Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica are the initiators. Sapore di mare, shot in 1982, embodies this renewal.

Since that date, many filmmakers have distinguished themselves in this very popular genre like Neri Parenti ( Vacanze di Natale in Cortina ) or Paolo Costella ( Matrimonio al Sud ) .

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