Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 13 August 2010

People We Like: Alida Valli

The enigmatic Ms Valli [1921-2006] is one of those fascinating Italian actresses, and - as these things go - I have seen quite a few of her '50s films recently and she is always just about the best thing in them.

She was of course famously "discovered" by David Selznick for Hitchcock's THE PARADINE CASE, billed as "Valli" - generally considered a misfire and one of his lesser works but I only saw it for the first time a while ago and liked it a lot - she is perfect here as she lures Gregory Peck with her cool patrician beauty, but she had really made about 30 films before that in Italy, starting in the 1930s as per her IMDb resume.

Her other '40s classic is Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN and again its a perfect combination of actress and role. It seems she was back in Europe for the '50s and remained very prolific [as those other Italian actresses like Mangano, Lollobrigida, Loren, Vitti and Cardinale were ascending]. Visconti's SENSO is her third masterpiece and she is riveting as the Wanton Countess betraying her worthless lover Farley Granger - she should have been a contender for Best Actress in that terrific year 1954. Its certainly one of Visconti's finest, with that lush operatic background and, like THE LEOPARD covering that fascinating period of Italian history.

She is mesmerising in Vadim's HEAVEN FELL THAT NIGHT - his sensational Bardot film in '58 after AND GOD CREATED WOMAN - I enjoyed this the other day, steamy unusual Spanish locations and BB and Stephen Boyd at their peak (unlike their roles in the 68 trash western SHALAKO a decade later...) - Valli is the aunt young BB is sent to stay with and both women fall for Boyd. I liked it a lot .... as per my review.

Valli is Irma in Antonioni's IL GRIDO in '57 - but its a rather under-written role, we never get to understand why she does not want to be with Steve Cochran any more as she rejects him sending him into a downward spiral with only one ending - good to finally see it, but its certainly a bleak view of the human condition, set as it is among the rundown towns along the muddy Po river.

She has a supporting role in Rene Clement's THE SEA WALL (or THIS ANGRY AGE) in 1958, one of those long-unseen De Laurentiis international productions (but I got a copy recently); this is set in Thailand as Jo Van Fleet battles to keep her plantation from the sea as her children Silvana Mangano and Tony Perkins have their own problems. Perkins and Valli pick each other up in an electric scene in a cinema! Its a fascinating period piece now.

She is perfect too in Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE, his stylish creepy horror film from 1959, as the doctor's assistant who helps with his experiments in luring girls to his remote mansion, so he can work on restoring his daughter's face .... its eerie with some beautiful images, as we find out that Valli too has had her face replaced.

Valli continued in smaller roles as she got older - and there seems to have been some scandal she was involved in. She is in Pasolini's OEDIPUS REX and Bertolucci featured her in 1900, THE SPIDER'S STRATEGM (where she is very severe) and LA LUNA - though I don't remember much about that. She also had a nothing role in the star-laden THE CASSANDRA CROSSING. Then there were Italian horror films like Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA ('77). One of her last roles as in that nice romantic drama A MONTH BY THE LAKE in 1995 with Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Fox and Uma Thurman. One I would like to have seen is ASPERN in '85, a version of "The Aspern Papers" where she is the aged countess, with Jean Sorel and Bulle Ogier.

Like Magnani, Valli is always a compulsive screen presence and was a very attractive woman, and its a perfect name the way it sounds as one says it - no wonder Selznick wanted to feature her, presumably as his next Ingrid Bergman type import.


  1. I lover her. Especially in 'We the living' based on the same-titled book by Ayn Rand and in 'Senso'. She was so beautiful and talented!

  2. Love Valli in The Third Man and Paradine Case.