Alberto Sordi: Rome remembers icon of Italian cinema

Sordi was born in Rome on 15 June 1920.

Rome hosts a series of events on Wednesday in memory of the much-loved Roman actor and comedian Alberto Sordi who was born on this day 102 years ago.

Sordi played mainly comic roles, enlivened by his Roman accent which was a trademark throughout a career that spanned seven decades.

Much of his cinematic success was thanks to his accent which, ironically, saw him expelled from a Milan acting academy in his youth.

Sordi often chose to portray the anti-hero, poking fun at the foibles of his fellow countrymen and succeeding in getting Italians to laugh at themselves.

Who was Alberto Sordi?

In addition to being an actor, Sordi was a singer, voice actor, director and screenwriter.

He began his journey into comedy by providing the dubbed-over voice of American comedian Oliver Hardy in 1939, a role he played until 1951, in more than 40 Stanley e Ollio films in Italy.

This role proved so popular that Sordi adapted it for theatres, allowing Italians to meet the “real” Oliver Hardy on stage.

Success and awards

Minor film roles followed in the 1940s until he gained national stardom in 1953 after he was cast in I vitelloni by Federico Fellini.

Sordi cemented his success with classics such as Un americano a Roma (1954) and Il Marchese del Grillo (1981).

Sordi in Un americano a Roma

He was the recipient of seven David di Donatello awards, Italy’s most prestigious film accolade, receiving a Golden Globe for his performance in To Bed or Not to Bed in 1963 and a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival in 1995.

Roman roots

Although loved throughout Italy, Sordi was particularly adored in his home town. He remained firmly attached to his Roman roots and spent his life living in Rome.

The actor was born in the Trastevere district, the youngest of five children. His father was a concert musician and his mother a teacher.

Sordi in Il Marchese del Grillo

The building where he was born – number 7 on Via S. Cosimato – no longer exists (it was demolished in the 1930s to make way for Palazzo dei Congregazioni) however a plaque commemorating his birth can be found across the street.

From 1958 Sordi lived with his two sisters Aurelia and Savina in a villa near the Baths of Caracalla.

Rome bids fond farewell to Alberto Sordi

In 2000, to celebrate his 80th birthday, the city of Rome made Sordi honorary mayor for a day.

When he died on 24 February 2003, aged 82, there was an immense outpouring of grief in Rome, with more than 250,000 people attending his funeral at the Basilica di S. Giovanni in Laterano.

Rome subsequently renamed the prestigious Galleria Colonna, on Via del Corso, in honour of one of its favourite sons.