Alberto Sordi, one of Italy’s most compelling and gifted cinematic comedy performers, was recognized for satirizing his country’s social mores in pungent dark comedies, farcical stories, and bleak drama. Along with colleagues Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, and Nino Manfredi, he is often regarded as the pinnacle of postwar Italian film. Sordi was born on June 15, 1920, in Rome’s Trastevere area, into a musical family, his father being a tuba player for the Rome Opera House. He began his career as a choir boy in the Sistine Chapel and then trained for the theater in Milan before returning to Rome to perform in radio and music halls in comic shows. In his late 30s, he worked as an extra in films.
His first significant appearance was in the fascist war film The Three Pilots (1942), but he didn’t achieve worldwide popularity until a decade later when he appeared in Federico Fellini‘s early flicks The White Sheik (1952) and I Vitelloni (1954). (1953). Some of his most famous characters had simple names: The Seducer, The Bachelor, The Husband, The Widower, The Traffic Cop, and The Moralist. Despite the fact that most of his characters amusingly, but not always pleasantly, caricature the worst aspects of Italian men and society, several of his films are regarded classics. Sordi went on to appear in, direct, and co-write over 150 films. He was never married and preferred a quiet, solitary personal life.
After 190 films, he announced his retirement in 2002 and died of a heart attack the following year at the age of 82.