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Italy mourns Suso Cecchi d'Amico

Screenwriter was key figure in Italian cinema's Neo-Realism era

02 August, 17:12
Italy mourns Suso Cecchi d'Amico (ANSA) - Rome, August 2 - Italy gave its final farewell to one of its greatest postwar screenwriters on Monday with a funeral which ended without the traditional applause, in accordance to her final wishes.

Suso Cecchi d'Amico, who penned Neo-Realism classics to modern comedies, died Saturday at the age of 96. Her funeral was celebrated at the Santa Maria del Popolo Church, also known as the 'artists' church'.

"My mother told me that screenwriters must always remain behind the scenes and she hated the tradition of applauding after funerals. What she did like was to be among friends and that is what she had today," her son Masolino d'Amico explained.

Cecci d'Amico's aversion to being in the spotlight may have been one of the reasons why she never demanded credit for acting as 'script doctor' for the 1953 American classic Roman Holiday, which shot actress Audrey Hepburn to fame..

The daughter of turn-of-the-century author and critic Emilio Cecchi and painter Leonetta Pieraccini, Suso Cecchi came into her own during the Neo-Realism postwar period in Italian cinema collaborating on scripts for landmark films such as Roberto Rossellini's Rome: Open City and Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves.

After working on films for directors like Luigi Zampa, Alessandro Blasetti, Luigi Comencini and Alberto Lattuada, Cecchi d'Amico began her collaboration with the person many considered to be her intellectual soul mate: Luchino Visconti.

Her first film for Visconti was the 1951 movie Bellissima, staring her friend Anna Magnani, which was followed by Senso (1954), White Nights (1957), Rocco and His Brothers (1960), The Leopard (1963), The Stranger (1967), Ludwig (1967, Conversation Piece (1974), his last film The Innocent and his uncompleted project: a screen version of Marcel Proust's epic work Remembrance of Things Past.

During her long career, Cecchi d'Amico continued to work for De Sica, penning Miracle in Milan among others. She also lent her talents to film giants like Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini as well as other directors, including Mario Monicelli, for whom she worked on the 1958 hit Big Deal on Madonna Street, among others.

Monicelli, who at 95 is the last surviving member of what many consider to be Italian cinema's 'golden age', said at her funeral that "even if her name did not appear in the credits, she always had a hand in my films".

"I spent 50 years of my life with her and was always in and out of her house as if I was a member of the family. More than work with her I'd say I lived with her," he added. "She was very sociable and we'd meet in the morning to talk about everything, from politics to our own problems, and it was during these talks that ideas would hatch," he added.

"Now that she's gone I feel very much alone. Suso was a key figure of her generation, a generation which was extraordinary not only in cinema because it created a a new way of doing things, of producing," Monicelli said.

Also at Monday's funeral was director Franco Zeffirelli, who began as an assistant with Visconti and called in Cecchi d'Amico to collaborate on some of his films, including Jesus of Nazareth and Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

"She was an extraordinary screenwriter but for me her most important work was on Jesus of Nazareth. I needed a Catholic imprint to the film and in the original script by Anthony Burgess something was lacking, because he did not have a Catholic soul but a Protestant slant.

"Suso understood that it was better not to engage in a war of religion but to simply give order to thoughts and episodes using her intelligence and genius," Zeffirelli said.

The director went on to recall that "going to her was like finding a safe haven. Whether we were on the political right or left we were all in love with her. She was a mother to us all".

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