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Culture

De Laurentiis, the Italian neo-realist who took Hollywood by storm

©

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2010-11-12

Dino De Laurentiis, the producer of Italian neo-realist masterpieces and of Hollywood hits including "Serpico" and “Blue Velvet”, has died in Los Angeles aged 91.

Dino De Laurentiis, the legendary film producer who worked with the likes of Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini before becoming a household name in Hollywood, died in Los Angeles on Thursday aged 91.

De Laurentiis, whose hits ranged from “La Strada” to “Serpico” and “Blue Velvet”, produced more than 500 films, including several Oscar winners, in a career spanning seven decades. He worked with some of the biggest film stars and directors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Throughout his career, he alternated big-budget blockbusters with less commercial films, helping the smaller films secure distribution.

Like Fellini, “he had a vision of the movie spectacle that suited all genres,” said FRANCE 24’s cinema editor Lisa Nesselson.

Whether working with Serpico’s Sidney Lumet or David Lynch, he never betrayed his taste for audacious and iconoclastic film-makers.

A new dawn for Italian cinema

De Laurentiis was born on August 8, 1919, in Torre Annunziata near Naples to a family of pasta makers.

He started out in film aged just 20 and soon rose to become one of the leading producers of Italy's post-war cinema boom.

His first hit, the 1949 classic "Riso Amaro" by Giuseppe De Santis, still stands out as one of the finest examples of Italian neo-realism.

Soon after he married the film’s female star, renowned actress Silvana Mangano, with whom he had four children.

His subsequent productions included Roberto Rossellini’s “Dov’è la libertà?” (1954) and Mario Monicelli’s “La Grande Guerra” (1959), as well as Fellini's Oscar-winning "La Strada" (1956).

In the 1960s he built a sprawling film studio near Rome known as "Dinocitta", hoping to rival Rome’s famous "Cinecitta". It proved to be a prolific decade for De Laurentiis, but a string of flops in the early 70s convinced him to seek better luck across the Atlantic.

To this day, La Repubblica’s Claudia Morgoglione told FRANCE 24, “the image of the ‘American’ De Laurentiis prevails even in his home country, perhaps because he is the only Italian producer to have succeeded in the US.”

The darling of Hollywood

The Italian producer got off to a flying start in Hollywood, enjoying box office succcess with "Serpico" with Al Pacino in 1973 and "Three Days of the Condor" with Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway in 1975.

Later blockbusters included the notorious 1976 remake of Hong Kong, Flash Gordon (1980) and Ridley Scott's "Hannibal" in 2001, the last of four films De Laurentiis produced in the Hannibal Lecter saga.

Not all his films became box office hits. His 1984 science fiction film "Dune," directed by David Lynch, was a commercial flop and was blasted by critics – though it later acquired cult status.

“He had the guts to support Lynch on an improbable project that no one wanted to produce,” French film critic Franck Garbarz told FRANCE 24. “And despite Dune’s flop, he decided to give Lynch another chance with Blue Velvet”.

He was again honoured at the Oscars in 2001, receiving the Irving Thalberg Memorial award for his collective works. Two years later, he won a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival.

 

Date created : 2010-11-11

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