We have just celebrated the centenary of one of the great post-war European actresses, Alida valli, anniversary that has passed into oblivion since, for strange reasons, the actress who worked with Carol Reed, Hitchcock, Visconti or Bertolucci, among other great film directors, it seems as if the years had erased it from the cinematographic firmament. An enormously talented actress, she was the image of Italian cinema for many years.
Alida Maria Laura von Altenburger, better known as Alida Valli, was born in Pula, then Italy, today Croatia on May 31, 1921, dying in Rome on April 22, 2006, she was a baroness from her birth. His father was Gino Altenburger, baron of Trentino, and his mother, Silvia Obrekar, a pianist, and his paternal grandfather was Baron Luigi Altenburger, an Austrian-Italian from Trento, a descendant of the counts of Arco.
Since she was little she was attracted to acting, participating, from the age of 8, in charity theater performances. When he was 13 years old, he began working in the cinema, through the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome, in films such as ‘The Three-Cornered Hat’, by Mario Camerini (1934), or ‘The Two Sergeants’ (1936). In 1942, he made his first great performance in the film ‘Little Ancient World’, for which he won the award for best performance at the Venice Film Festival.
That same year, he released one of the classics of Italian cinema of the 1940s, the drama ‘Through the clouds’, by Goffredo Alessandrini, which adapts the famous novel by Ayn Rand ‘The spring’, and in which Alida Valli made one of his best performances. However, after this film and with Italy an ally of Germany in World War II, Valli, an anti-fascist militant, stop making films to prevent the Italian government from using it as fascist propaganda. For the same reason she had to hide, thus preventing her from being arrested. In 1944 she married the musician Oscar de Mejo, with whom she had two children, and from whom she divorced in 1952. That same year she was involved in the Wilma Montesi scandal, a young woman who was found dead in strange circumstances in Ostia, and that shocked the Italian high society of the time, by the use of drugs and sex, in which the son of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs of the time was involved, and whose alibi was Alida. This could mean that it would ruin her career, but as soon as she could she left for Hollywood, where she was hardly known.
There she was hired by David O. Selznick as the protagonist of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Paradine Process’ (1947), along with Gregory Peck and Ethel Barrymore, in a role initially intended for the return of Greta Garbo to the screen. In Hollywood the studios were trying to launch her as ‘the new Garbo’, which she disliked a lot, so she soon returned to Europe. He ends his stay in Hollywood with the melodrama ‘The miracle of the bells’ (1948), by Irving Pichel, and the climber drama ‘The tragic mountain’.
In 1949 he starred in England in what was his best-known film, ‘The third man’ by Carol Reed, alongside Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten. Definitively settled between France and Italy, he shoots under the command of Luchino Visconti ‘Senso’ (1953), where he would fall in love with his co-star Farley Granger, ‘El grito’ (1957) by Michelangelo Antonioni, along with the American Steve Cochran; the terrifying ‘Eyes without a face’, (1959) by Georges Franju. In 1960 she played the mother superior of a convent in ‘Dialogues of Carmelites’, who would be guillotined during the French Revolution along with fifteen other Carmelite nuns. In 1961 he had a minor role in the robber comedy ‘The Last Blackmail’, alongside Rita Hayworth and Rex Harrison. Taking great care of the works he selects and without accepting everything that comes his way, he puts himself in the hands of Pier Paolo Pasolini in ‘Edipo Rey’ according to the tragedy of Sophocles (1967), along with Silvana Mangano and Franco Citti; the today horror classic ‘Suspiria’ (1977) by Dario Argento; ‘The spider’s strategy’ (1970), ‘Novecento’ (1976), and the drama ‘La Luna’ (1979), all three by Bernardo Bertolucci. In 1974 he worked in Spanish cinema under José María Forqué in ‘It’s nothing, mom, just a game’.
Alida Valli was dedicated to cinema until a few years before she died, one of her last appearances being ‘A month on the lake’ by John Irvin (1995), where she shared the limelight with Vanessa Redgrave and Uma Thurman. In 1997 she was awarded the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for her entire film career. He also had an intense career in the theater with works by Pirandelo, Jean Cocteau, Chejov, Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams. The actress passed away at age 84 on April 22, 2006.