• 1 January 1923
  •  Milan, Lombardy, Italy

Valentina Cortese


Valentina Cortese was born in Milan, Lombardy, Italy, in 1923. She made her movie debut in 1940 and played many "ingenue" parts in Italian films of that period, before making a real sensation in L'évadé du bagne (1948) and Tempesta su Parigi (1948), playing both female leads, Fantine and Cosette (the film was a competent screen adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic "Les misérables"). The international success of the British-made melodrama La montagne de verre (1949) brought her some Hollywood offers: she was very sensual as a truck-driver's mistress in Jules Dassin's film noir Thieves' Highway (1949) and particularly effective in Robert Wise's thriller The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), in which she portrayed a woman pursued by a killer. She then returned to Europe and worked with many great directors, like Michelangelo Antonioni, who cast her in his Le Amiche (1955), and Federico Fellini, who gave her a supporting part in his surrealist fantasy Juliet of the Spirits (1965). She had an especially robust part in Francois Truffaut's Day for Night (1973) as a fading alcoholic movie star (she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award Nomination for this). She also followed a fruitful stage career, working with directors like Giorgio Strehler and Franco Zeffirelli and starring in plays like Schiller's "Mary Stewart" (title role) and Wedekind's "Lulu" (title role).