Vittorio DeSica

Vittorio De Sica was an Italian director and actor, and one of the leading figures in the Italian Neorealism movement. Born into poverty in Soria, Lazio, he began his career as a theatre actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova’s theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged plays by Beaumarchais and worked with famous directors like Luchino Visconti. His meeting with Cesare Zavattini was a very important event, as they together created some of the most celebrated films of the neorealistic age. Visconti’s first acclaimed film was Shoeshine in 1946. In it, two shoeshine boys get into trouble with the police after trying to find the money to buy a horse, and are sent to a juvenile detention center. Shoeshine is among the first of the Italian neorealism movement and in 1948 it received an Honorary Award at the Academy Awards for its high quality. This award was the precursor of what would later become the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1948 De Sica directed the masterpiece The Bicycle Thieves which told the story followed a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family. Adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, Bicycle Thieves is one of the masterpieces of Italian neorealism. It received an Academy Honorary Award in 1950 and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine’s poll of filmmakers and critics. De Sica’s next acclaimed film The Miracle of Milan (1951) was a light romantic fantasy told as a neo-realist fable, explaining the lives of a poverty-stricken group in post-war Milan, Italy. His next film Umberto D (1952) told the story of an old man named Umberto D. Ferrari and his struggle to keep from falling from poverty into shame. Umberto D was the fourth film that De Sica and Zavattini collaborated on together after World War II, and it was also the first one that was a flop at the Italian box office. Of course time has changed many people’s views of the film as many now believe Umberto D to be not only one of De Sica’s greatest films (De Sica stated it was his personal favorite), but the last official film of the Neorealism movement. De Sica’s later films from the 60’s and 70’s, most famously Two Woman (1960), a bleak war story that won Sophia Loren the Academy Award, and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, both won various awards and acclaim from critics, but it was the critical success of his early neorealist films, Shoeshine and Bicycle Thieves, which helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Vittorio DeSica
Vittorio DeSica Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Vittorio DeSica

Umberto D (1952)

Umberto D tells the story of an old man named Umberto D. Ferrari and his struggle to keep from falling from poverty into shame. This is one of the greatest of all films from the Neorealism movement, and even when they’re sweet scenes that involve Umberto and his little dog Flike; they are shown without being portrayed too sentimental or manipulative […]


The Cycle of Poverty



Bicycle Thieves (1948)

The Bicycle Thieves (or The Bicycle Thief) is a story of humanity and love that has touched so many people around the world because of its powerful simplicities. Sometimes the simplest stories are the most important to tell, because they are the ones people can most identify with, which can create an emotional template of personal honesty […]