Movie Stars: Gassman, Vittorio–Italian Actor and International Heartthrob (Latin Lover Type) (Jewish Mother)

Vittorio Gassman Knight Grand Cross OMRI (Italian) September 20, 1922–June 29, 2000), popularly known as Il Mattatore, was an Italian actor, director and screenwriter.

One of the greatest Italian actors, he boasted a career that included both important productions as well as dozens of divertissements.

Gassmann was born in Genoa to a German father, Heinrich Gassmann (engineer from Karlsruhe), and a Jewish mother, Luisa Ambron, born in Pisa. While still very young, he moved to Rome, where he studied at the Silvio D’Amico National Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Gassman suffered from bipolar disorder.

Gassman’s debut was in Milan, in 1942, with Alda Borelli in Niccodemi’s La Nemica (theatre).

He then moved to Rome and acted at the Teatro Eliseo joining Tino Carraro and Ernesto Calindri in a team that remained famous for some time; with them he acted in a range of plays from bourgeois comedy to sophisticated intellectual theatre. In 1946, he made his film debut in Preludio d’amore, while only one year later he appeared in five films. In 1948 he played in Riso amaro.

It was with Visconti’s company that Gassman achieved his successes, together with Paolo Stoppa, Rina Morelli and Paola Borboni.

He played Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ Un tram che si chiama desiderio (A Streetcar Named Desire), as well as in Come vi piace (As You Like It) by Shakespeare and Oreste (by Vittorio Alfieri). He joined the Teatro Nazionale with Tommaso Salvini, Massimo Girotti, Arnoldo Foà to create a successful Peer Gynt (by Henrik Ibsen). With Luigi Squarzina in 1952 he co-founded and co-directed the Teatro d’Arte Italiano, producing the first complete version of Hamlet in Italy, followed by rare works such as Seneca’s Thyestes and Aeschylus’s The Persians.

In 1956, Gassman played the title role in a production of Othello.

He was so well received in the TV series entitled Il Mattatore (Spotlight Chaser) [it] that “Il Mattatore” became the nickname that accompanied him for the rest of his life.

Gassman’s debut in the commedia all’italiana genre was rather accidental, in Mario Monicelli’s I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958).

Famous movies include: Il sorpasso (1962), La Grande Guerra (1962), I mostri (1963), L’Armata Brancaleone (1966), Profumo di donna (1974) and C’eravamo tanto amati (1974).

He directed Adelchi, a work by Alessandro Manzoni. Gassman brought this production to half a million spectators, crossing Italy with his Teatro Popolare Itinerante (a newer edition of the famous Carro di Tespi).

His productions have included many of the famous authors and playwrights of the 20th century, with repeated returns to the classics of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and the Greek tragicians. He also founded a theatre school in Florence (Bottega Teatrale di Firenze), which educated many of the more talented actors of the current generation of Italian thespians.

In cinema, he worked both in Italy and abroad.

He met and fell in love with American actress Shelley Winters while she was touring Europe with her then fiancé Farley Granger (latent homosexual). When Winters was forced to return to Hollywood to fulfill contractual obligations, he followed her and then married her.

With his natural charisma and his fluency in English he scored a number of roles in Hollywood, including Rhapsody with Elizabeth Taylor and The Glass Wall before returning to Italy and the theatre.

In the 1990s he took part in the popular Italian Rai 3 TV show Tunnel in which he very formally and “seriously”‘ recited documents such as utility bills, yellow pages and similar trivial texts, such as washing instructions for a wool sweater or cookies ingredients. He rendered them with the same professional skill that made him famous while reciting Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In 1994, Gassman voiced Mufasa in the Italian dubbed version of The Lion King. Gassman’s voice was redubbed in several of his films by historical Italian actors and dubbers which include Emilio Cigoli, Sandro Ruffini, Gualtiero De Angelis, Stefano Sibaldi, Enrico Maria Salerno and Pino Locchi.

Gassman married three times, all to actresses: Nora Ricci (with whom he had Paola, an actress and wife of Ugo Pagliai); Shelley Winters (mother of daughter Vittoria); and Diletta D’Andrea (mother of son Jacopo).

While rehearsing Hamlet, he began an affair with Anna Maria Ferrero, his 16-year-old Ophelia, which ended his marriage to Winters.

He and Winters were forced to work together on Mambo just as their marriage was unraveling, providing fodder for tabloids all over the world.

From 1964 to 1968 he was the partner of French actress Juliette Mayniel (mother of his son Alessandro, also an actor). Through Alessandro, he is the grandfather of singer-songwriter Leo Gassmann.

On June 29, 2000, Gassman died of a heart attack in his sleep at his home in Rome at the age of 77.

Vittorio Gassman in Bitter Rice (1948)


Gassman in War and Peace (1956)


Memmo Carotenuto and Gassman in Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

Gassman, Silvana Mangani, Alberto Sordi in The Great War (1959)

Catherine Spaak and Gassman in Il Sorpasso (1962)


Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi in I Mostri (1963)

Gassman and Luigi Vannucchi in Pleasant Nights (1965)

Gassman in L’armata Brancaleone (1965)

Gassman, Nino Manfredi, Stefano Satta Flores in We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974)




Incontro con Laura (1945)

The Captain’s Daughter (1947) as Svabrin

Preludio d’amore (Love Prelude, 1947) as Davide

Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1947) as The Green Fisherman

Daniele Cortis (1947) as Daniele Cortis

L’ebreo errante (The Wandering Jew, 1948) as Mathieu Nahum/ Mathieu Blumenthal

Il cavaliere misterioso (The Mysterious Rider, 1948) as Giacomo Casanova, cavaliere di Seingalt

Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, 1949) as Walter

Una voce nel tuo cuore (1949) as Paolo Baldini

The Wolf of the Sila (1949) as Pietro Campolo

Ho sognato il paradiso (Streets of Sorrow, 1950) as Giorgio

I fuorilegge, (The Outlaws, 1950) as Turi

Lo sparviero del Nilo (Hawk of the Nile, 1950) as Yussuf

Il leone di Amalfi (The Lion of Amalfi, 1950) as Mauro

Il tradimento (Double Cross, 1951) as Renato Salvi

La corona negra (1951) as Mauricio

Anna (1951) as Vittorio

The Dream of Zorro (1952) as Don Antonio / Juan

Girls Marked Danger (1952) as Michele

The Glass Wall (1953) as Peter Kaban

Sombrero (1953) as Alejandro Castillo

Cry of the Hunted (1953) as Jory

Rhapsody (1954) as Paul Bronte

Mambo (1954) as Mario Rossi

La donna più bella del mondo (1955) as Prince Sergei

The Violent Patriot (1956), Giovanni de Medici dalle Bande Nere

War and Peace (1956) as Anatol Kuragin

Difendo il mio amore (1956) as Giovanni Marchi

Kean: Genius or Scoundrel (1957) as Edmund Kean

I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958) as Peppe il pantera

La ragazza del palio (1958) as Piero di Montalcino

La tempesta (1958) as Prosecutor

The Great War (1959) as Giovanni Busacca

The Miracle (1959) as Guido

La cambiale (1959) as Michele

Le sorprese dell’amore (1959) as The Schoolteacher (uncredited)

Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (Hold-up à la milanaise, 1959) as Peppe er pantera

Il Mattatore (1960) as Gerardo Latini

Crimen (Killing in Monte Carlo, 1960) as Remo Capretti

Fantasmi a Roma (Ghosts of Rome, 1961) as Giovanni Battista Villari, aka ‘il Caparra’

A Difficult Life (1961) as Himself (uncredited)

The Last Judgement (1961) as Cimino

I briganti italiani (1961) as O Caporale

Barabbas (1961) as Sahak

Anima nera (1962) as Adriano Zucchelli

Il giorno più corto (1962)

Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life, 1962) as Bruno Cortona

La Marcia su Roma (March on Rome, 1962) as Domenico Rocchetti

L’amore difficile (Sex Can Be Difficult, 1962) as L’avvocato (segment “L’avaro”)

La Smania addosso (1963) as Giorgio Mazzanò – lawyer

Il Successo (1963) as Giulio Ceriani

I Mostri (1963) as The Actor (segment “La Raccomandazione”) / Policeman (segment “Il Mostro”) / Production Assistant & Movie Director (segment “Presa dalla Vita”) / Nicola (segment “Che Vitaccia!”) / Blonde Latin Lover (segment “Latin Lovers-Amanti latini”) / Defence Layer D’Amore (segment “Testimone volontario”) / Richetto (segment “I due Orfanelli”) / Roberto (segment “Il Sacrificato”) / Elisa (segment “La Musa”) / The Road Hog (segment “La Strada è di Tutti”) / The Friar (segment “Il Testamento di Francesco”) / Artemio Altidori (segment “La nobile Arte”)

Frenesia dell’estate (1964) as Captain Mario Nardoni

Se permettete parliamo di donne (Let’s Talk About Women, 1964) as Stranger / Practical Joker / Client / Lover / Impatient Lover / Waiter / Timid Brother / Ragman / Prisoner

Il Gaucho (1964) as Marco Ravicchio

La Congiuntura (Hard Time for Princes, 1965) as Giuliano

The Dirty Game (1965) as Perego / Ferrari (French)

Slalom (1965) as Lucio Ridolfi

Una Vergine per il Principe (Virgin for the Prince, 1966) as Principe don vincenzo gonzaga

L’Armata Brancaleone (1966) as Brancaleone da Norcia

Le piacevoli notti (1966) as Bastiano da Sangallo

The Devil in Love (L’arcidiavolo, 1966) as Belfagor

Il Tigre (1967) as Francesco Vincenzini

Sette Volte Donna (Woman Times Seven, 1967) as Cenci (segment “Two Against One”)

Questi fantasmi (Ghosts – Italian Style, 1968) as Pasquale Lojacono

Lo scatenato (1968) as Bob Chiaramonte

Il Profeta (1968) as Pietro Breccia

La pecora nera (The Black Sheep, 1968) as Mario Agasti/Filippo Agasti

L’Alibi (Alibi, 1969) as Vittorio

Dove vai tutta nuda? (Where Are You Going All Naked?, 1969) as Rufus Conforti

Una su 13 (The 13 Chairs, 1969) as Mario Beretti

L’Arcangelo (1969) as Furio Bertuccia

Contestazione generale (1970) as Riccardo

The Divorce (1970) as Leonardo Nenci

Brancaleone alle Crociate (Brancaleone at the Crusades, 1970) as Brancaleone da Norcia

Scipione detto anche l’africano (Scipio the African, 1971) as Catone il Censore

In nome del popolo italiano (1971) as Lorenzo Santenocito
Senza famiglia, nullatenenti cercano affetto (1972) as Armando Zavanatti

L’udienza (The Audience, 1972) as Principe Donati
Che c’entriamo noi con la rivoluzione? (1972) as Guido Guidi

La Tosca (1973) as Scarpia

Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman, 1974) as Il capitano Fausto Consolo

C’eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much, 1974) as Gianni Perego

A mezzanotte va la ronda del piacere (Midnight Pleasures, 1975) as Andrea Sansoni

Telefoni bianchi (1976) as Franco Denza

Come una rosa al naso (Pure as a Lily, 1976), Anthony M. Wilson
Signore e signori, buonanotte (1976) as CIA agent / Tuttumpezzo
The Desert of the Tartars (The Desert of the Tartars, 1976) as Colonel Giovanbattista Filimore

Anima persa (The Forbidden Room, 1977) as Fabio Stolz
I nuovi mostri (Via l’Italia!, 1977) as Il cardinale (segment “Tantum ergo”) / Il cameriere (segment “Hostaria”) / Il marito (segment “Sequestro di persona cara”) / Il commissario (segment “Il sospetto”) / Il padre di famiglia (segment “Cittadino esemplare”)

A Wedding (1978) as Luigi Corelli

Quintet (1979) as St. Christopher

Caro papà (Dear Father, 1979) as Albino Millozza

Due pezzi di pane (Happy Hobos, 1979) as Pippo Mifà

Sono fotogenico (1980) as Himself (uncredited)

La terrazza (The Terrace, 1980) as Mario

The Nude Bomb (1980) as Sauvage / Nino Salvatori Sebastiani

Camera d’albergo (Chambre d’hôtel, 1981) as Achille Mengaroni

Il Turno (1981) as Ciro Coppa

Sharky’s Machine (1981) as Albert Scarelli / Victor D’Anton
Di padre in figlio (1982) as Himself

Tempest (1982) as Alonzo

Il Conte Tacchia (Count Tacchia, 1982) as Prince Torquato Terenzi

La Vie est un roman (Life Is a Bed of Roses, 1983) as Walter Guarini

Benvenuta (1983) as Livio Carpi

Paradigma (Power of Evil, 1985) as Gottfried

I Soliti ignoti vent’anni dopo (Big Deal After 20 Years, 1985) as Peppe il pantera

La Famiglia (The Family, 1987) as Carlo, as a man / Carlo’s grandfather

I Picari (1987) as Marchese Felipe de Aragona

Mortacci (1989) as Domenico

Lo zio indegno (1989) as Uncle Luca

Dimenticare Palermo (1990) as Il Principe

Tolgo il disturbo (1990) as Augusto Scribani

Les 1001 Nuits (1990) as Sinbad

I Divertimenti della vita privata (The Amusements of Private Life, 1990) as Marquis

Rossini! Rossini! (1991) as Ludwig van Beethoven (uncredited)

El Largo invierno (1992) as Claudio

When We Were Repressed (1992) as The Sexologist

Abraham (1993, TV series) as Terah

Tutti gli anni una volta l’anno (1994) as Giuseppe

Sleepers (1996) as Benny ‘King Benny’

Deserto di fuoco (1997, TV Series) as Tarek

Un homme digne de confiance (1997) as Adriano Venturi

La cena (1998) as Maestro Pezzullo

La bomba (1999) as Don Vito Bracalone

Luchino Visconti (1999) as Himself


Kean (1956)

L’Alibi (1969)

Senza famiglia, nullatenenti cercano affetto (1972)

Di padre in figlio (1982)

Dubbing roles


Mufasa in The Lion King (1994), dubbing James Earl Jones

Live Action

Narrator in Romeo and Juliet (1968), dubbing Laurence Olivier


Luca de’ Numeri. Novel, in 1947 won the Fogazzaro prize, published in 1965 (ed. Lerici)
Un grande avvenire dietro le spalle. Milan, (1981).
Vocalizzi. Milan, (1988).
Memorie del sottoscala. Milan, (1990).