Cortese, Valentina: Oscar Nominated Italian Actress (Day for Night) Dies at 96

Valentina Cortese, prolific Italian actress who was Oscar nominate for her work in a foreign film, Francois Truffaut’s 1973 French classic Day for Night, has died.  She was 96.




















In Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” considered to be one of the best movies about the chaotic process of filmmaking, Cortese played an alcoholic diva past her prime, a romantic actress who is unable to memorize her lines.

For a two-part, Carlo Ponti-produced 1948 film adaptation of “Les Miserables,” Cortese caused a sensation by playing both female leads, Fantine and Cosette.

Cortese attracted the notice of Hollywood for her work in the British-made 1949 melodrama “The Glass Mountain,” about an RAF pilot and aspiring composer (Michael Denison) who crashes in Italy during World War II and is rescued by a local girl played by Cortese; the composer translates his love for the girl into an opera once he’s back home in England. The New York Times said, “As the love-torn Italian village girl, Valentina Cortesa gives a sensitive, poised and wholly convincing portrayal.”

In Hollywood she appeared in a supporting role in the historical melodrama “Black Magic,” starring Orson Welles.

She then starred opposite Richard Conte in Jules Dassin’s brilliant film noir “Thieves’ Highway.” and appeared with Spencer Tracy and James Stewart in the adventure film “Malaya.”

She starred opposite Richard Basehart in Richard Wise’s excellent 1951 film noir “The House on Telegraph Hill.”  Cortese, who was unaccountably credited as Valentina Cortesa in her Hollywood efforts, married Basehart in 1951; they divorced in 1960, and he died in 1984.

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