Totò (Italian commedian Antonio De Curtis)
Legal name: Antonio De Curtis
Prince Antonio Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno De Curtis di Bisanzio Gagliardi, best known by his stage name Totò (Italian pronunciation: [toˈtɔ]; 15 February 1898 – 15 April 1967) or as Antonio De Curtis, and nicknamed il principe della risata ("the prince of laughter"), was an Italian comedian, film and theatre actor, writer, singer and songwriter. He is widely considered one of the greatest Italian artists of the 20th century. While he first gained his popularity as a comic actor, his dramatic roles, his poetry, and his songs are all deemed to be outstanding; his style and a number of his recurring jokes and gestures have become universally known memes in Italy. Writer and philosopher Umberto Eco has thus commented on the importance of Totò in Italian culture:
In this globalized universe where it seems that everybody's watching the same movies and eating the same food, there are still abysmal and overwhelming fractures separating one culture from another. How can two peoples [i.e. the Chinese and the Italian], one of which unknowing of Totò, truly understand each other?
Mario Monicelli, who directed some of the most appreciated of Totò's movies, thus described his artistic value:
With Totò, we got it all wrong. He was a genius, not just a grandiose actor. And we constrained him, reduced him, forced him into a common human being, and thus clipped his wings.
As a comic actor, Totò is classified as an heir of the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, and has been compared to such figures as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. He starred in about one hundred movies; while many of them were low profile, box-office driven productions, they tend to be all appreciated by the critics, at the very least, for Totò's performances many classify as masterpieces of Italian cinema. Prominent Italian directors and actors that have worked with Totò include Mario Monicelli, Alberto Lattuada, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Eduardo De Filippo, Peppino de Filippo, Aldo Fabrizi, Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Manfredi, Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi.
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