By Richard Phillips:
“A screenwriter writes with his eyes”
Suso Cecchi d’Amico (1914–2010): a seminal figure in Italian cinema
27 September 2010
The death of celebrated script-writer Suso Cecchi d’Amico, aged 96, in Rome on July 31, signalled the passing of one the few remaining veterans of what is often described as the golden age of Italian cinema—the period that began in 1943 with the collapse of Mussolini’s fascist regime, and lasted until the early 1960s.
The talented d’Amico wrote over 110 scripts during her extraordinary six-decade career, including several that were turned into genuine movie masterpieces. She won Italian cinema’s Silver Ribbon nine times for best screenplay and was awarded a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award at the Venice film festival in 1994.
Giovanna or “Suso” Cecchi was born in 1914 to an upper-middle class Tuscan family and raised in a highly cultured environment. Her father, Emilio Cecchi, was an author and leading literary critic; her mother, the painter Leonetta Pieraccini, was from a well-known theatrical family.
Suso studied in Switzerland and England and was exposed to cinema at an early age when her father became head of Cines, one of the country’s major film producers, in the 1930s. Fluent in French and English, she worked for eight years as a translator for the Italian ministry of industry, and in 1938 married Fedele d’Amico, editor of an underground newspaper and a member of the Christian Left faction of the anti-fascist resistance. He later became one of Italy’s leading musicologists.
Suso d’Amico collaborated with her father in translations of Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and in the mid-1940s translated several foreign-language plays staged by Luchino Visconti, including works by Jean-Paul Sartre, Marcel Achard, Jean Cocteau, Jean Anouilh, as well as Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column, about the Spanish Civil war.
D’Amico began writing screenplays in 1946. Her first credit was for Renato Castellani’s My Son, the Professor, which was followed in 1947 by two films for Luigi Zampa—To Live in Peace, a tragicomedy about rural life during the German occupation of Italy, and the commercially successful Angelina: Member of Parliament, a comedy starring Anna Magnani.
D’Amico’s personal history and left-liberal outlook naturally enough drew her to the neo-realist movement. This led to her involvement in The Bicycle Thieves (1948), Vittorio de Sica’s landmark movie about an unemployed working-class father and his seven-year-old son. Like many Italian films during this time, The Bicycle Thieves was a collaborative effort and involved at least six credited writers, including neo-realist theoretician Cesare Zabattini.
D’Amico always downplayed her contribution to the film. The final scene of this seminal work, however, when the father attempts to steal a bicycle, much to the disbelief and shame of his son, was suggested by d’Amico, and is one of the most affecting moments in post-WWII cinema.
Claude Chabrol: A brief appreciation: here.