'Scent' was Oscar nominated

Dino Risi, an undisputed master of Italy’s postwar Commedia all’Italiana genre and the Oscar-nominated writer behind the original “Scent of a Woman,” which he also directed, and other classics including Vittorio Gassman starrer “Il sorpasso” (“The Easy Life”) died of heart failure June 7 in Rome. He was 91.

1975′s “Scent of a Woman” was nominated for two Oscars and won protag Gassman a Cannes fest acting nod in 1975. The Martin Brest- directed 1992 remake won an acting Oscar for Al Pacino.

During a six-decade career Risi became known for combining his biting satirical streak with a light touch as he depicted the character flaws and contradictions rife in Italian society working with many of the country’s best actors of the day.

The son of a prominent Milanese doctor, whose clients included the Mussolini family and La Scala Opera House, Risi became an orphan at age 12 and was raised by relatives and family friends.

Following in his father’s footsteps he studied medicine, specializing in psychiatry, before working as an assistant director in the 1940s to helmers Alberto Lattuada, Mario Soldati and Mario Monicelli.

Among Risi’s earliest hits are “Scandal in Sorrento,” in 1955, starring Sophia Loren as a sexy fish peddler and Vittorio de Sica as an enamored police chief who is supposed to evict her, and “Pretty but Poor,” which followed in 1957.

“I feel a great pain for his death,” Loren said. “His movies were beautiful and funny.”

In 1962 Risi directed the tragicomic “The Easy Life,” a road movie set against the backdrop of 1960s Italian hedonism starring Gassman and Jean Louis Trintignant and considered one of the best Italian comedies of all times.

“The Easy Life” is said to have inspired Dennis Hopper when he directed “Easy Rider” and has also been cited by Alexander Payne as seminal to “Sideways.”

In 1971, Risi struck box office gold with the dark “In nome del popolo Italiano” (“In the Name of the Italian People”) in which a seemingly upright magistrate played by Ugo Tognazzi investigates an arrogant real estate developer, played by Gassman, anticipating Italy’s Clean Hands corruption scandals of the 1990s.

That same year Risi also had a hit with romancer “The Priest’s Wife” starring Loren opposite Marcello Mastroianni.

The prolific Risi worked throughout the early 1990s, during his latter period in television. His last work was “Le ragazze di Miss Italia,” a comic take on the Miss Italy pageant.

In 2002, Risi was awarded a Golden Lion for career achievement by the Venice Film Festival.

Survivors include his two children, Claudio and Marco, the latter a successful director.

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