ROME – Gabriele Ferzetti, the silently seductive Italian actor who rose to international prominence during the 1950’s and 60’s, when he played a dissolute playboy opposite Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni’s melancholy masterpiece “L’Avventura,” died in Rome on Wednesday. He was 90.
Ferzetti’s stage, screen and TV career spanned seven decades all the way to his role as a Milanese patriarch in Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love,” in 2009.
His more memorable international credits – among more than 160 titles – comprise playing Lot in John Huston’s “The Bible,” the role of Morton the railroad baron in “Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and mob boss Draco in 1969 James Bond pic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
In Italy Ferzetti worked with many of the best directors of his day, including opposite Gina Lollobrigida in Mario Soldati’s “La Provinciale,” with Elio Petri (“We Still Kill The Old Way”), Ettore Scola, Florestano Vancini, and Liliana Cavani, in whose “The Night Porter,” he played Hans, a former Nazi.
Born in Rome March 17, 1925, Ferzetti attended Rome’s Silvio d’Amico drama school very young while also making his debut on the silver screen at 17 in Luigi Chiarini’s 1942 “Via delle cinque lune.” In the early postwar period Luchino Visconti kickstarted his long and glorious career on the Italian stage by offering him a part in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
Ferzetti first worked with Antonioni on 1955 melodrama “Le Amiche” in which he plays an unsuccessful artist. Their collaboration soared with “L’Avventura,” in which he played a failed architect and restless womaniser on a boat trip around Italy’s Aeolian islands with his wife and other wealthy people, mostly importantly Claudia played by Monica Vitti. After being booed at Cannes in 1960 “L’Avventura” went on to become a huge critical success with Pauline Kael picking it as the best film of that year. It is now widely considered among the greatest films ever made.
Ferzetti worked frequently in television in his later years, including regular roles as a character named Nono in French skein “Une Famille Formidable.”
Survivors include his daughter Anna Ferzetti, also an actress, who starred in hit Italo cross media series “An Imperfect Mom.”