Italian entertainer Oreste Lionello dies

Film dubber voiced Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis

Oreste Lionello, a popular TV comic and movie dubber known in Italy as the “voice” of Woody Allen — whose quirks he captured to spot-on effect — and who also dubbed Jerry Lewis, Gene Wilder, and Peter Sellers, among other comic stars, died in a Rome hospital on Feb. 19.

Lionello, who was 81, died after a long unspecified illness.

Over more than four decades, spanning from “What’s New Pussycat” to “Scoop,” Lionello became a virtual vocal Italian alter-ego for Woody Allen, whose neuroses and self-effacing sarcasm he modulated marvellously with his high-pitched pipes. 

“I will miss hearing my ‘other voice’ on Italian screens,” Allen told “La Repubblica.”

Born on the Greek Island of Rhodes, from Italian parents, Lionello started out as a standup comic in tiny postwar Rome theaters and in 1953 landed a gig as an impersonator on pubcaster RAI.

Considered a father of Italian cabaret, Lionello became a regular fixture on Italian television in the 1970s and 1980s with self-produced song-and-dance comedy shows satirizing Italian pols, most famously Italy’s seven-time prime minister Giulio Andreotti.

As a dubber, in a country where most pics are still screened in dubbed versions rather than with subtitles, Lionello provided the distinctive Italian voice for every single film in which Woody Allen appeared, with the exception of “Casino Royale.”

Other memorable roles Lionello contributed to convey to Italian auds include Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator,” whom he dubbed when the classic was re-issued in 1972,  Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins,” Peter Sellers in “Doctor Strangelove,” and Gene Wilder in “Frankenstein Junior.” 

Italian president Giorgio Napoletano remembered Lionello fondly for his “delicate satiric touch.” The City of Rome held a wake for Lionello in City Hall.

He is survived by his son Luca, who is an actor, and daughters Cristiana and Alessia, who are both dubbers.

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