Valentina Cortese

Valentina Cortese

Highest Rated: 100% The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Lowest Rated: Not Available

Birthday: Jan 1, 1923

Birthplace: Milan, Italy

A glamorous presence in European and American films from the postwar period until the early 1990s, Oscar-nominated actress Valentina Cortese played both sultry and downtrodded women in films for such acclaimed directors as Orson Welles, Jules Dassin, Michelangelo Antonioni and Francois Truffaut. Born January 1, 1923 in Milan, Italy, she was the daughter of a single mother who left her in the care of a farming family in the Lombardi region. At the age of six, she was relocated to Turin, where she was raised by her maternal grandparents; they, in turn, sent her to Rome to study at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she was taken under the wing of the academy's director, film critic Silvio D'Amico, who provided her with a pathway to acting in films. Uncredited roles led to juvenile character parts in genre films - light comedies, costume dramas - but a turn as a typist driven by postwar poverty into prostitution in "Rome: Free City" (1946) led to more substantive work, including a dual role as Fantine and her daughter, Cosette, in Riccardo Freda's 1948 film version of "Les Miserables." These and other films led to her first role in an English-language film, the British romance "The Glass Mountain" (1949), which cast Cortese as an Italian partisan who falls for pilot Michael Denison. Hollywood came calling after Orson Welles cast her as a Romani woman in "Black Magic" (1949), his co-directorial effort with Gregory Ratoff; a contract with 20th Century Fox - and a name change to "Cortesa" - led to a slew of appearances as exotic, occasionally tragic figures: a saloon singer in "Malaya" (1949), with Spencer Tracy and James Stewart; a prostitute in Jules Dassin's noir classic "Thieves' Highway" (1949); and a concentration camp survivor targeted by a murderer, played by Richard Basehart, in "House on Telegraph Hill" (1951). Cortese married Basehart shortly after the film's release, and both returned to Italy, where, after resuming use of her original surname, she played elegant women of means in a diverse array of arthouse-minded features, including collaborations with Joseph L. Mankiewicz ("The Barefoot Contessa," 1954) Michelangelo Antonioni ("The Girlfriends," 1955), Mario Bava ("The Girl Who Knew Too Much," 1963) and Federico Fellini ("Juliet of the Spirits," 1965). She also worked steadily in stage roles at the Piccolo Theatro in Milan, and became involved with its founder, Giorgio Strehler, after she divorced Basehart in 1960. In the late '60s and early '70s, Cortese traveled a journeyman actor's path, bouncing between prestige projects like Franco Zeffirelli's "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (1972), television (Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth," RAI/ITV/NBC, 1977) and character turns in Italian "giallo" (thrillers), action films and crime dramas. She also experienced a career high point during this period, playing an aging film actress in Francois Truffaut's "Day for Night" (1973). Cortese's performance - equal parts comedic and heart-breaking - earned an Academy Award nomination, which she lost to Ingrid Bergman, who famously apologized to Cortese for the win during the ceremony. She then returned to steady work in largely unremarkable films and television projects, save for a minor role in Terry Gilliam's anarchic "Adventures of Baron Munchausen" (1988). Her final acting performance came in Zeffirelli's "Sparrow" (1993), though she remained active in Italian social circles and penned an autobiography, "Many Tomorrows Past" (2012), which served as the inspiration for a documentary about Cortese, "Diva!" in 2017. The Italian Association for the Performing Arts announced her death at the age of 96 on July 10, 2019.

Highest rated movies

Day for Night
The Girlfriends
The Barefoot Contessa
Thieves' Highway
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Juliet of the Spirits
The Evil Eye




No Score Yet No Score Yet Buster's Bedroom Serafina Tannenbaum (Character) - 1991
92% 82% The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Queen Ariadne/Violet (Character) $8.6M 1989
0% 20% When Time Ran Out Rose Valdez (Character) - 1980
No Score Yet No Score Yet Satan's Wife Elena Merrill (Character) - 1979
No Score Yet No Score Yet Widows' Nest Dolores (Character) - 1977
No Score Yet 70% Kidnap Syndicate Grazia (Character) - 1976
No Score Yet No Score Yet Appassionata Unknown (Character) - 1974
42% 77% Brother Sun, Sister Moon Pica Di Bernardone (Character) - 1973
100% 91% Day for Night Severine (Character) $17.8K 1973
No Score Yet 35% The Assassination of Trotsky Unknown (Character) - 1972
No Score Yet 67% First Love Mother (Character) - 1970
No Score Yet No Score Yet Give Her the Moon Madeleine de Lépine (Character) - 1970
63% 82% The Secret of Santa Vittoria Gabriella (Character) - 1969
60% 43% The Legend of Lylah Clare Countess Bozo Bedoni (Character) - 1968
No Score Yet No Score Yet Listen, Let's Make Love Lallo's Mother (Character) - 1967
No Score Yet 30% The Possessed Irma (Character) - 1965
79% 85% Juliet of the Spirits Valentina (Character) $90.7K 1965
71% 68% The Evil Eye Laura Craven-Torrani (Character) - 1963
No Score Yet No Score Yet Square of Violence Erica Bernardi (Character) - 1963
89% 67% Barabbas Julia (Character) - 1962
No Score Yet No Score Yet Story of San Michele Eleonora Duse (Character) - 1962
No Score Yet 82% Rocket From Calabuch Eloisa (Character) - 1956
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Rocket From Calabuch Schoolmistress (Character) - 1956
100% 83% The Girlfriends Nene (Character) $63.2K 1955
No Score Yet No Score Yet Count Aquila Teresa Casati (Character) - 1955
100% 71% The Barefoot Contessa Eleanora Torlato-Favrini (Character) - 1954
No Score Yet 35% Secret People Maria Brentano/Brent/Lena Collins (Character) - 1952
No Score Yet 61% The House on Telegraph Hill Victoria Kowelska (Character) - 1951
No Score Yet 41% Malaya Luana (Character) - 1950
No Score Yet No Score Yet Women Without Names Unknown (Character) - 1950
No Score Yet 20% Shadow of the Eagle Elizabeth/Princess Tarakanova (Character) - 1950
No Score Yet No Score Yet Women in Prison Anna Petrovic (Character) - 1950
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Glass Mountain Alida Morrosini (Character) - 1949
No Score Yet 67% Black Magic Zoraida (Character) - 1949
100% 78% Thieves' Highway Rica (as Valentina Cortesa) (Character) - 1949
No Score Yet 36% Magia Negra Unknown (Character) - 1949
No Score Yet 80% Roma Citta Libera Unknown (Character) - 1948
No Score Yet No Score Yet Bullet for Stefano Barbara Montanari (Character) - 1947