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Dead at 96: BICYCLE THIEVES Screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico

Suso Cecchi d’AmicoSuso Cecchi d’Amico, the only top female screenwriter in the post-war Italian cinema, died today in Rome. She had turned 96 on July 14. According to reports, no cause of death was given.

Chiefly among Cecchi D’Amico’s screenwriting contributions — nearly 120 of them — are those for Vittorio de Sica’s Oscar-winning neo-realist classic Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Cannes Film Festival co-winner Miracle in Milan (1951), and for numerous films directed by Luchino Visconti, among them Bellissima (1951), Senso (1954), Rocco e i suoi fratelli / Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Il Gattopardo / The Leopard (1963), Ludwig (1973), and Conversation Piece (1975).

Additionally, Cecchi D’Amico collaborated with a number of other celebrated Italian filmmakers, including Michelangelo Antonioni (Le Amiche / The Girlfriends), Alessandro Blasetti (La fortuna di essere donna / Lucky to Be a Woman), Luigi Zampa (L’onorevole Angelina), Mario Monicelli (I soliti ignoti / Big Deal on Madonna Street, Risate di gioia / The Passionate Thief), Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano), and Franco Zeffirelli (The Taming of the Shrew; Brother Sun, Sister Moon).

Cecchi D’Amico also wrote the lyrics for Nino Rota’s opera I due timidi.

It’s hard — if not downright impossible — to tell what or exactly how much Cecchi d’Amico (born Giovanna Cecchi in Rome in 1914; her father was screenwriter Emilio Cecchi) contributed to many of her most renowned films.

For instance, based on a novel by Luigi Bartolini, Bicycle Thieves had no less than six credited screenwriters; Rocco and His Brothers had five; Senso had five; Big Deal on Madonna Street and Salvatore Giuliano had four.

What is known is that movies co-written by Cecchi D’Amico are among the most important made anywhere in the world in the 1950s and 1960s. Those efforts usually dealt with issues of class, economic disparity, social power (or powerlessness), and the difficult, complex, at times hilariously befuddled lives of "common" men and/or women.

Cecchi D’Amico was one of the various screenwriters nominated for an Oscar for Mario Monicelli’s Casanova 70 in 1965.

She also shared a David di Donatello for the screenplay of Monicelli’s Speriamo che sia femmina / We Hope It’s a Girl (1986) and took home no less than nine Silver Ribbons from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.

In 1994, she received a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival, and just last year was given the Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America.

According to Portuguese author and screenwriter João Nunes, Suso Cecchi d’Amico came up with the term scaletta ("outline," or literally, "little ladder" or "little staircase") to describe the steps the protagonist must take to reach the end of the story.

In the clip below (in Italian), Cecchi D’Amico explains she was a fan of MGM star Ramon Novarro, and talks about working with Luchino Visconti ("very handsome, very fascinating") and L’onorevole Angelina, Bellissima, and The Passionate Thief star Anna Magnani ("sometimes I wanted to kill her; she could be unbearable"). (Update: The video has been removed.)

Suso Cecchi d’Amico’s funeral will be held on Monday, Aug. 2, at Rome’s Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.

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