The Sidney Lumet-directed Serpico, which stars Al Pacino as a New York cop battling widespread corruption within the police force, remains one the most important Hollywood productions of the 1970s. King Kong, for its part, introduced Jessica Lange to the world of filmmaking, while Dune, though one of the biggest critical and box office disappointments of the 1980s, featured a bald Silvana Mangano – a sight nearly as disturbing as all the weird stuff that goes on in another De Laurentiis production, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986).
But when I think of De Laurentiis, what comes to mind – in addition to Mangano’s bald head – are Giuseppe De Santis’ Bitter Rice (1949), which sealed Mangano’s stardom as the pre-Sophia Loren Earth Mother of Italian cinema; Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning La Strada (1954); and the Ettore Scola-directed Alberto Sordi vehicle La più bella serata della mia vita / The Most Beautiful Evening of My Life (1972), an intriguing mix of psychological drama and sociopolitical fable featuring four greats of French cinema: Michel Simon, Pierre Brasseur, Claude Dauphin, and Charles Vanel.
De Laurentiis and Mangano were married from 1949 to 1989, the year she died of cancer. He remarried the following year.
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