Italian film director Monicelli leaps to his death

Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:48pm EST
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Mario Monicelli, 95, who directed some of postwar Italy's most famous films and launched the careers of some of the country's greatest actors, jumped to his death from a Rome hospital window on Monday, Italian media said.

Monicelli directed such classics as "I Soliti Ignoti," (Big Deal on Madonna Street), "The Great War," "For Love and Gold," and the "My Friends" series with Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret.

The reports said he jumped from the fourth floor of Rome's San Giovanni hospital, where he was being treated for terminal prostate cancer.

Monicelli, known as a genius of the Italian comedy, also directed serious films such "The Great War," a story set in World War One, and "A Very Little Man," which tells the tragic tale of an average man who takes justice into his own hands after his son is killed in a robbery.

He was nominated for an Oscar four times but the award always eluded him. He made about 70 films and wrote nearly all the screenplays himself.

He made his first short film when he was 19 and made his directorial debut in 1949 by directing the Italian comic genius Toto, a partnership that would help make them both famous.

He worked with some of postwar Italy's greatest actors, including Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi, Anna Magnani, Claudia Cardinale and Monica Vitti.

His 1958 film "Big Deal on Madonna Street" tells the story of a band of hapless thieves who try to break into a house and wind up drilling through the wrong wall.   Continued...