Antonio de Curtis – stage name Totò

Totò (Antonio de Curtis) was an actor, a writer, a screenwriter and a musician. His life was extremely colorful and personal, tainted by disappointment and tragedy.

He was the illegitimate son of prince Joseph De Curtis and of the young Anna Clemente. Totò was born on February 15, 1898 ; he was registered with the maternal surname and he was recognized by the prince only in 1941. In 1933 Totò was adopted by the marquis Francesco Maria Gagliardi who transmitted his noble titles to him.

The education of the boy was provided by his mother who also gave him the nickname of Totò. After attending elementary school he enrolled in the Cimino College. At the age of 14 he abandoned his studies to work as assistant of the teacher Alfonso, apartment painter. When the great war broke out he enlisted as voluntary; and it is precisely in the army that he created the motto “are we men or corporals”?. This motto arose from the meeting with a army officer who forced him to more humble tasks. At the end of the conflict in 1918 he returned to Naples and began to act. An accident during his teenage years had left him with a disfigured face and this, together with an ability to distort his body like a puppet and an almost surreal sense of humour, allowed him to create a series of unique, and extremely popular characters. He had a stormy love’s story with the singer Liliana Castagnola (she would have killed herself when their relationship ended). In 1932 he married the17-year-old Daria Lucchesini Roglioni who in 1933 gave birth to a daughter named Liliana as Totò’s first love. In 1950 he separated from his wife for a flirtation with the actress Silvana Pampanini. Out of the jealousy, his ex-wife married a lawyer and this episode inspired Totò to write the lyrics of the song “Malafemmina”. He successfully continued his artistic career and became manager and financier of his theater company, that between 1933 and 1940 represented all over Italy. In 1952 he met Franca Faldini and with her he lived until his death (on April15,1967). It seems that the last words he spoke before he died were for his woman: “T’aggia voluto bene assai Franca” (I loved you so much, Franca). With Totò the comedy in Italy marked a turning point. The prince of laughter raised the mood of a war -wounded nations, witnessed the vitality that can emerge from the misery and narrowness of those years. The comic mask he represented translated the contradictions of Italy in the last century and in particular of Naples.

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