Francesca Bertini

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Francesca Bertini
FBertiniAssunta S1915.png
Bertini in Assunta Spina (1915)
Born Elena Seracini Vitiello
(1892-04-11)11 April 1892
Florence, Italy
Died 13 October 1985(1985-10-13) (aged 93)
Rome, Italy
Occupation Silent film actress

Francesca Bertini (born Elena Seracini Vitiello; 11 April 1892[1] – 13 October 1985) was an Italian silent film actress. She was one of the most successful silent film stars in the first quarter of the twentieth-century.


Born in Florence, she was daughter of a comic theatre actress. Bertini began performing on stages as a child, particularly in Naples, where her family was settled. In 1904, at the age of 16, she moved to Rome, where she improved her acting skills, especially on theatre stages, and attempted to perform in the just-born Italian movie production.

Her first important movie, Histoire d'un pierrot, was under the direction of Baldassarre Negroni in 1913. Gradually she developed her beauty and elegance, plus a strong, intense, and charming personality, which would be the key of her success as a silent movie actress. With Assunta Spina in 1915 she took care of the scripts as well as performing the role of the main character. Bertini was popular internationally, her sophistication emulated around the world by women moviegoers. Reputedly, in 1915 she earned $175,000—a record for the time; Mary Pickford wouldn't catch up until the following year. She developed the current acting techniques of movie actresses by making it more sober, banning broad gestures or the mincing ways of the Diva. She is one of the first film actresses to focus on reality, rather than on a dramatic stereotype, an anticipation of Neorealistic canons. The expression of authentic feelings was the key of her success through many films. She could perform with success the languid decadent heroine as well as the popular common woman. Other important roles were Odette, Fedora, Tosca and the Lady of the Camellias.

In 1920[2], Fox Film Corporation in Hollywood offered to sign a contract with her, but she refused: she was married to the wealthy Swiss banker Paul Cartier and wanted to move with him to Switzerland. When her husband died, she moved back to Rome, where she would remain until her death.

She stepped into sound movies as well, but in the meantime the Italian cinema had changed greatly (the period of Telefoni bianchi comedies) and entered into a period of crisis with Fascism and censorship. It experienced a definite hiatus with World War II. In 1976 Bernardo Bertolucci was able to convince her to emerge from her stubborn silence, accepting a role in his movie Novecento. She allowed herself to be interviewed in 1982 documentary.

She died in Rome at the age of 93.

Selected filmography[edit]


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