Angiolino Giuseppe Pasquale "Lino" Ventura (14 July 1919 – 22 October 1987) was an Italianactor who starred mainly in French films. Raised by his Italian mother in Paris, after a first career as a professional wrestler was ended by injury he was offered a part as a gang boss in the 1954 film Touchez pas au grisbi and rapidly became one of France's favourite film actors, playing opposite many other stars and working with leading directors such as Jacques Becker, Louis Malle, Claude Sautet, Jean-Pierre Melville and Claude Miller. Usually portraying a tough man, either a criminal or a cop, he also featured as a leader of the Resistance in L'armée des ombres. Having a daughter born handicapped, he and his wife founded a charity Perce-Neige (Snowdrop) which aids such children and their parents. Though he never renounced his Italian citizenship, he was voted 23rd in a poll for the 100 greatest Frenchmen.
Born in Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy to Giovanni Ventura and Luisa Borrini, who moved to France soon thereafter, Lino dropped out of school at the age of eight and later took on a variety of jobs. At one point Ventura was pursuing a prizefighting and professional wrestling career but had to end it because of an injury.
In 1953, by chance, one of his friends mentioned him to Jacques Becker who was looking for an Italian actor to play opposite Jean Gabin in a gangster movie called Touchez pas au grisbi. Becker offered him on the spot the role of Angelo, which Ventura refused at first but then accepted. He had such a presence in the film that the whole profession took notice.
Although he remained an Italian citizen throughout his life, he only made a handful of films in his native language, among them The Last Judgement (Il giudizio universale, 1961), Illustrious Corpses (Cadaveri eccellenti, 1976) and Cento Giorni a Palermo (1983), long used to seeing him dubbed into Italian from the original French release.
Ventura remained active until the year before his death from a heart attack in 1987 at the age of 68. Having a handicapped daughter himself, he created a charitable foundation, Perce-Neige (Snowdrop), in 1966, which supports handicapped people.
Throughout his career, he was one of the most popular actors of French cinema. He spoke French without any accent (if not a Parisian one, in the beginning) and spoke Italian with a slight French accent, having arrived in France at the age of seven. Forcibly incorporated into the Italian army during the Second World War, he deserted to remain faithful to the principles of France. But, although his wife and four children were French, he never wanted to give up Italian citizenship, out of respect for his parents. Despite this, he was ranked 23rd of the 100 greatest Frenchmen, 17 years after his death.
Paradoxically, Ventura attributed his success to the fact that had a very narrow range as an actor. He often said, "If I can not believe in a character, or if something does not ring true, I can not act it."