Mostly Credited As: Alida Valli
Sometimes Credited As: Alida Altenburger
Birth Name: Alida Maria Laura von Altenburger
Date Of Birth: May 31, 1921 (Age 84)
Country Of Birth: Italy
Birth Place: Pola, Istria (now Pula, Croatia)
Date Of Death: April 23, 2006
Cause Of Death: Natural Causes (Rome, Italy)
This enigmatic, dark-haired foreign import was dubbed "The Next Garbo" but didn't live up to post-war expectations despite her cool, patrician beauty, remote allure and significant talent. Born in Pola, Italy (now Croatia), on May 3, 1921, the daughter of an Austrian journalist and professor and Italian homemaker, she studied dramatics as a teen at the Motion Picture Academy of Rome and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia before beginning in bit roles in such films as Cappello a tre punte, Il (1934) [The Three-Cornered Hat] and Due sergenti, I (1936) [The Two Sergeants]. She made a leading name for herself in Italy during WWII with the film Manon Lescaut (1940) (title role), won a Venice Film Festival award for Piccolo mondo antico (1941) [Little Old World], and was a critical sensation in Noi vivi (1942) [We the Living]. She briefly abandoned her career, however, in 1943, refusing to appear in what she considered Fascist propaganda, and was forced into hiding. The next year she married surrealist painter/pianist/composer Oscar De Mejo. They had two children, one of them, Carlo De Mejo, became an actor. The marriage later dissolved amid a 1954 drug, sex and murder scandal that involved her former husband and his mistress, a public outbreak that nearly ruined her career.
Following her potent, award-winning work in the title role of Eugenia Grandet (1947), she was discovered and contracted by David O. Selznick to play the murder suspect Maddalena Paradine in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947). Billed during her Hollywood years simply as "Valli," Selznick also gave her top femme female billing in Carol Reed's classic film noir The Third Man (1949), but for every excellent turn in the above-mentioned films, she experienced such failures as The Miracle of the Bells (1948), and the audiences stayed away. In 1951 she bid a quick farewell to Hollywood and returned to her beloved Italy. In Europe again, she became well sought after by the best of directors. Her countess in Visconti's Senso (1954) was widely heralded and she moved easily from ingénue to vivid character roles. Later stand-out films encompassed costume dramas as well as shockers, and had her playing everything from baronesses to grandmothers, including Yeux sans visage, Les (1959) [Eyes Without a Face], Gigolo, Le (1960), Edipo re (1967/I) [Oedipus Rex], Tendre Dracula (1974), 1900 (1976), Suspiria (1977), Luna, La (1979), Inferno (1980), Aspern (1985), A Month by the Lake (1995), and, her most recent, Semana Santa (2002).