Legendary screenwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico has died in Rome at the age of 96. More impressive than the sheer number of screenplays she'd written since 1946 — over 110 — is the lasting mark she's left on Italian and international cinema. She worked on the screenplay for that landmark of Italian Neo-Realism, Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), the first credit mentioned in most of today's first round of reports. But she may ultimately be best remembered for her literary adaptations, among them, Le Amiche (1955) for Michelangelo Antonioni, based on the short novel by Cesare Pavese, and of course, The Leopard (1963) for Luchino Visconti, from the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
Visconti's the name she's most often associated with, and she'd work closely with him on the sets of his later films. In 2006, Mikael Colville-Andersen interviewed Cecchi d'Amico and it seems he could hardly believe his luck: "The very name Suso Cecchi d'Amico is whispered in hushed tones by any screenwriter worth his salt. And now I sit across from her in this library cum office and cannot help feeling like a schoolboy in her presence." She tells him: "I've always said that stealing from literature is important. Take Dostoyevsky for example. We have stolen so much from him. Characters, situations, what have you. Look at Rocco and his Brothers (1960). It's clear. Rocco is the Prince. Of course it's different but it comes from Dostoyevsky." And earlier: "The young people today are much more accustomed to literature that has been influenced by cinema. So often you read new novels which resemble film treatments but it is not great literature."
The DPA: "Despite her considerable literary skills, D'Amico saw her screenwriting as serving cinema's main purpose, which according to her was a visual one, Italian film critic Paolo Mereghetti said Saturday. For her, in film 'one does not seek to find words, but words must follow images,' Mereghetti said."
Cecchi d'Amico, along with Mario Monicelli and Tonino Guerra, was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for Casanova 70 and, in 1994, was awarded a Golden Lion for her life's work at the Venice Film Festival. In 1999, she worked with Martin Scorsese on his personal tribute to Italian cinema, My Voyage to Italy.
Updates, 8/1: "She was born Giovanna Cecchi in Rome to a Tuscan painter, Leonetta Pieraccini, and the literary critic Emilio Cecchi, a major figure in 20th-century Italian letters," writes John Francis Lane for the Guardian. "For a few years in the early 1930s, before the Cinecittà studios were built in Rome, her father had been entrusted by Mussolini's government with running the state-backed film company Cines. 'We Cecchi children were excited by Daddy's new job because we all loved the movies,' Suso said. Many film people were among the literati who frequented the family home. Italy's leading theatre critic, Silvio d'Amico, was a regular visitor. His son Fedele (known as Lele), a musicologist, married Suso in 1938.... Suso believed that if Albert Camus's widow had allowed the crucial structural changes that Visconti wanted in the first part of his adaptation of L'Étranger (The Stranger), the resulting film (Lo Straniero, 1967) would have been more successful. For his projected adaptation of Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), Visconti wanted to deal with only two sections of the novel, the tormented love stories between the narrator (to be played by Delon) and Albertine; and between Baron de Charlus (with whom, according to Suso, Visconti identified) and Morel (to be played by Helmut Berger)."
The AP's Alessandra Rizzo: "Claudia Cardinale, who starred in The Leopard, praised her deep culture and generosity. [Franco] Zeffirelli called her 'an extraordinary screenwriter' but also a good-hearted woman who was 'a mom and a sister to all of us.'"
Updates, 8/2: A remembrance from writer and critic Antonio Monda at Criterion's Current: "For years, every Sunday evening, she hosted a dinner with her daughters, Caterina and Silvia, at which the crème de la crème of international cinema — including Martin Scorsese, when visiting Rome — would participate. Conversations at her place were not a matter of having a 'salon,' but of sharing ideas — often leading to the creation of the plot of a great film or great art."
"To look at the credits of many of the classic Italian 'neorealist' movies is to note the large number of screenwriters they employed," notes the New Yorker's Richard Brody. "I've long believed that the many hands contributing a wide range of experiences to the films, which were then unified by the perspective of a strong director, is what gave that movement its blend of documentary power and artistic vision."
Update, 8/4: "She and [Ennio] Flaiano jump-started the career of Sophia Loren when they refused to sell the screenplay for Too Bad She's Bad unless Ms Loren was cast instead of Gina Lollobrigida," notes William Grimes in the New York Times. "She considered City on Trial, directed by Luigi Zampa, her best screenplay." Earlier in the piece: "'Her record was astounding,' said Carlo Celli, the co-author of A New Guide to Italian Cinema and a professor of Italian and film studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. 'She worked with absolutely everybody and in all genres: high-art cinema, popular cinema, comedies, dramas, Mafia films. And the eminent directors she worked with hit their high points with her as a screenwriter.'"
The Locarno Film Festival pays tribute, recalling that "Suso Cecchi d'Amico was a member of the Locarno Festival Official Jury in 1980, but she made her mark at the Festival as early as its second edition, winning the Best screenplay Award for Luigi Zampa's Vivere in pace (1947), alongside Aldo Fabrizi, Piero Tellini and Luigi Zampa."