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Lino Ventura

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Lino Ventura
Angiolino Giuseppe Pasquale Ventura

(1919-07-14)14 July 1919
Parma, Italy
Died22 October 1987(1987-10-22) (aged 68)
Saint-Cloud, France
Other namesLino Borrini
Years active1953–1987
Odette Lecomte
(m. 1942)

Angiolino Giuseppe Pasquale Ventura (14 July 1919 – 22 October 1987), known as Lino Ventura, was an Italian-born actor and philanthropist, who lived and worked for most of his life in France. He was considered one of the greatest leading man of French cinema during the 1960s and 1970s, known for his portrayal of tough characters on both sides of the law in crime dramas.

Born in Parma and raised in Paris, Ventura worked as a professional wrestler before an injury ended his career. He made his film debut as a gangster in the 1954 Jacques Becker film Touchez pas au grisbi and rapidly became one of France's favourite film actors, playing opposite many other great stars and working with such leading directors as Louis Malle, Claude Sautet, and Claude Miller. Usually portraying a tough man, either a criminal or a cop, he also featured as a leader of the Resistance in the Jean-Pierre Melville-directed Army of Shadows (1969). He was nominanted for a Cesar Award for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in the 1982 film adaptation of Les Misérables.

After one of his four children, a daughter, was born handicapped, he and his wife founded a charity Perce-Neige (Snowdrop) which aids disabled children and their parents. Though a lifelong resident and pop cultural icon in France, Ventura always considered himself an Italian first and foremost, and never took French citizenship nor involved himself in French politics. He was nonetheless voted 23rd in a 2005 poll of the 100 greatest Frenchmen.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

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.

Early roles[edit]

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 (1954). 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. The film was a big success.

Ventura started to build up an acting career in similar hard-boiled gangster films, often playing beside his friend Jean Gabin, including his second film, Razzia sur la chnouf (1955).

He followed it with Law of the Streets (1956), Crime and Punishment (1956) with Gabin.

Later career[edit]

Lino Ventura in 1974.

Some of his most famous roles include the portrait of corrupt police chief Tiger Brown in The Threepenny Opera (1963) and mob boss Vito Genovese in The Valachi Papers (1972).

Although he remained an Italian citizen throughout his life and long used to seeing himself dubbed into Italian from the original French release, 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).

Ventura remained active until the year before his death from a heart attack in 1987 at the age of 68. Having a disabled daughter himself, he created a charitable foundation, Perce-Neige (Snowdrop) in 1966, which supports disabled people.

Throughout his career, he was one of the most popular actors of French cinema. He spoke French without any accent (excepting a Parisian one at the beginning of his career) and spoke Italian with a slight French accent, having arrived in France at the age of seven. Forcibly conscripted into the Italian army during the Second World War, he deserted. But, although his wife and four children were French, he never wanted to give up Italian citizenship, out of respect for his parents.[1][2] Despite this, he was ranked 23rd of the 100 greatest Frenchmen, 17 years after his death.[3]

Somewhat paradoxically, Ventura attributed his great success to his limited range as an actor; and often said "If I cannot believe in a character, or if something does not ring true, I cannot act it."

In a 1980 interview he said that the previous year "I began to realize how incredibly lucky I had been since the age of 9, how much I had been loved by so many people. When I act, I am doing what I love, and I am paid for it. So I put myself in the service of the film, never the film in service to me."[4] He mentioned he turned down several roles - a part in Apocalypse Now (cut from the final film), a role in a Robert Aldrich film and the part played by François Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[4]

He said, "The story is everything. My good friend Jean Gabin told me 25 years ago there are three important things in movies: the story, the story and the story."[4]

"I have limitations," he said. "I have no training; I could not do the classics. What I can do is myself. And I like best not to talk at all... I study the script, and then try to become the character. That is very mysterious, how that happens. I cannot explain it. There are so many mysteries in cinema, the way everything must interlock, that when you think of it all, you never want to make a film."[4]


Year Title Role Director Starring Notes
1954 Touchez pas au grisbi Angelo Fraiser Jacques Becker with Jean Gabin and Jeanne Moreau
1955 Razzia sur la chnouf Roger "the Catalan“ Henri Decoin with Jean Gabin
1956 Law of the Streets Mario Ralph Habib with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Raymond Pellegrin
Crime and Punishment Gustave Messonnier Georges Lampin with Jean Gabin and Marina Vlady
1957 Burning Fuse Legentil Henri Decoin with Raymond Pellegrin and Peter van Eyck
Action immédiate [fr] Bérès Maurice Labro with Henri Vidal and Barbara Laage
Speaking of Murder Pepito Gilles Grangier with Jean Gabin and Annie Girardot
L'Étrange Monsieur Steve [fr] Denis Raymond Bailly with Jeanne Moreau and Philippe Lemaire
Three Days to Live Lino Ferrari Gilles Grangier with Daniel Gélin and Jeanne Moreau
Ces dames préfèrent le mambo Paulo Bernard Borderie with Eddie Constantine
1958 Maigret Sets a Trap Inspector Torrence Jean Delannoy with Jean Gabin and Annie Girardot
Elevator to the Gallows Inspector Cherrier Louis Malle with Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet
The Lovers of Montparnasse Morel Jacques Becker with Gérard Philipe, Anouk Aimée and Lilli Palmer
The Mask of the Gorilla Géo Paquet Bernard Borderie with Charles Vanel and Bella Darvi
1959 Le fauve est lâché [fr] Paul Lamiani Maurice Labro with Estella Blain and Paul Frankeur
Marie-Octobre Carlo Bernardi Julien Duvivier with Danielle Darrieux
Sursis pour un Vivant Borcher Victor Merenda with Henri Vidal and Dawn Addams
Douze heures d'horloge [fr] Albert Fourbieux Géza Radványi with Eva Bartok, Hannes Messemer and Gert Fröbe
Un témoin dans la ville [fr] Ancelin Édouard Molinaro with Franco Fabrizzi and Sandra Milo
125 Rue Montmartre Pascal Gilles Grangier with Andréa Parisy
Way of Youth Tiercelin Michel Boisrond with Françoise Arnoul, Bourvil and Alain Delon
1960 Classe tous risques Abel Davos Claude Sautet with Sandra Milo and Jean-Paul Belmondo
Mistress of the World Biamonte William Dieterle with Martha Hyer and Carlos Thompson
1961 Girl in the Window Federico Luciano Emmer with Marina Vlady
Taxi for Tobruk Theo Dumas Denys de La Patellière with Charles Aznavour and Hardy Krüger
The Last Judgment Giovanna's father Vittorio De Sica with Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine
Black City A gangster Duilio Coletti with Ernest Borgnine and Keenan Wynn
The Lions Are Loose André Challenberg Henri Verneuil with Jean-Claude Brialy and Claudia Cardinale
1962 Emile's Boat Émile Bouet Denys de La Patellière with Annie Girardot, Michel Simon and Pierre Brasseur
Girl on the Road the driver Jacqueline Audry with Agathe Aems and Gilbert Bécaud
The Devil and the Ten Commandments Garigny Julien Duvivier with Charles Aznavour and Louis de Funès (episode "Homicide point ne seras")
Carmen di Trastevere Vincenzo Carmine Gallone with Giovanna Ralli and Dante di Paolo
1963 Three Penny Opera [de] Tiger Brown Wolfgang Staudte with Curd Jürgens, Hildegard Knef and Gert Fröbe
Les Tontons flingueurs Fernand Naudin Georges Lautner with Bernard Blier, Francis Blanche, Jean Lefebvre, Sabine Sinjen and Horst Frank
1964 Greed in the Sun Hervé Marec Henri Verneuil with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bernard Blier and Gert Fröbe
Weeping for a Bandit El Lutos Carlos Saura with Francisco Rabal and Lea Massari
The Monocle Laughs Elie's Client Georges Lautner with Paul Meurisse cameo appearance, Uncredited
The Great Spy Chase Francis Lagneau Georges Lautner with Bernard Blier and Mireille Darc
1965 The Dictator's Guns Capt. Jacques Cournot Claude Sautet with Sylva Koscina and Leo Gordon
La Métamorphose des cloportes Alphonse Maréchal Pierre Granier-Deferre with Irina Demick, Pierre Brasseur and Charles Aznavour
The Wise Guys Laurent Robert Enrico with Bourvil and Marie Dubois
1966 Ne nous fâchons pas [fr] Antoine Beretto Georges Lautner with Jean Lefebvre and Mireille Darc
To Skin a Spy Pascal Fabre Jacques Deray with Jean Servais and Marilu Tolo
Le Deuxième Souffle Gustave Minda Jean-Pierre Melville with Paul Meurisse and Raymond Pellegrin
1967 The Last Adventure Roland Robert Enrico with Alain Delon and Joanna Shimkus
1968 Le Rapace [fr] Rital José Giovanni with Rosa Furman and Xavier Marc
1969 Army of Shadows Philippe Gerbier Jean-Pierre Melville with Simone Signoret
Le Clan des Siciliens Inspector Le Goff Henri Verneuil with Jean Gabin, Alain Delon and Irina Demick
1970 Last Known Address Chief inspector Marceau Leonetti José Giovanni with Marlène Jobert
1971 Fantasia Among the Squares Sagamore Noonan Gérard Pirès with Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne
Boulevard du Rhum Cornelius von Zeelinga Robert Enrico with Brigitte Bardot and Guy Marchand
1972 The Valachi Papers Vito Genovese Terence Young with Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland
L'aventure, c'est l'aventure Lino Massaro Claude Lelouch with Jacques Brel, Charles Denner and Charles Gérard
1973 Le Silencieux [fr] Clément Tibère Claude Pinoteau with Lea Massari
La Raison du Plus Fou Le deuxième motard François Reichenbach with Raymond Devos and Alice Sapritch cameo appearance, Uncredited
La bonne année Simon Claude Lelouch with Françoise Fabian
Far West the prisoner Jacques Brel with Gabriel Jabbour and Danièle Evenou
L'Emmerdeur Ralf Milan Edouard Molinaro with Jacques Brel
1974 Three Tough Guys Father Charlie Duccio Tessari with Isaac Hayes and Fred Williamson
The Slap Jean Douléan Claude Pinoteau with Annie Girardot and Isabelle Adjani
1975 La Cage [fr] Julien Pierre Granier-Deferre with Ingrid Thulin
The French Detective Inspector Verjeat Pierre Granier-Deferre with Patrick Dewaere and Françoise Brion
1976 Illustrious Corpses Inspector Amerigo Rogas Francesco Rosi with Fernando Rey and Max von Sydow
1978 The Medusa Touch Detective-inspector Brunel Jack Gold with Richard Burton and Lee Remick
Butterfly on the Shoulder Roland Fériaud Jacques Deray with Claudine Auger and Paul Crauchet
1979 Jigsaw (L'Homme en colère) Romain Dupre Claude Pinoteau with Angie Dickinson and Donald Pleasence
1980 Les Seducteurs François Quérole Edouard Molinaro with Catherine Salviat (segment "The French Method")
1981 Garde à vue Inspector Antoine Gallien Claude Miller with Michel Serrault and Romy Schneider
1982 Espion, lève-toi Sébastien Grenier Yves Boisset with Michel Piccoli and Bruno Cremer
Les Misérables Jean Valjean Robert Hossein with Michel Bouquet
1983 The Ruffian Aldo José Giovanni with Bernard Giraudeau and Claudia Cardinale
1984 One Hundred Days in Palermo General Carlo Dalla Chiesa Giuseppe Ferrara with Lino Troisi
La Septième Cible [fr] Bastien Grimaldi Claude Pinoteau with Lea Massari
La jonque chinoise Claude Bernard-Aubert
1986 Sword of Gideon Papa Michael Anderson with Rod Steiger and Michael York TV movie
1987 La Rumba Un caïd Roger Hanin with Roger Hanin, Michel Piccoli and Corinne Touzet cameo appearance, Uncredited, (final film role)


  1. ^ "Vidéo Ina - Extrait interview Ventura, vidéo Extrait interview Ventura, vidéo Economie et société Vie sociale - Archives vidéos Economie et société Vie sociale". Ina.fr. 24 October 1987. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Lino VENTURA : Biographie de Lino VENTURA". JeSuisMort.com. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Les 100 plus grands Français de tous les temps". In-nocence.org. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d FESTIVAL OF FESTIVALS Lino Ventura is one star who thanks his lucky stars Scott, Jay. The Globe and Mail 12 Sep 1980: P.15.

Further reading[edit]

  • Durant, Philippe (1989): Lino Ventura. Bergisch Gladbach: Lübbe. ISBN 3-404-61142-X
  • Durieux, Gilles (2001): Lino Ventura. Paris: Flammarion. ISBN 2-08-068113-3
  • Giovanni, José (2002): Mes Grandes Gueules. Fayard. ISBN 2-213-61262-5
  • Ventura, Clélia (2003): Lino ou la Gourmandise de la Vie. Paris: Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-221-09884-6
  • Ventura, Odette (1992): Lino. Paris: Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-7242-7179-3 (see also: External Links)
  • Ventura, Odette (1993): Lino. Weinheim; Berlin: Beltz Quadriga. ISBN 3-88679-217-X
  • Ventura, Odette (1997): Lino. Paris: Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-221-08646-5
  • Ventura, Odette (1997): Lino. Guanda "Biblioteca della Pilotta". ISBN
  • Zurhorst, Meinolf / Just, Lothar (1984). Lino Ventura: Seine Filme – Sein Leben. München: Heyne. ISBN 3-453-86065-9

External links[edit]