Franco Cristaldi - Writer

Producer. Nationality: Italian. Born: Turin, 3 October 1924. Studied law: degree. Career: Documentary film producer after World War II, and feature film producer from early 1950s; founded Vides Cinematografica, and in 1982 Vides Internationale; also TV producer: executive producer of mini-series Marco Polo , 1982; 1977—President, International Federation of Film Producers Association. Died: In July 1992.

Films as Producer:


La pattaglia sperduta (Nelli)


Il seduttore (Rossi); Camilla (Emmer); Un eroe dei nostri tempi (Monicelli)


Mio figlio Nerone ( Nero's Mistress ) (Steno); Kean (Gassman)


Rascel Fifi (Leoni); L'uomo di paglia (Germi); I notti bianchi ( White Nights ) (Visconti)


La sfida ( The Challenge ) (Rosi); I soliti ignoti ( Big Deal on Madonna Street ) (Monicelli); La loi . . . c'est la loi ( The Law Is the Law ) (Christian-Jaque)


Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti ( Fiasco in Milan ) (Loy); Un ettaro di cielo (Casadio); Rascel Marine (Leoni); I magliari (Rosi)


I delfini (Maselli); Vento del sud (Provenzale); Kapò (Pontecorvo)


L'assassino ( The Lady Killer of Rome ) (Petri); Fantasmi a Roma (Pietrangeli); Un giorno da leone (Loy); Giorno per giorno disperatamente (Giannetti); Salvatore Giuliano (Rosi)


Divorzio all'italiana ( Divorce, Italian Style ) (Germi); Arrivano i Titani ; ( My Son, the Hero ) (Tessari)


La ragazzi di Bube ( Bebo's Girl ) (Comencini); I compagni ( The Organizer ) (Monicelli); Omicron (Gregoretti); Mare matto (Castellani)


Sedotta e abbandonata ( Seduced and Abandoned ) (Germi); Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du monde ( The Beautiful Swindlers ) (Godard and others); Gli indifferenti ( Time of Indifference ) (Maselli)


Vaghe stelle dell'orsa ( Sandra ) (Visconti); L'antimiracolo (Piccon)


Una rosa per tutti ( A Rose for Everyone ) (Rossi); La Cine è vicina ( China Is Near ) (Bellocchio)


Ruba al prossimo tuo ( A Fine Pair ) (Maselli) (exec pr)


Krasnaya palatka ( The Red Tent ) (Klalatazov); Nel nome del padre ( In the Name of the Father ) (Bellocchio); L'udienza (Ferreri); Le Souffle au coeur ( Murmur of the Heart ) (Malle)


Il caso Mattei ( The Mattei Affair ) (Rosi); Lady Caroline Lamb (Bolt) (exec pr)


A proposito Lucky Luciano ( Re: Lucky Luciano ) (Rosi); Lacombe Lucien (Malle)


Amarcord (Fellini)


Beata Loro


Qui comincia l'avventura (Di Palma)


Ogro ( Operation Ogre ) (Pontecorvo) (co); Cristo si è fermato a Eboli ( Christ Stopped at Eboli ) (Rosi ) ; Ratataplan (Nichetti) (co)


Café Express (Loy); Ho fatto splash (Nichetti); Il Cappotto di Astrakan (Vicario)


Domani si balla (Nichetti)


Marco Polo (for TV); Arrivano i miei (Salerno); E la nave va ( And the Ship Sails On ) (Fellini)


Garibaldi—the General (Magni); The Name of the Rose (Annaud)


Vanille fraise (Oury)


Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore); C'era un castello con 40 cani ( Au bonheur des chiens ) (Tessari)


By CRISTALDI: articles—

Rivista del Cinematografo (Rome), January-February 1980.

Positif (Paris), no. 316, June 1987.

On CRISTALDI: articles—

Film Français (Paris), 4 May 1984.

Delli Colli, Laura, in Les métiers du cinéma , Paris, 1986.

Obituary, in New York Times , vol. 141, 3 July 1992.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 13 July 1992.

RIvista del Cinematografo (Rome), September 1992.

Skoop , 5 September 1992.

Cinema Sud (Avellino, Italy), December-January-February 1992–1993.

* * *

As an occasional, if reluctant, producer for Luchino Visconti and a longtime associate of Francesco Rosi, Franco Cristaldi was responsible in the 1960s and 1970s for some of Italy's most uncompromising cinema, while shrewd marketing of his Pietro Germi and Mario Monicelli productions made them among the best-known European films to circulate in the United States.

Born in 1924, Cristaldi began producing documentaries. In 1952 he founded Vides Cinematografica and moved into features as Italy's youngest producer. Half a dozen minor projects attracted the attention of the prestigious but profligate Luchino Visconti, the budget over-runs of whose Senso had scared off more experienced financiers. Cristaldi, Visconti and writer Suso Cecchi d'Amico collaborated to make I notti bianchi , intended as a cheap vehicle to launch their friend Marcello Mastroianni as a serious actor. Shortly before filming was to begin in Livorno, Visconti, impressed by Maria Schell's Venice Golden Lion for Gervaise , hired her, at a fee Cristaldi considered exorbitant. But Visconti refused to recast, and further announced his preference for a studio shoot over locations. Sets of city streets, canals and railway lines were built at Cinecittà, made even more expensive

Franco Cristaldi (with cigarette) with Suso Cecchi D'Amice and Marcello Mastrioanni (left)
Franco Cristaldi (with cigarette) with Suso Cecchi D'Amice and Marcello Mastrioanni (left)
when Visconti demanded huge tulle curtains to create the effect of fog. Hoping to spread costs, Cristaldi commissioned a comedy script from d'Amico to employ the Notti bianchi sets, but delays forced them out of Cinecittà before the film, I soliti ignoti , could start shooting under Mario Monicelli. I notti bianchi won a Silver Lion at Venice but failed commercially. On the other hand, Monicelli's farce about feckless crooks trying to pull a robbery became Cristaldi's first success, even (as Big Deal on Madonna Street ) in the U.S.A. Cristaldi also married one of its stars, Claudia Cardinale.

Over the next five years Cristaldi financed a range of films distinguished by tough socialist subject matter. Monicelli's assistant Gillo Pontecorvo brought him the concentration camp drama Kapò , whose starkness prefigures Monicelli's I compagni , the story of a turn of the century union agitator working in Cristaldi's native Turin, and Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano . The films established Vides as Italy's preeminent producer of socially conscious cinema but were too bleak to enjoy wide English-language release. In particular Salvatore Giuliano , recut and retitled The Bandit's Revenge , fared badly.

In 1959, Visconti approached Cristaldi to produce Rocco and his Brothers . Committed to a mixed French and Italian cast, the director had already chosen Annie Girardot for a major role. When Cristaldi suggested Brigitte Bardot or Pascale Petit, Visconti, replying acidly that he could see hiring them as manicurists but not as actresses, moved the project to Goffredo Lombardo's Titanus and broke with Cristaldi "after a series of telegrams," recalled the producer, "that could never be published in a respectable book. I am even surprised the postal service agreed to send them." Cristaldi returned to social satire, backing Pietro Germi's highly successful Divorzio all'italiana and Sedotta e abbandonata , films that overturned the rocks of Italian regional life, showing the clichéd warm-hearted Italian as greedy, treacherous and priapic. Stefania Sandrelli was established as a star, Germi won an Oscar for Divorce 's story and screenplay, and Cristaldi was launched decisively as an international producer.

In 1964, Visconti proposed another collaboration. Aware that Cardinale, who had worked with him on The Leopard , was anxious to do so again, Visconti induced Cristaldi to back Vaghe stelle dell'orsa , his version of Elektra with Cardinale and Jean Sorel as incestuous aristocratic siblings. The film made little money, but probably paid off in scandal and critical esteem. Cristaldi also funded two further vehicles for Cardinale, A Rose for Everyone on Brazilian locations and Ruba al prossimo tuo , a crime comedy with Rock Hudson, leeringly retitled A Fine Pair for the U.S.A.

Consistently interested in socialist/humanist projects through the 1970s, Cristaldi continued the collaboration with Francesco Rosi that had begun with 1958's La sfida . Though he funded China Is Near and In the Name of the Father by belligerent left-wing director Marco Bellochio, Cristaldi was not drawn to the new crop of young Italian filmmakers. His main involvement with the newer generation was with French directors, notably Louis Malle, whose Viva Maria , Le Souffle au Coeur , Lacombe Lucien , and Black Moon Vides backed. He also financed Fellini's autobiographical Amarcord .

In 1977, Cristaldi became head of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, a post which briefly reduced his activities in feature film, though he did produce the 1982 TV mini-series Marco Polo and Rosi's Cristo si è fermato a Eboli . Based on Carlo Levi's account of his exile by the Fascists to a remote village, the latter was distributed as both feature film and TV mini-series, a rare art cinema use of this Hollywood technique. In 1990, Cristaldi demonstrated he had not lost his skill at merchandising Italian cinema to the world when the Sicilian comedy Cinema Paradiso , which he produced, became an international success.

—John Baxter

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