best film:   Alida Valli worked with some of the Italian greatest auteurs of their generation (more below in the directors worked with section) but it is the British film with a British director (Carol Reed) and British writer (Graham Greene)  The Third Man that prevails as her single best film. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is not far behind- both are towering masterpieces. For The Third Man, Valli shares credit in front of the camera  with both of the two Mercury theater buddies: Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. Cotten plays the lead, and Welles gets one of the most memorable supporting performances in film history, but one could easily argue Valli surpasses both of them with her work.



Valli as Anna Schmidt in The Third Man– a magnificent character wearing the badge of post-war pain




best performance:  Either The Third Man or Senso would be the right answer here. Forced to choose, the edge may go to her most lasting film – The Third Man –  but Valli just owns Senso playing the tragic La contessa Livia Serpieri. Senso has the war as a backdrop with the personal love story in the foreground like many epics from War and Peace to Gone with the Wind.  Valli is simply sublime. She handles the inner conflict exquisitely without being overly melodramatic.



stylistic innovations/traits:   Italian actor Alida Valli has a strong one-two punch with an iconic performance in an easy top 100 film (The Third Man) which even gives her the walk off in one of cinema’s truly great ending scenes. Senso secures Valli’s placement on this list- she gives a tour-de-force emotional performance in a must-see film from an auteur of great standing (Visconti). Looking at Valli’s work in The Third Man and Senso, one could ask if you would rather have Ingrid Bergman (a contemporary of Valli and the best female actor of all-time) in Valli’s place in either role – and the answer here would be “thanks, but no thanks”- which is, of course, a tremendous compliment to Valli. She just had an edge- a touch of stiffer resolve.



One cannot read a review of  Senso without knowing that Visconti wanted Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando for the two leads.  Bergman would not be as good as Valli here- there is unique desperation in Valli in this role- brilliant. Farley Granger is a bit miscast- he is a good pretty boy (and the role calls for that)- but when he is asked to be evil and savage at the end it is testing the limits of what Granger can do as an actor. Brando here would excel.




directors worked with:   Alida Valli worked with Bernardo Bertolucci (2), and Dario Argento (2) and then once a piece with Carol Reed, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini. This is a damn all-star team- so she clearly had the regard of the greatest auteurs of her time. It is a bit of a shame that her pair of collaborations with Bertolucci and Argento did not come earlier in her career during her prime in the 1940s and 1950s. Argento, in particular, could have used some better acting in his films and Valli certainly would have qualified as such a talent.



Il Grido– Antonioni’s dramas were nearly always very fertile ground for actors. Valli is opposite Steve Cochran here.



top five performances:

  1. The Third Man
  2. Senso
  3. Il Grido
  4. Eyes Without a Face
  5. The Spider’s Stratagem



archiveable films

1949- The Third Man
1954- Senso
1957- Il Grido
1960- Eyes Without a Face
1967- Oedipus Rex
1970- The Spider’s Stratagem
1976- 1900
1977- Suspiria
1980- Inferno