Eduardo De Filippo

1900-1984

Eduardo De Filippo was born in Naples on May 24th 1900 into a well known family of actors. While still adolescents he, his brother Peppino, and his sister Titina - all three the illegitimate children of Eduardo Scarpetta - joined the famous Scarpetta acting company and became principal performers. Shortly afterwards Eduardo left and joined the company of L.Carini as a character actor, author and utility man. He then went into the field of musical comedy with Peppino Villani's company, but by 1929 he was reunited with his brother and sister in the Molinari Company. With this company he started writing some of his first one act plays.

 

In 1931 the De Filippos opened their own theatre company in Naples. They performed in a number of one act plays written by Eduardo in collaboration with Peppino. The company toured Italy in 1933 and 1934 with great success. In the ensuing years they made a number of films beginning in 1932 with THREE MEN IN TAILS. In 1937 Eduardo attracted attention as a writer with his first screenplay: I DID IT.

 

After the war Eduardo began producing his own works including NAPOLI MILIONARIA (1945) a drama about the black market. With TOO MANY GHOSTS! (1946) which was very successful followed by FILUMENA MARTURANO (1946, written for his sister) Eduardo's reputation as a playwright was firmly established. In 1951 he published a highly-acclaimed volume of poetry: NAPLES, THE COUNTRY OF PULCINELLA, and in 1954 he reopened the celebrated Teatro San Ferdinando of Naples.


SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY was written in 1959 and produced that same year in Rome. The first English production (adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall) went to the National Theatre in 1973 with Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay heading the cast. It won the London Drama Critic's prize and was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as a hilarious comedy "seething with

life, rich and nutty as a fruitcake". The play received its North American première in New York at the Martin Beck Theatre in 1981.

 

One of the most gifted dramatists of the contemporary Italian theatre, Eduardo De Filippo - in his more than fifty plays - discloses a fine craftmanship that owes a great deal to his acting experience. The many sketches and one-act plays he wrote for his own troupe and for others during his apprentice years grounded him in a twofold sense - in the practical knowledge of what works in the theatre, and in a tragicomic awareness of the fine line between illusion and reality. Influenced by Pirandello, the view of life is more buoyant and zestful.

 

Mostly written in Neapolitan dialect, his plays are invested with the infectious spirit of Pulcinella, with a core of matter-of-fact earthiness, a compound of love and mockery that characterises the Neopolitan temperament and the same folk spirit that gave rise to the commedia dell'arte tradition. While the regional character and the key role of Neopolitan dialect in De Filippo's works are lost in translation (even into Italian), his work's popularity abroad was assisted by a successful film version of FILUMENA MARTURANO by Vittorio de Sica - MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964) starring Sophia Loren.

 

Eduardo died in 1984.

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