Luciano Salce, underrated director

In 2022 there are important centenaries, such as that of the march on Rome, the birth of Paul Marcinkus and the death of Marcel Proust. In the world of cinema, those of the birth of Vittorio Gassman, Pierpaolo Pasolini and Lieutenant Kojak, aka Telly Savalas. To these names we must add another no less prestigious but, probably, less remembered perhaps also due to his untimely death.

Luciano Salce was born in Rome exactly on September 25, 1922. His career in the entertainment world began immediately after the war, with the company of Evi Maltagliati together with his contemporary Gassman. His activity continued until the sixties between theater and cabaret between Europe and Brazil together with Vittorio Caprioli and Franca Valeri until he moved on to directing.

The first direct film is a comedy that does not go down in history: “The pills of Hercules”. The cast that relies on the direction of a newcomer is very respectable: Nino Manfredi, Silva Koscina, Vittorio De Sica and Andreina Pagnani, all actors already established at the time.

His first major success came the following year when, with a superlative Ugo Tognazzi and the newcomer Stefania Sandrelli, he shot “Il Federale”. In addition to the interpretation of Tognazzi that surpasses his previous role as a comic actor, it has been said of the film that he managed to make the subject, in many ways still burning, an intelligent and honest fun precisely thanks to the direction of Luciano Salce and of the calibrated interpretation of Ugo Tognazzi, very faithful and adherent to the character in all the physical aspects and spiritual attitudes of pure and naive fanaticism. The film also marks Ennio Morricone’s debut as an author of musical themes.

Salce’s activity as director continued in the 1960s between costume films, which often see Gassman as the protagonist, up to two unusual films both for the director and for the Italian film scene with a political background: “La pecora nera” and “Colpo di State”. In the latter, Salce even ventured into political fiction and, filming in 1969, described the elections of the following 1972 in which the Communist Party was the resounding winner whose leaders, however, after a conversation with Moscow declared that the electoral results were wrong and, in reality, the winning party was Christian democracy. Given the times, we should not be surprised if the film disappeared at the time, as reported by news found on the net, only to reappear in 2004.

The same year came the success of the general public with “Professor Dr. Guido Tersilli, head of the Villa Celeste clinic with an agreement with the mutuals”, followed by the “Medico della Mutua” and both with Alberto Sordi. Until the early seventies salce also directed some of the first “genre” films with Lando Buzzanca such as “Homo Eroticus” and “Il Prete Married.” He participates as an actor in numerous films, directed not only by him. Among all we remember “Ettore Lo Fusto”, an underrated film directed by Enzo G. Castellari with a truly stellar cast that saw in addition to Salce Philippe Leroy, Vittorio De Sica, Giancarlo Giannini, Rosanna Schiaffino, Vittorio Caprioli and Aldo Giuffrè.

Films and successes, especially television ones, follow one another until the seventies when his career makes him professionally run into Paolo Villaggio who directs in “To my dear mom on his birthday” up to the first two films of the “Fantozzi” saga, Two masterpieces compared to subsequent episodes that seem real badly made parodies of the events of an Italian symbol.

Among the following important direction must be remembered “Il Belpaese”, a 1977 film also with Villaggio in which Salce describes with sagacity, irony and sadness the situation of Italy in the height of the years of lead. Other films followed, including “Vieni Avanti cretino” which pays homage to the Italian avant-garde. He dies at only 67 years old.

An unpleasant note characterizes his entire long career. She has never won a film award or received a recognition. Not even posthumously.

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Luciano Salce, underrated director