An American rock singer and songwriter
Antonio De Curtis, best known by the stage name Totò (Naples, 15 February 1898 - Rome, 15 April 1967) and nicknamed il principe della risata ("the prince of laughter") was an Italian comedian, film and theatre actor, writer, singer, and songwriter. He is widely considered one of the greatest Italian artists of the 20th century. While he first gained his popularity as a comic actor, his dramatic roles, his poetry, and his songs are all deemed to be outstanding; his style and a number of his recurring jokes have become universally known memes in Italy. Writer and philosopher Umberto Eco has thus commented on the importance of Totò in Italian culture:
In this globalized universe where it seems that everyone's watching the same movies and eating the same food, there are still abysmal and overwhelming fractures separating one culture from another. How can two peoples, one of which unknowing of Totò, truly understand each other?—Umberto Eco, Ma che capirà il cinese?
Mario Monicelli, who directed some of the most appreciated of Totò's movies, thus described his artistic value:
With Totò, we got it all wrong. He was a genius, not just a grandiose actor. And we constrained him, reduced him, forced him into a common human being, and thus clipped his wings.—Mario Monicelli, Cinquant'anni di cinema
As a comic actor, Totò is classified as an heir of the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, and has been compared to such figures as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. He starred in about one hundred movies; while many of them were low profile, box-office driven productions, they tend to be all appreciated by the critics, at the very least, for Totò's performances. Those that had an explicit artistic intent, such asPier Paolo Pasolini's The Hawks and the Sparrows, classify as masterpieces of Italian cinema. Prominent Italian directors and actors that have worked with Totò include Mario Monicelli, Alberto Lattuada, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Eduardo de Filippo, Peppino de Filippo, Aldo Fabrizi,Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni, and Alberto Sordi.