obit (the dust) of the month: oh, no! it wasn’t the airplanes

The Italian-born film producer Dino De Laurentiis, who has died aged 91, will perhaps go down in movie history as the last “transatlantic” tycoon. Over a career spanning more than 60 years, producing films on both sides of the ocean, he had as many flops as hits. But De Laurentiis almost always succeeded in staying afloat.

In Rome, he produced Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning La Strada (1954) and the grandiose spectacular War and Peace (1956), but also made The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) and Waterloo (1970), which never recovered their costs. Relocating to the US, he enjoyed success with Serpico (1973), Death Wish (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Conan the Barbarian (1982), but had financial disasters including Year of the Dragon (1985) and a failed food emporium, which he opened in New York. De Laurentiis was also a starmaker, both in Italy, where he launched the career of the actor Silvana Mangano, who became his wife, and in the US, where he boosted Al Pacino’s career.

Born in Torre Annunziata, in the province of Naples, De Laurentiis was the son of a pasta manufacturer for whom he worked as a travelling salesman in his teens. While selling pasta in Rome in the mid-30s, he decided on an impulse to enrol at the city’s film school, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, as an actor. He soon realised that his flair was more for production. He was able to gain experience in most sectors of the industry before producing his first film, L’Amore Canta (Love Song, 1941), at the age of 22.  READ MORE

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