Antonio De Curtis b: 15/02/1898, known as Totò - 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 20thC. 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 and gestures have become universally known memes in Italy. Prominent Italian directors and actors that have worked with Totò include Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marcello Mastroianni.
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 100 films; 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.
He learned the art of the guitti, the Neapolitan scriptless comedians, stemming from the tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte, and began developing the trademarks of his style, including a puppet-like, disjointed gesticulation, emphasised facial expressions, and an extreme, sometimes surrealistic, sense of humour, largely based on exaggeration of primitive urges such as hunger and sexual desire.
Totò died at the age of 69 in April 1967 in Rome, after a series of heart attacks. Even in death he was unique—due to overwhelming popular request there were three funeral services: the first in Rome, a second in his birth city Naples—and a few days later, in a third one by the local Camorra boss, an empty casket was carried along the packed streets of the popular Rione Sanità quarter in the north of Naples where he was born. Totò's birth home has been recently opened to the public as a museum, and his tombstone is frequently visited by fans, some of whom pray to him for help, as if he were a saint.
His comic features figure everywhere in Naples - from restaurant signage to postcards and the scores of souvenir stalls throughout the via Croce B. and San Lorenzo Maggiore areas of the Historic Centre.
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