Roberto Gastone Zeffiro Rossellini was an Italian film director, producer, and screenwriter who was born on May 8, 1906. With films like Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany, Year Zero (1948), he was one of the most renowned directors of Italian neorealist cinema.
Rossellini was born in the Italian city of Rome. Elettra (née Bellan), his mother, was a housewife from Rovigo, Veneto, and his father, Angiolo Giuseppe ‘Peppino Rossellini,’ who owned a construction firm, was from Pisa, Tuscany.
His mother was of part-French ancestry, descended from immigrants who came to Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. When Fascism came to power in Italy in 1922, he lived on the Via Ludovisi, where Benito Mussolini opened his first Roman hotel.
Rossellini’s father built Rome’s first cinema, the ‘Barberini,’ a theatre where movies could be projected and gave his son an endless free pass; the young Rossellini began going to the cinema at a young age.
When his father died, he went to work as a film sound editor, and for some time, he worked in all of the ancillary occupations involved in the production of a film, earning expertise in each discipline. Renzo Rossellini, Rossellini’s younger brother, later scored many of his films.
Rossellini made his debut film, ‘Prélude a l’après-midi d’un Faune,’ in 1937, which went unreleased and was later lost. Following this piece, he was hired as an assistant director on Goffredo Alessandrini’s Luciano Serra pilota, one of the most popular Italian films of the first half of the twentieth century, and then on Francesco De Robertis’s Uomini Sul Fondo in 1940. His friendship with Il Duce’s son, Vittorio Mussolini, has been cited as a possible explanation for his selection over other trainees. He married Assia Noris, a Russian actress who appeared in Italian cinema, in 1934, but the marriage was annulled in 1936. He married Marcella De Marchis, a costume designer, on September 26, 1936, and they worked together long after their marriage ended.
Rossellini divorced Das Gupta in 1973 and married producer Silvia D’Amico Bendic, but he remained married to Das Gupta until his death in 1977 at the age of 71 from a heart attack.