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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 17:03 GMT
Italians mourn comedy hero
The funeral of Alberto Sordi
Tens of thousands turned out to mourn Sordi
A crowd of 250,000 Italians have gathered to pay their last respects at the funeral of comic actor Alberto Sordi on Thursday.

They cheered and clapped as Sordi's coffin arrived for the funeral at the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano in Rome.

The crowd watched the funeral service on big screens erected outside the cathedral.

Millions more followed the ceremony as it was broadcast live on state television.

"When a loved one dies, a mass of memories and emotions crowd the minds of those who stay behind," said Cardinal Camillo Ruini in his funeral oration.

"Since Alberto Sordi has died, this has happened to an entire city, an entire country."

Sophia Loren and Alberto Sordi
Sophia Loren said Sordi [pictured] was a "very great friend"

The crowd outside clapped and nodded as he spoke. Overhead, a small plane crossed over the basilica trailing a banner that read: "This time you've made us cry."

Chants of "Alberto" echoed around the square as policemen acting as pallbearers carried Sordi's coffin out after the service.

Tens of thousands of fans had queued to file silently past Sordi's open coffin ahead of the funeral as he lay in state in Rome's town hall, the Campidoglio.

Sordi died of a heart attack on Monday night in his Rome house. He was 82.

The actor's death unleashed a wave of emotion not seen in Italy for years.

As soon as his death was announced Italian state TV RAI started broadcasting his films, announcing several days of blanket coverage of his main works.

Simple approach

Sordi was the last survivor of the golden era of Italian cinema and starred in some 150 films in a career which spanned 60 years.

Along with fellow Italian screen legends Vittorio Gasmann and Marcello Mastroianni, he created the genre of the Commedia all'Italiana (Italian-style comedy).

Sordi played the archetypal Italian struggling against diversity, comically dissecting the weaknesses of his countrymen - one of his films was called An Average Little Man.

"I adopt a very simple approach," he said. "I observe and reflect real life and ordinary people and sooner or later that raises a laugh."

However, he also won critical acclaim for moving performances in some of the greatest Italian films such as Mario Monicelli's The Great War.

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