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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Italy in mourning for Alberto Sordi
By Benedetto Cataldi
BBC, Milan

Sophia Loren and Alberto Sordi
Sophia Loren said this was one of the saddest days of her life
The actor Alberto Sordi's death has come as a shock to Italy and left it in a state of national mourning.

His body will lie in state from this afternoon at Rome's town hall, the Campidoglio.

Italians will be able to pay tribute to him all night and all day tomorrow, until his funeral at 1000 (0900 gmt) on Thursday morning.

As soon as his death was announced this morning, Italian state TV RAI started broadcasting his films, announcing blanket coverage of his main works over the next few days.

Presenters wore black as a mark of respect.

Sordi was the last survivor of the golden era of Italian cinema.

I observe and reflect real life and ordinary people and sooner or later that raises a laugh
Alberto Sordi
Along with fellow Italian screen legends Vittorio Gasmann and Marcello Mastroianni, he created the genre of the Commedia all'Italiana (Italian-style comedy).

The actress Sophia Loren described his death as one of the saddest days of her life.

"He was a very great friend," she told ANSA news agency.

"He was (one of) our greatest comic actors. He leaves us with a sense of nostalgia and melancholy for times gone by."

Archetypal Italian

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi also paid tribute, saying: "Sordi has really given voice to the feelings of the Italian people, especially in their hardest times."

Mourner places flowers outside Alberto Sordi's villa
Floral tributes pile up outside Sordi's villa
A Roman born and bred, there is hardly a trattoria in the capital that doesn't have a picture of the actor stuffing his face with spaghetti in the 1954 hit An American in Rome.

Sordi played the archetypal Italian struggling against diversity, comically dissecting the weaknesses of his countrymen - one of his films was called the 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 such as Mario Monicelli's The Great War.

Large crowds began gathering to pay their last respects as soon as the lying-in-state was announced.



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