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Subject: Raf Vallone, Rugged Star of Italian Films

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Date Posted: November 03, 2002 2:38:06 EDT

Raf Vallone, a journalist turned actor who began playing earnest, he-man roles in Italy's neo-realist films in the 1940's and continued to act onscreen and onstage for more than 50 years, died on Thursday in Rome. He was 86.

With rough good looks often compared to Burt Lancaster's, Mr. Vallone appeared in theaters in Paris and New York as well as in Italy. He was in about 90 movies, from the 1940's into the current decade.

Howard Thompson called him "broodingly virile" in a review of the 1959 film "No Escape" in The New York Times. Bosley Crowther, reviewing "Bitter Rice" for The Times when the film opened in New York in 1950, described him as "solid and strong."

Mr. Vallone, who was born Raffaele Vallone on Feb. 17, 1916, in the Calabria region of southern Italy, was strong. He played semiprofessional soccer, and his ambition was to make that his career. When that failed, he took up journalism, working as a sports and culture reporter for l'Unit, a Communist newspaper.

In 1948, after playing a bit part in a 1942 film, "We the Living," he was hired by Giuseppe De Santis, an Italian neo-realist film director, to research labor problems in the Piedmont region for "Bitter Rice." After helping with the research, Mr. Vallone was surprised to find himself cast as a good-hearted soldier.

"I was impressed by Raf's wide cultural and political awareness," Mr. De Santis wrote in the preface to the screenplay. "Physically, he had the rugged looks of a sportsman. He had, in fact, played in a leading Turin soccer team. He was just the type I was looking for to play the nice guy. He was a natural."

So at 31, Mr. Vallone found himself in a new career. He had grown up in Turin and earned a degree in letters and law. He was also a member of the anti-Fascist resistance.

After the favorable response to "Bitter Rice," he had a succession of movie acting jobs, but decided to try the stage after seeing Peter Brook's London production of Arthur Miller's "View From the Bridge." He thought he was perfect for the part of Eddie, and Mr. Brook agreed. He played the role in the French production, which ran for 550 performances at the Thtre Antoine in Paris.

He did more plays in Paris and Rome, as well as dramatic parts in the early years of Italian television. His films included the 1962 adaptation of "A View from the Bridge," directed by Sidney Lumet.

Mr. Vallone's other movies included Vittorio De Sica's "Two Women" (1960) and Anthony Mann's "Cid" (1961), both with Sophia Loren; Otto Preminger's "Cardinal" (1963); Henry Hathaway's "Nevada Smith" (1966); and Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather Part III" (1990).

He married the actress Elena Varzi, with whom he appeared in several films. She survives him, as well as their son, Saverio, and daughter, Eleonora.

Despite Mr. Vallone's ability to find work onstage and onscreen in both Europe and the United States, he joined Gina Lollobrigida and other actors in 1989 to protest the growing number of foreign actors used in Italian films.

"The difference between a foreign actor who comes to Italy and the Italian actor who goes abroad," he said, "is that the Italian must speak the language of that country."

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