Born: Genoa, Italy, 1 September 1922.
The son of an Austrian father and Florentine mother, a basketball star at high school, he later abandoned law studies to enroll at Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Arte Dramatica. He was a seasoned veteran of some 40 plays by the time he made his film debut in 1946. He started out as a dramatic player and because of his arrogant good looks was often typecast as an egocentric hero or a callous heel in adventure sagas and socio-romantic melodramas. By the early 50s he was one of the Italian screen’s top leading men, but his reputation abroad remained limited and rested mainly on occasional box-office hits like Bitter Rice (1948) and Anna (1951). Meanwhile, he was gaining prestige as a stage actor, appearing with distinction in such productions as Tobacco Road (for Visconti), Peer Gynt, and Hamlet. In 1952 he married American actress Shelley Winters and the following year came to the US and was signed by MGM. His Hollywood venture as well as the marriage came to an early, unhappy end and he was soon back in Italy, where he started his own stage company, Teatro Popolare Italiano, and resumed his activity in local films. In 1957 he directed himself in the film Kean, which enhanced his reputation for overacting under less than strict directorial control. In the late 50s Gassman began a new phase of his film career, proving himself a capable comedy actor and gained renewed popularity in the Italian and international markets with a succession of deftly handled lightweight roles. He won the best actor prize at Cannes for Scent of a Woman (1975).