Lino Ventura is instantly recognisable as
the archetypal strong man of the French crime thriller genre. He was born Angelo
Borrini, on 14th July 1919, in Parma, Italy. He moved to France in 1927, where,
after a string of part time jobs, he began a career as a professional wrestler.
In 1950, he won the European championship, but an injury a short while later compelled
him to give up the sport, although he continued organising matches.
His career and his fortunes changed spectacularly
in 1953 when the film director Jacques Becker offered him a part in his film Touchez
pas au grisbi
, one of the first film noir thrillers which would become the mainstay
of French cinema in the 1950s. In this film, Ventura plays a hardened gangster,
the role he would become most associated with in the following three decades.
Ventura secured stardom with his part in
the 1957 film Le gorille vous salue bien, which was followed by a string of lead
roles in high profile films. These included: Classe tous risques (1960),
Les Tontons flingueurs (1963), Le deuxième souffle (1966) and
Le Clan des Siciliens (1969).
Whether he played the unscrupulous gangster
or the uncompromising detective, Ventura's strong, solid performances gave his films
a shocking, often brutal, sense of realism. His regular film appearances continued
well into the 1980s, although by this time the thriller genre with which he was most associated
was beginning to go out of fashion.
Ventura's tough on-screen presence
conceals a kind-hearted and humble man. In the early 1980s, he co-founded (with
his wife Odette) the organisation “Perce-Neige” which exists to support handicapped
young people. He died from a heart attack, on 22nd October 1987 at Saint-Cloud in
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