Franco Zeffirelli (1923-2019)

A very great director and a sad loss.

We were sad to hear of the recent death of Franco Zeffirelli, one of the best known Italian directors and producers of film and opera of the 20th century. Hugely influential and iconic, he stood at the heart of Italian film for decades.

Born Gian Franco Corsi Zeffirelli, he was the illegitimate child of a fashion designer and Florentine wool and silk merchant. After the death of his mother when he was six, he was brought up by the English expatriate community in Florence, who took him under their wing – this part of his story was immortalised in his semi-autobiographical film Tea with Mussolini, set in the pre-war Florence of the “scorpioni” (the English community there, represented by the inspirational Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright) and in the Tuscany of the war years as war took hold. He enrolled to study art at the University…

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