The full-bodied, multi-faceted use of gesture by Italy’s beloved vaudeville and cinema comedian Antonio De Curtis, in art Totò, is rooted in the rich gesture language of Naples. Totò’s humble origins, the experience of poverty and deprivation, conditioned his
art, as did his immersion as a mere child into the rough-and-tumble world of Neapolitan street theater. The teeming neighborhoods of Naples, a Baroque city, have made it into somewhat of a theatrum mundi, producing many fine actors and playwrights. The essay, illustrated by photograms
from a few of Totò’s films, suggests that Neapolitan gesture, whose purpose is communication, is stylized by Totò and transformed into artistry of a high order.