Movie dubber known as voice of Woody Allen dies

Oreste Lionello, an entertainer and film dubber who was Italy's "voice" of Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis and other comic stars, died in a Rome hospital today.

Lionello, 81, was a star in Italy's important entertainment industry of movie dubbing.

Relatively few Italian cinemas show films in the original language, so moviegoers often only know the voices of Hollywood stars through dubbers like Lionello.

Italian actor and director Pier Francesco Pingitore, who did cabaret acts with Lionello, said the dubber died Thursday morning after a long illness. No details were released about the illness.

Besides Allen and Lewis, other actors who were dubbed by Lionello included Peter Sellers, Marty Feldman and Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator."

Lionello on occasion answered his phone by saying, "I am the voice of Woody Allen." For those who had seen Allen's films only in Italian, hearing the real voice of Woody Allen could be jarring. Lionello's dubbing captured all of the neuroses and sarcastic tones in Allen's speech.

Early in his career in entertainment, Lionello worked in theater as a comic actor and in cabaret, where he was noted for his imitations of veteran Italian politician Giulio Andreotti. Lionello also worked successfully as an entertainer on Italian TV in the 1970s and 1980s.

But it was in dubbing that he earned his greatest fame.

While in other European countries, subtitled versions of foreign films in original language are usually available, most of the hundreds of movies imported into Italy each year are dubbed.

Some distributors hold that dubbing prevails because many people will not go to subtitled films.

The city of Rome planned to hold a wake for Lionello in City Hall, starting tonight, with a funeral in the Basilica of Santa Maria d'Ara Coeli next to city hall on Saturday.