Franco Zeffirelli

And the man whose version of Romeo and Juliet has enabled English teachers to just wheel the TV out and not worry about planning for two lessons leaves us. 

The bastard child of two fashion industry workers, Franco Zeffirelli’s mother wasn’t allowed to use his father’s name on birth documents, so she made up the surname “Zeffirelli” – a bastardisation of the Italian for “little breezes”. Presumably he had some gastric issues as a child. She died when he was only six years old, and so Frankie Boy was raised by a gaggle of English ex-pats in proto-Fascist Italy: an upbringing that inspired his hit movie Tea With Mussolini.

He also had success on the small-screen with the oft-repeated Jesus of Nazareth, as well as some Hollywood bombs like Endless Love. A complex man, he was a devout Catholic, politically on the right (he was a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party), an open homosexual and said he had suffered “no ill effects” after being raped as a child by his priest. Allegations of wandering hands followed him throughout his career, to the extent that the character of Uncle Monty in Withnail and I was allegedly based on him.

Franco Zeffirelli
12 February 1923 – 15 June 2019 
Died aged 96 (eight picks)