'Wonderful Life' Actress Brunetti Dies

Argentina Brunetti, a character actress who played the worried wife of Mr. Martini in the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life," has died. She was 98.

Brunetti died in her sleep Tuesday in Rome, said Ben Ohmart, whose Boalsburg, Pa.,-based publishing house, BearManor Media, released Brunetti's autobiography. She had moved to Rome last year to live with her son, Mario, and his family, he said.

Brunetti starred in dozens of films and television shows over a career spanning more than 50 years.

She portrayed Dean Martin's mother in the 1953 comedy "The Caddy," in which Martin sings "That's Amore" to her, and performed with Desi Arnaz in the 1949 film "Holiday in Havana."

Her TV credits include "Hopalong Cassidy," "The Untouchables," "Kojak" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1907, Brunetti followed her Sicilian mother, actress Mimi Aguglia, into the theater. Beginning with a walk-on role at age 3 in the opera "Cavalleria Rusticana," Brunetti performed throughout Europe and South America.

Her Hollywood career began in 1937 with contract work dubbing the voices of Jeanette MacDonald and Norma Shearer into Italian. She earned her first credited role as an Italian immigrant in Frank Capra's 1946 holiday film "It's a Wonderful Life," in which James Stewart's character helps her large family buy a house.

Off screen, Brunetti was a founding member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and wrote a weekly column for foreign language publications in Canada and Italy.

Her autobiography, "In Sicilian Company," which chronicles her family's show business adventures, was released in October. She also hosted a weekly blog, "Argentina Brunetti's Hollywood Stories."

"She not only hoped for a better world, but did many things to make it happen and for this she will be truly missed by family and friends," said a release on her Web site.