The Italian Almanac


Marcello Mastroianni

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Marcello Mastroianni

The premier Italian actor of the postwar era, Marcello Mastroianni was among the most popular international stars in movie history. A speculative, almost introverted screen presence, he was the perfect foil for the arid, often puzzling films of directors like Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini, with whom he achieved some of his greatest success.

Marcello Mastroianni was born in 1924, in Fontana Liri, Italy, but soon his family moved to Turin and then Rome. During WW2 he was sent to a German prison camp, but he managed to escape and hide in Venice. In 1945 he started working for the Italian department of "Eagle Lion Films" in Rome and joined a drama club, where he was discovered by director Luchino Visconti.

He made his "official" movie debut in the film "I miserabili" (Les Miserables - 1948). In 1957 Visconti gave him the starring part in his Fyodor Dostoyevsky adaptation "Le notti bianche" (White Nights - 1957) and in 1958 he was fine as a little thief in Mario Monicelli's comedy "I soliti ignoti" (Same Unknown People).

His real breakthrough came in 1960, when Federico Fellini cast him as an attractive, weary-eyed journalist of the Rome jet-set in "La dolce vita" (Sweet Life -1960); that film was the genesis of his "Latin lover" persona, which Mastroianni himself often denied by accepting parts of passive and sensitive men.

He would again work with Fellini in several major films, like the exquisite 8 (1963), as a movie director who finds himself at a point of crisis, and the touching Ginger e Fred (1986), as an old entertainer who appears in a TV show.

Mastroianni was married to the Italian actress Flora Carabella (1926-1999), who appeared in many films including "Lunatics and Lovers" and "A Night Full of Rain", from 1948 until his death; they had one child, Barbara. He also had a daughter, Chiara Mastroianni , with his longtime mistress, the actress Catherine Deneuve; both were at his bedside when he died of pancreatic cancer in 1996.