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One of the biggest international film stars to emerge from Italy in the 1960s, Marcello Mastroianni rose to worldwide prominence in films directed by the modern masters of European cinema and opposite its most radiant actresses. After toiling for years in small roles in lesser projects, Mastroianni became a cinematic superstar with his disaffected performance in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (1960). Acclaimed turns in "La Notte" (1961) and "Divorce, Italian Style" (1961) - the latter of which won him a Golden Globe - preceded Mastroianni's iconic performance in Fellini's visual masterpiece "8 ½" (1963). Both a blessing and a curse, he was crowned Italian cinema's most prominent leading man in films such as "Marriage, Italian Style" (1964), "The 10th Victim" (1965), and "Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand" (1966), which cast him opposite the likes of screens sirens Sophia Loren, Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch, respectively. Although his megastar status had all but dissipated by the 1970s, the incredibly prolific and affable actor worked continuously in projects such as the controversial "The Big Feast" (1973), "Ginger and Fred" (1986) - another of his many collaborations with Fellini - and the...
One of the biggest international film stars to emerge from Italy in the 1960s, Marcello Mastroianni rose to worldwide prominence in films directed by the modern masters of European cinema and opposite its most radiant actresses. After toiling for years in small roles in lesser projects, Mastroianni became a cinematic superstar with his disaffected performance in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (1960). Acclaimed turns in "La Notte" (1961) and "Divorce, Italian Style" (1961) - the latter of which won him a Golden Globe - preceded Mastroianni's iconic performance in Fellini's visual masterpiece "8 ½" (1963). Both a blessing and a curse, he was crowned Italian cinema's most prominent leading man in films such as "Marriage, Italian Style" (1964), "The 10th Victim" (1965), and "Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand" (1966), which cast him opposite the likes of screens sirens Sophia Loren, Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch, respectively. Although his megastar status had all but dissipated by the 1970s, the incredibly prolific and affable actor worked continuously in projects such as the controversial "The Big Feast" (1973), "Ginger and Fred" (1986) - another of his many collaborations with Fellini - and the star-studded Robert Altman haute couture comedy "Ready-to-Wear" (1994). In a screen career that spanned nearly 150 films, Mastroianni's unabashed love for his craft allowed him to consistently surprise audiences as he explored the limitless vistas of life through the medium of cinema.
Born Marcello Vincenzo Domenico Mastroianni on Sept. 28, 1924 in Fontana Liri, Italy - a small town, south of Rome - he was the son of mother, Ida, and father, Ottone, a carpenter. Growing up poor in Turin, and later, Rome, he studied surveying with an eye on a career in architecture before WWII and the German occupation put an end to such practical plans. Conscripted for a time to draw maps for the Nazis, Mastroianni was later sent to a forced labor camp in the Alps, from which he soon escaped, only to spend the remainder of the war hiding out in Venice. Having worked as a film extra before the outbreak of the war, Mastroianni later picked up a job in Rome as an accountant for British film studio Eagle Lion, and began acting in several theatrical productions at the University of Rome, where he was taking classes. It was during this period that Mastroianni met a figure who would loom undeniably large in his future - Frederico Fellini, and his wife, Giulietta Masina, an actress. His credited film debut came with a small role in "I Miserabili" ("Les Miserables") (1948), although it was on stage that he was making greater strides as a performer. Under the direction of Italian theater legend Luchino Visconti, Mastroianni honed his talents and made a reputation for himself in acclaimed productions of "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Death of a Salesman," and "Uncle Vanya" in the late-1940s.
Mastroianni, recently married to actress Flora Carabella, was soon working steadily with minor parts in such films as "Parigi è sempre Parigi" ("Paris is Always Paris") (1951) and "Le Ragazze di Piazza di Spagna" ("Three Girls from Rome") (1952). Eventually, he labored through to larger and challenging roles in more than 20 Italian films before having the chance to work with famed director Alessandro Blasetti and comedy star Vittorio De Sica in the crime comedy "Peccato che Sia una Canaglia" ("Too Bad She's Bad") (1955), a film that would be the first of Mastroianni's many onscreen pairings with Italian film beauty Sophia Loren. Efforts like the romantic drama "Le Notti Bianche" ("White Nights") (1957), directed by his old theatrical mentor, Visconti, and "I Soliti Ignoti" ("Big Deal on Madonna Street") (1958), Mastroianni's second feature directed by renowned filmmaker Mario Monicelli, increased the actor's visibility and box office cachet. By the late 1950s, Mastroianni had established himself as a major Italian star, although he was still little-known to American audiences. That all changed when he starred as a decadent gossip columnist in Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" ("The Sweet Life") (1960), the film that made him an international film star. Episodic in its structure and rife with symbolism, it told the story of a week in the life of Mastroianni's character, a disillusioned man looking for substance in the banality of a life among the over-privileged Italian glitterati. Hailed as a cinematic masterpiece and one of the most important films ever made, the scene in which Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg frolic in waters of Rome's Trevi Fountain soon entered into the pantheon of iconic screen imagery.
Mastroianni followed with another impressive turn, this time working with influential director Michelangelo Antonioni in "La Notte" ("The Night") (1961), in which he solidified his growing onscreen persona as a novelist adrift in an emotionally barren marriage to Jeanne Moreau. With both actor and director at the height of their creative powers, he collaborated with Fellini once again for the avant-garde masterpiece "8 ½" (1963). Mastroianni played an illustrious movie director struggling with "writers block" as he attempts to complete his latest picture, all the while contemplating his life, his work, his marriage and romantic fantasies. Widely considered Fellini's greatest achievement, the film went on to win two Academy Awards and influence filmmakers for generations to come. Mastroianni reunited with Loren for a pair of successful outings directed by De Sica - "Ieri, Oggi, Domani" ("Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow") (1963) and "Matrimonio all'Italiana" ("Marriage, Italian Style") (1964). "Casanova '70" (1965), once again directed by Monicelli, cast him as an over-sexed army officer who only finds excitement by seducing women in mortally dangerous situations, and irrevocably established his film reputation as a "Latin Lover" - a limited description the actor would later insist that he loathed. Nonetheless, in addition to Loren, Mastroianni was continually paired with many of cinema's most beautiful actresses in films that included a turn opposite Ursula Andress in the science fiction thriller "La Decima Vittima" ("The 10th Victim") (1965), and with Raquel Welch in the bizarre comedic fantasy adventure "Spara forte, più forte, non capisco" ("Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand") (1966).
As one of the biggest international movie stars of the 1960s, Mastroianni expanded the boundaries of his repertoire in films that included Visconti's adaptation of novelist Albert Camus' bleak, existential exploration, "Lo Straniero" ("The Stranger") (1967). He turned in his first non-dubbed English language performance in the U.K.-produced "Diamonds for Breakfast" (1968), and worked with director John Boorman on "Leo the Last" (1970) as the bored heir to a deposed European throne. Interesting choices, but as always, it was his work alongside Loren in films like "I Girasoli" ("Sunflower") (1970) and "La Moglie del Prete" ("The Priest's Wife") (1971) that produced more favorable box office results for Mastroianni. Always willing to test the limits of taste and censorship, he went took part in the aptly-named Roman Polanski-directed "Che?" ("What?") (1972), an absurdist erotic fantasy, loosely mimicking the "Alice in Wonderland" story. The following year he appeared in an even more controversial piece - "La Grande Bouffe" ("The Big Feast") (1973), in which four successful, middle-aged men vow to literally eat themselves to death during a weekend getaway at a villa where they are joined by a trio of prostitutes. Working relentlessly, he also starred with Catherine Deneuve - his companion throughout the early 1970s, despite the fact that he had never divorced Carabella - in a pair of odd comedies "Niente di Grave, suo Marito è Incinto" ("A Slightly Pregnant Man") (1973) and the highly stylized farce about Custer's last stand, "Touche pas à la Femme Blanche" ("Don't Touch the White Woman!") (1974).
Mastroianni garnered critical acclaim, including his second Oscar nomination (his first being for "Divorce, Italian Style"), for his work in the social drama "Una Giornata Particolare" ("A Special Day") (1977), in which he portrayed an embittered gay man who befriends a repressed housewife (Loren) in WWII Italy. More work with his longtime friend Fellini continued with "La Città delle Donne" ("City of Women") (1980), "Ginger and Fred" (1986), and as himself in the biographical "Intervista" (1987). Mastroianni also turned in a tour-de-force performance as a man torn between his affluent, albeit loveless marriage, and his love of a married Russian woman in director Nikita Mikhalkov's "Oci Ciornie" ("Dark Eyes") (1987). The stylized drama, adapted from short stories by Anton Chekhov, earned the actor yet another Oscar nod. In a rare U.S.-produced feature, he returned to the well-worn "Latin Lover" persona once again as an elderly lothario pursuing recent widow Shirley MacLaine in the syrupy romantic comedy "Used People" (1992). Two years later, he sparred with Loren one final time amid a sea of high-wattage acting talent in the underwhelming Robert Altman effort "Pret-a-Porter" ("Ready-to-Wear") (1994). Shortly after turning in his multi-character performance in director Raoul Ruiz's highly-touted offbeat comedy "Trois Vies et Une Seule Mort" ("Three Lives and Only One Death") (1996), a stoic Mastroianni finally succumbed to the effects of pancreatic cancer, a condition he had closely guarded for fear he would no longer be offered work. Attended by his companion of 21 years, filmmaker Anna Maria Tato, as well as Catherine Deneuve and his two daughters, Mastroianni passed away on Dec. 19, 1996, at the age of 72. He made his final dramatic film appearance posthumously in director Manoel de Oliveira's "Journey to the Beginning of the World" (1997), most appropriately playing an aging Fellini-esque movie director. During the filming of "Journey," Tato had also filmed "Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, Yes I Remember" (1997), a documentary that would serve as both a tribute to and a summary of the actor's storied life and remarkable career.
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