"I believe in nature, love, affection, friendship, my work and my friends. I love people and I love life. Perhaps that's why life has loved me in return. I think I've been a very lucky man."

Called by The Times the greatest of all Italian male stars, Marcello Mastroianni epitomized the Latin lover. He was suave, handsome and glamorous; simply one of the most dashing leading men…ever. Besides his obvious and undeniable sex appeal, Mastroianni was a talented performer, earning three Academy Award nominations, two Cannes Film Festival awards for best actor and countless other awards and prizes at festivals around the world. He was a legend in his own time.

Marcello Mastroianni was born on September 28, 1924 in Fontana Liri, a small town south of Rome. As a child he often acted in small parish productions, but at the age of 14 his father forced him to leave school and get a paying job. He also studied architecture and surveying briefly during his teens. In the late 1930's he was working as a laborer in Rome, occasionally getting small parts in movies.

During the war he was first forced to draw maps for Mussolini's armies and in 1943 he was captured by the Germans. He was sent to work in alpine labour camp but managed to escape to and remained in Venice until 1945.

After the war, Mastroianni returned to Rome and joined an amateur theater group at the University of Rome. His first major film role was in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in 1947. Shortly afterwards, he started to work with Luchino Visconti's theater group, performing in such classics like A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie. Between 1950-55 he acted in over 30 films.

In the early 1960's, Marcello Mastroianni starred in three films that not only exploded onto the international film scene, were revolutionary and highly acclaimed, but also proved him as an actor of unique and superb talent. Those three films, of course, were Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ and Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte. In Italy he became respected as the last giant of the golden era of Italian film making. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Mastroianni was the exemplar of modern man facing the existential void. In Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ , and Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte, Mastroianni portrayed individuals searching for the keys to their lives.

Marcello Mastroianni had a special working relationship with Federico Fellini throughout his career and the two visionaries worked together on many films. His role in 8 ½ is basically a mirror of the great director and Fellini himself, said that Mastroianni is in many ways his alter ego. Mastroianni presented Fellini the special life time achievement award at the Academy Awards in 1993.

The title of "Latin lover" is one that Mastroianni never liked and fought to shake off. His choice in characters is evidence of this. In A Special Day, in which he stars opposite the gorgeous Sophia Loren, he plays a homosexual. Remember, this was in 1975, in a nation fiercely Roman Catholic and hence, more than slightly homophobic. Mastroianni intentionally chose roles that defied the stereotype of the strong, aggressive masculinity so preferred in Italy at the time.

Marcello Mastroianni managed against all odds to make male anxiety the trademark of his career. When he died in 1996 he left behind a gallery of subtle screen characters, men chronically unsure of themselves. Better than anyone else, he enacted the male side of what someone in La Dolce Vita called the "dialogue between feminine wisdom and masculine uncertainty." In that film, decades before the subject became a staple of feature writers, Mastroianni played a male who felt unmanned by assertive, demanding women. And his performance looks as good now as it did in 1960.

Robert Fulford

In his long career, Mastroianni worked with some of the best directors including Vittorio De Sica, Theo Angelopoulos and Lina Wertmuller. A few years before his death he acted in Robert Altman's Pret a Porter, one of only two American films he ever made. He continued to work until shortly before his death and his passion for his work was obvious.

"I can take pleasure in that I always did everything for spiritual needs, never for money. I like very much to act! That is my food.... Ah, acting,... it's exhibitionism."

His passion for women was also obvious and he was not unknown for his affairs. He married Flora Carabella in 1948 and remained married for 45 years despite his many marital transgressions. The most famous of these being his relationship with French actress Catherine Deneuve, with whom he had a daughter in 1972.

After a secret and silent battle with pancreatic cancer, Marcello Mastroianni died on December 18, 1996 at his home in Paris. He stared in over 120 movies during his career and defined an era. His legacy is a gift to us all.



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