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The Romantic Italian Heartthrobs and How They Made American Women Swoon
Part 1 of 2: Marcello Mastroianni
by Cookie Curci
In my opinion, the two most romantic and dynamic Italian leading men, imported from Italy, were Marcello Mastroianni and Rossano Brazzi. Just saying and hearing their names titillated American woman......and when these actors emoted on the big screen...well, it was like every adult female in the audience believed it was for her eyes only.
In 1961, when Photoplay magazine asked its readers to vote for their favorite new Hollywood actor, Italian born stars Marcello Mastroianni and Rossano Brazzi finished first and second, respectively, on a list that included Italian Americans Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. During the 1960s, when much of the film industry was in the doldrums film directors and stars, imported from Italy, attracted audiences back to the movie houses. These internationally famous superstars created an enviable image of the cool, good-looking jet setter.
Marcello Mastroianni, with his tall, dark and handsome good looks just naturally filled the roll of the bon vivant man of the world. American movie fans adored his on screen persona. While his rakish smile and devil-may-care attitude, appealed to American men, who envied his unencumbered lifestyle? But it was Mastroianni's sensitive, romantic, nature that attracted his faithful female followers.
Mastroianni was born in 1924, in Fontana, Italy, but his family would soon move to Turin and then on to Rome. The Italian star's real life may have been more exciting then some of his movie rolls. As a young man, serving in the military during W.W.II, Mastroianni was captured and sent to a German prison camp. He managed to escape and hide in Venice at the home of friends and relative. After the war Mastroianni tried his hand at acting. His breakthrough film came in 1960, when Federico Fellini cast the sexy actor as an attractive, journalist in the jet-set film, La Dolce Vita (1960) This film would prove to be the genesis of his "Latin lover" persona.
When asked about his famous role in this Fellini film, the actor is said to have told interviewers that he was hired because Fellini thought he had a "terribly ordinary face."
Mastroianni was never one to take his star status seriously. In fact, he couldn't understand why some method actors made working in films so much work. "I just do what comes naturally," said Mastroianni, "no preparation, no hours of studying, and it's always turns out to be more fun than work."
Mastroianni starred in a series of films with the equally famous and romantic leading actress, Sophia Loren. One of the most memorable films was Ieri, Oggi, Domani (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) (1963). These films proved to be Italy's most popular paring of a male and female star in the 20th century. Award winning Costumes by Christian Dior enhanced these films, which exploits the enormous appeal of both stars. When asked by a reporter why he rarely portrayed mobsters in his films, Mastroianni answered with a wink, "I'm a lover, not a fighter." He more than lived up to that reputation.
Marcello Mastroianni was wed to Flora Carabella since 1948. However, at his bedside when he died were his long time, extra marital amore, actress Catherine Deneuve, and their love child Chiara. It seems this Latin lover's personal life was not far from the on screen romantic characters he portrayed.
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