22 February 1921, Bologna – 23 March 1994
Giulia Anna Masina was an Italian motion-picture actress and the wife of Italian film director Federico Fellini. Her portrayal of waiflike innocents served as the emotional focal point for some of Fellini’s best films.
Masina enrolled as a student at the University of Rome in 1938, she continued to devote a good deal of time to acting in university plays and on radio. In 1939 she made her professional debut in an Italian translation of Thornton Wilder’s Happy Traveler.
By 1943 Masina was gaining notice as a radio actress and had been cast as Pallina in Cico e Pallina, a radio serial about a young married couple written by Fellini. Soon after, on October 30, 1943, she and Fellini were married.
In the minor role of the good-hearted prostitute Cabiria, Masina revealed her gift for pantomime and the charm and naïveté that would serve as the springboard for more fully realized characters in later Fellini films.
Nights of Cabiria
With La Strada (The Road, 1954), both Fellini and Masina achieved international success. As the childlike Gelsomina, the virtual chattel of a cruel circus performer, Masina relied on her remarkably expressive face and body to convey a range of emotions from sorrow and pathos to happiness and love, prompting many critics to describe her as a female Charlie Chaplin.
La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, were both winners of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, in 1956 and 1957, respectively. Masina won the Best Actress award at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival for the later film.
La Strada E’ arrivato Zampanò!