La Strada

Federico Fellini’s La Strada is from 1954 and stars Anthony Quinn as Zampanó, Richard Basehart as the Fool and Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina.

Only Fellini’s fifth film, La Strada won more than fifty international awards, including an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the first prize ever given in that category.

It was an influential film and Fellini always said that it was the movie that he felt closest to. Bob Dylan said that La Strada was an influence for his song Mr. Tambourine Man and Kris Kristofferson has said that the film was an inspiration for his song Me and Bobby McGee.

Born in 1920, Fellini decided on a career as a caricaturist and gag writer and travelled to Florence in 1938, where eventually found work as a cub reporter on the daily papers.

In 1939, to please his parents, he enrolled in law school at the University of Rome, but there is no record of his ever having attended a class. Four months after publishing his first article in a humor magazine, he joined the editorial board and worked steadily from 1939 to 1942, interacting with writers, joke writers, and scriptwriters.

While writing for radio shows, Fellini met his future wife, Giulietta Masina, and they remained married until his death. Well-paid as an actress in a radio serial written by Fellini, Masina was also known for her musical-comedy broadcasts, which cheered audiences depressed by the war.

She is often called the "female Chaplin" because of her intense performances of naïve characters, dealing with cruel circumstances, and she gives a prime example of that in this film.

In November 1942, Fellini was sent to Libya, occupied by Fascist Italy, to work on a screenplay, where he was responsible for re-writing scenes. On that film he wandered into the editing room, started observing how Italian films were made.
He got his first taste of directing when he was allowed to direct a few scenes of the film and he knew he had found his life’s work.

Known for a distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images, Fellini is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century and is widely revered.

He died in 1993 and although he only directed 25 films, he was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning five. He also has the highest number of Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film in film history.

An interesting side note: The term "paparazzi" comes from a character in Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita.

The character is a journalist named Paparazzo, who photographs celebrities.
Anthony Quinn was born in 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico and before he launched his acting career, Quinn worked odd jobs as a butcher, a boxer, a street corner preacher and a slaughterhouse worker.

He also won a scholarship to study architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright at Wright's Arizona home and also at his Wisconsin studio. The two became close friends and when Quinn talked about trying acting, Wright encouraged him.

After a short time performing on the stage, Quinn launched his film career performing in 1936. For a few years, he played villains and ethnic types and seemed stereotyped from the start.

But when World War II started, as a Mexican national he was exempt from the draft. And, with many actors off fighting World War II, Quinn was able to move up into better supporting roles.

By 1947, he had appeared in over 50 films and had played Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese guerrillas, and Arab sheiks, BUT he was still not a major star.

Then, just after he became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1947, he was “gray-listed” by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Rather than go through the process of refuting the suspicions, Quinn decided to go back to the Broadway stage where there was no blacklist.

He eventually went back to Hollywood and in 1952, he won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Viva Zapata!, making him the first Mexican-American to win an Oscar.

Starting in 1953, he appeared in several Italian films, turning in one of his best performances as the dim-witted, brutish and volatile strongman in this movie.

Quinn won his second Best Supporting Oscar in 1956, portraying Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life. The award was considered remarkable because he was only on screen for a little over 22 minutes.

Quinn was married three times and had a total of ten children. His first wife was the adopted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille, who he married in 1937.

Sadly, their first child drowned in the lily pond of next-door neighbor, W.C. Fields, at the age of 2.

One of his last major films was 1995’s A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves and he died in 2001.

Richard Basehart, the Fool, was noted for his deep, distinctive voice and was a prolific narrator of television and movie projects, from features to documentaries.

He was the Soviet ambassador in 1979’s Being There and he appeared in the pilot episode of the TV series Knight Rider as billionaire Wilton Knight. He is also the narrator at the beginning of the show's credits.

His last work as an actor was doing the voice-over for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The day after he finished that recording, he suffered the first of a series of fatal strokes and died in 1984.

He is probably best remembered for his starring role as Admiral Nelson in the 1960s TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.