Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini
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Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini (Rimini, January 20, 1920 – Rome, October 31, 1993) was an Italian film director and screenwriter.

It is universally considered one of the main protagonists in the history of world cinema. Winner of four Oscars for best foreign film, in 1993 he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his career.

For almost four decades – from The White Sheikh in 1952 to The Voice of the Moon in 1990 – and two dozen films Fellini made a portrait of a small crowd of memorable characters. He said of himself that he was “an artisan who has nothing to say, but knows how to say it”. His work is widely considered as unique and unforgettable, full of asperities and satire, and evenings of melancholy.

Federico_Fellini’s Biography

Childhood and youth

Federico Fellini was born in Rimini to a middle class family: his mother, Ida Barbiani, of Roman origin, was a housewife; his father, Urbano, a liquor representative, sweet and edible, born in Gambettola, a town west of Rimini. Federico studied at the Liceo Classico «Giulio Cesare» where he discovered his talent for drawing; I felt admiration for the American cartoonist Winsor McCay, creator of the comic book character “Little Nemo”.

In his childhood, the young Federico shows a keen interest in Chaplin’s films and American humorous comics, arriving to say in 1966

It is evident that the intense reading of these stories, at an age when emotional reactions are so immediate and frequent, conditioned my taste for adventure, the fantastic, the grotesque and the comic. In this sense it is possible to find a deep relationship between my works and American comics. From his caricatured stylizations, from his landscapes, from the characters silhouetted against the horizon, I have been happily “shocking” images, images that from time to time reappear and whose unconscious memory has conditioned the figurative element and the plots of my films .

Professional beginnings

Fellini as a young man.

Before finishing the classical secondary school, Fellini gets some collaborations with newspapers and magazines as a draftsman; the most important was the collaboration with the newspaper Il 420, edited by Nerbini. Around 1937-38, with 17 or 18 years old, Nerbini will hire him as proofreader of these magazines’ prints, with the young man spending 7 or 8 months in Florence. He will also act as a scriptwriter for the Flash Gordon series, with drawings by George Toppi, when the fascist government bans the importation of American comics and Italian authors must continue them so as not to disappoint their readers.

At the beginning of 1939, he moved to Rome under the pretext of studying law, but with the intention of becoming a journalist. A few months after his arrival in Rome, Fellini debuted in April of that year in the leading Italian satirical magazine, Marc’Aurelio, directed by Vito de Bellis. After the success in Marc’Aurelio, Fellini receives many job offers and substantial amounts of money.

During these first years he wrote comic sequences for actors known as Aldo Fabrizi and Erminio Macario in Imputato, alzatevi! and I vedi come sei … I vedi come sei? in 1939. Fellini also produced several drawings (mainly in pencil on paper), often comic portraits and political caricature being as well as the young Fellini met the cinema: his first success was as an advertising cartoonist for films. Avanguardista during Fascism, his first works were for the Alleanza Cinematográfica Italiana (ACI), a production company of Vittorio Mussolini, son of Benito Mussolini, through which he met Roberto Rossellini.

Fellini and the radio

In 1941 he began to collaborate with the Ente Italiano Audizioni Radiofoniche (EIAR), living a brief but happy phase as a writer on the radio. Fellini’s stage on the radio marks the master’s debut in the world of entertainment and the beginning of the emotional and artistic relationship with Giulietta Masina. In recent years he has signed about ninety scripts by Fellini, including the presentations of music programs, magazines, radio, the famous series Cico and Pallina . The series was broadcast between 1942 and 1943, told the story of a young couple.

In July 1943, Giulia introduces Federico to her parents, and the couple married in October of the same year. On March 22, 1945, Giulia and Federico had a son, Pier Federico, who died only twelve days after his birth.

The neorealist phase

At the beginning of the forties, Fellini meets Tullio Pinelli, a playwright, and founded a professional association. Fellini and Pinelli are in charge of writing the text that will be released to Aldo Fabrizi. In 1944, after the fall of fascism in a Rome just liberated from the armed troops, opened a shop of portraits and cartoons, The Funny Face Shop. In 1945 Fellini’s first meeting with Roberto Rossellini took place and he began his contribution to the most representative film of post-war Italian cinema: Roma città aperta (open city Rome). Fellini also wrote scripts for other renowned directors such as Alberto Lattuada (No Mercy, El Molino del Po), Pietro Germi (In the name of the law, The City Defends) and Luigi Comencini.

After collaborating on the scripts of other Rossellini films: Paisà (Comrade, 1946) and L’amore (El amor, 1948); and debuted in the direction with Alberto Lattuada with Lights of varieties in 1950, made in 1951 his first solo film Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheikh, starring comedian Alberto Sordi and written by Michelangelo Antonioni and Ennio Flaiano. From this comedy between satirical and burlesque with echoes of the omnipresent neorealism of the time, Fellini met Nino Rota, the musician who would follow him for the rest of his career.

The international resonance

Fellini in the 1970s.

The actress Giulietta Masina, with whom Fellini had married in 1943, became her absolute muse and the physical and above all emotional character that fascinated the audience of half the world in golden titles of the Italian cinema like Souls without conscience, The nights of Cabiria, La Strada, Giulietta of the spirits and Ginger and Fred. Another actor who appears constantly in his films is Marcello Mastroianni, who studied acting at the same school as Massina, and who was a great friend of the director. In fact, Mastroianni appears in some of his most important films, always playing the main role (among them La Dolce Vita and Ocho y medio). Fellini also worked with actors such as Anita Ekberg, whom she launched into fame, Sandra Milo, the aforementioned Sordi and Fabrizi, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale, Richard Basehart, Sylva Koscina, Freddie Jones and Roberto Benigni.

The writers with whom he always worked (Bernardo Zapponni for example), managed to find a way to combine dialogues and structures with the plasticity, expressiveness and enormous cinematographic personality of Fellini (present in the narrative, framing, themes on the oneiric, the pathos, the cruelty, the happiness, the desolation, the different, the extravagant, the provocation, the humor, the show business, the Mediterranean …), and all this comes to overflowing rabidly the great majority of his films.


Fellini and actor Bruno Zanin during the filming of Amarcord.

His maturity is marked by his distancing himself from criticism and by his loss of massive profitability facing the market coinciding with two key events: at the end of the supremacy of the great American and European studios, and the generational changeover rupturist as radical that occurs in the early 70’s in half the world, which is joined by the rise of television as a motor of daily entertainment of the vast majority of the public, accompanied by the manufacture of a new invention that changes the concept of the industry of the predominant cinema until then: the domestic video.

Also now, the overcoming of classic structure cinema harms the career of the filmmaker because, paradoxically, it is now when the Italian maestro becomes -at least apparently- more conventional in his proposals and his cinema “goes out of style” in the new tendencies of the cinema of the old continent (Jean Pierre Melville’s thriller, the philosophical classicism of François Truffaut, the political commitment of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the aesthetic and formal innovations of Bernardo Bertolucci, the poetic and metaphysical lyricism of Andréi Tarkovski , the rise of new and young creators (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Carlos Saura, Ken Russell, Vilgot Sjöman, Hristo Popov) However, it is at this moment that Fellini turns to doing smaller and more personal works, with less budget but of praiseworthy artistic scope, since this professional crisis does not detract from the projects that are rolling and premiering: I clowns (Los clowns, 1 970), Rome, (1972), Prova d’orchestra (Orchestra rehearsal, 1979) or E la nave va (And the ship goes, 1983).

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