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2020 is the year that sees the centenary of the birth of the “master”, and so one cannot but retrace the stages of his history. His was intertwined with that of his wife’s Giulietta, so much so in fact, that the director declared it to be the main source of inspiration for his films and without which he could not have produced even one of his masterpieces. Fellini died on October 31,1993, just one day after his and Giulietta’s fiftieth wedding anniversary (a phenomenon bordering on the paranormal and a topic that Fellini had always been passionate about!), and Giulietta followed him only five months later. They shared a lifelong bond and the story of Giulietta and Federico Fellini is certainly one of the most beautiful love stories to know.
On October 30, 1943, only a year after their first meeting, Federico Fellini and Giulia Anna (later renamed “Giulietta”) Masina married in a secret and resigned ceremony, given the delicate situation of the war and poverty.
They met in the world of entertainment in which they both were putting their noses for the first time (and from which they wouldn’t come out of!). More specifically, at EIAR, the then RAI, where Federico had proposed the screenplay for the radio comedy “The Adventures of Cico and Pallina“. Giulietta had been hired to interpret the voice of the female character and despite their extremely different personalities (complementary, we might say!), it was a coup de foudre: Fellini claimed to have been born the day he saw Giulietta for the first time. Giulietta studied Letters at the time, but she also devoted herself to acting, dancing and singing. She was “a little chilli pepper“, always smiling, while Fellini, with eyes that were always serious, restless and inquisitive, moved between satirical cartoons and humorous scripts for radio programs, in search of his path.
He found it alongside Giulietta: they began to collaborate in film productions together starting with the first film, “The Road”, in which Fellini directed and Giulietta recited. It was an international success which earned Fellini his first Oscar for best foreign film, followed immediately by a second for the “The Nights of Cabiria“, in which Giulietta played the protagonist. Charlie Chaplin called her “the actress I admire most“, because of the expressiveness, innocence and childish, delicate sincerity that distinguished her.
From then on Fellini was consecrated as an innovative genius of cinema, giving life to films that intertwined the chaotic and imaginative thread of his dreams with that of reality, mixing fairy tales and misery, sacred and profane. They worked together on 7 films in total, many of which earned Giulietta awards as an actress, often from abroad.
If their professional partnership was so great, how was the sentimental relationship between Giulietta and Federico Fellini?
Certainly more complicated, starting with the couple’s failed attempts to have a child. The first pregnancy was interrupted after Giulietta fell down the stairs, then, in 1943, little Pier Federico was born. Unfortunately, however, Pier survived only 11 days and his passing caused the couple immense pain. Having no children made them become “son and daughter of the other”, as Masina said; but the two had always been very close… even when Federico was at work he went around with a bag of tokens in order to call his wife several times during the day to ask how her day was going.
It is known, however, that in the director’s life there was room for a large number of other women, sensual and statuesque just like those in his films, and the opposite of Giulietta. But despite his betrayals, he always returned to Giulietta and the couple never separated because theirs was the strongest bond.
A sentiment crowned when Fellini, in 1993, was awarded the Oscar for the Career. It was his last and most important and when he collected his prize, he uttered nothing but these words: “Let me make just one name, the name of an actress, who is also my wife, thank you dear Giulietta, and please, stop crying!“.
1993 was their last year together. Following a stroke, Federico Fellini was hospitalised in Rimini, meanwhile Giulietta had discovered she had lung cancer, something which she tried to hide from Federico. He wrote to her “You know you really are my life. Only you make me feel at ease and can really keep me company, always together sweet Giulietta. Best wishes for a thousand seasons with me“. Giulietta often visited Federico in hospital. During one of these visits, however, after she bent down, the turban that hid the effects of her chemotherapy fell and Fellini understood everything and so one night he fled to Rome to be with her. A few days later, however, he suffocated at lunch and went into a coma. He died ten days later. In an interview Giulietta said, “Ours is a very beautiful love story, to which I don’t say that I can’t believe it, but I wish it would never end“, and in fact, not much time did pass between their deaths… It seems that they really could not stand to be apart!
If you would like to share this story with your children or grandchildren, or any other young reader for that matter, then I recommend the beautiful picture book “Giulietta and Federico”, written by Federica Iacobelli and illustrated by Puck Koper. Fresh from the press, the book was released this year to mark Fellini’s centenary.
Buy the story
Both Cico and Pallina always have the same dream: every night they see two characters, Giulietta and Federico, embarking on daring journeys, losing each other and getting back together, discovering incredible landscapes.
But a woman named Giulietta and a man named Federico really existed. They lived in the last century, the twentieth century, the
century of Cinema. And they met one another to give life to two radio characters, Cico and Pallina, and their adventures.
A dreamlike and lyrical book about the production and poetics of Federico Fellini, and the love story with his wife, the actress
Giulietta Masina, on the centenary of his birth.