The Master of Tragicomedy

The charming workaholic didn't like his skinny legs.

Born in a small town, he grew up in Turin & Rome.
His father, a hard-up carpenter, would go blind.
His mother, deaf.

At 14, by chance, a film role—extra at a grape harvest.
Ten lire & all the grapes he could eat.

Interned in a German labor camp, Mastroianni escaped
to Venice, then after false starts, threw himself into acting.

When Fellini was casting La Dolce Vita:
I need a face with no personality—like yours.

On the set, they'd sit together, giggling like schoolboys.


In The Organizer (1963) by Mario Monicelli,
Mastroianni plays a gentle radical, a vagabond professor,
who helps Turin mill workers organize a strike.
He knows the strike will fail.

Faux daguerreotype to evoke late 19th century Turin.
Grizzled workers, in ragged clothes, at every turn,
disparage the migrant Sicilians, call them 'Ethiopians.'

The fight scenes between strikers & scabs, a gut lesson
in labor history.

That's Mastroianni beneath the heavy coat,
scarf, glasses & beard.


Mastroianni saw himself as a dreamer, a non-hero.
If I'm not working, I'm bored.

When he died, fans & mourners turned off the water
& draped Trevi Fountain in black.

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