Friday, March 13, 2009

Tullio Pinelli Dead at 100

Tullio Pinelli, who wrote on over eighty movies and worked with director Federico Fellini on some of his most famous works, passed on March 7 at the age of 100.

Pinelli was born in Turin, Piedmont, Italy. His father was a judge. Pinelli served in the a cavalry regiment in the Italian Army before going onto a career as a civil lawyer. By night he would write plays. Eventually his stage dramas began to attract attention, and Pinelli broke into screen writing. His first screenplay was for the 1944 film In cerca di felicita. Pinelli soon found himself regularly writing screenplays, including such movies as Il Bandito. His career would take a turn when on day he in 1946 he was at the Piazza Barberini in Rome reading a newspaper in a kiosk. He struck up a discussion with another young man reading the same paper. That young man was Federico Fellini, also a young screenwriter. Naturally, their conversation veered towards film. It was perhaps inevitable that the two would work together.

Indeed, one of the first projects on which Pinelli and Fellini worked together would cause a bit of a stir. They co-wrote the segment "Il Miracolo" of the movie L'Amore, (1948). "Il Miracolo" would prove to be historic for more than being the first screenplay produced by Pinelli and Fellini. Considered sacrilegious, "Il Miracolo" was initially banned in New York City cinemas by Commissioner of Licences Edward McCaffrey. While McCaffrey's ban would be overturned in court, the New York State Board of Regents (the official censorship board of the state) itself revoked the licence of L'Amore on the grounds that "Il Miracolo" was a "...mockery or profaning of religious beliefs..." The legal battle would to overturn the ban would eventually make its way to the United States Supreme Court, who in 1952 finally ruled that motion pictures are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, just as books and newspapers are. As a result "Il Miracolo" nor any other film could be banned on religious grounds or any other grounds that would violate freedom of speech.

Like "Il Miracolo," Fellini and Pinelli's early work would be for other filmmakers: Senza pieta, Il Passatore, and Il Mulino del Po. Eventually, however, the two would work on films which Fellini would direct. Nineteen fifty three would see the two men write screenplays for I Vitelloni and a segment of L'Amore in citta, directed by Fellini. For the next several years, then, Tullio Pinelli and Federico Fellini would write the screenplays for Fellini's greatest films: La Strada, Le Notti di Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, and Giulietta degli spiriti. The partnership between Tullio Pinelli and Federico Fellini came to an end in 1965 when the two disagreed over the nature of the title character of Giulietta degli spiriti.

His collaboration with Fellini ended, Pinelli would go onto work with Pietro Germi on such films as L'Immorale, Alfredo, Alfredo, and Amici miei. Pinelli would also work on such films as Serafino, Per le antiche scale, and La Voce. He would work with Fellini again. The two were reunited when Federico Fellini visited Tullio Pinelli to ask him to help with Ginger e Fred. The two men would not only work on Ginger e Fred together, but also on La Voce della luna, Fellini's final film as director, and the screenplay for the upcoming film Viaggio a Tulum.

There can be no doubt that Tullio Pinelli was one of the greatest screenwriters of all time. As director Federico Fellini was often credited with the quality of such classics as La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. It must be pointed out that those films might not have been as great as they were if not for the skill of Tullio Pinelli as a writer. Both with and without Federico Fellini, he wrote some of the greatest films of all time. It was perhaps not enough that he was a great writer, it must be also be pointed out that Pinelli was prolific as well. He wrote well over 70 films in his life, in a career that spanned sixty five years. It is the rare screenwriter who can boast of a career so long and so filled with classic films. Tullio Pinelli was such a screenwriter.

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