Oscar: Nights of Cabiria, Second Foreign Language Winner

Le Notti Di Cabiria (Italy)

In the second year of the Best Foreign-Language Oscar category, the five nominees were: Federico Fellini’s “The Nights of Cabiria” from Italy, which won the award, “The Devil Came at Night” from the Federal Republic of Germany, “Gates of Paris” from France, “Mother India” from India, and “Nine Lives” from Norway.
Starring Giulietta Masina in one of greatest performances, Fellini’s masterpiece, set on the outskirts of Rome, relates in a realistic yet serio-comic way the adventures of a Roman prostitute, who manages to remain upbeat and even optimistic despite an endless series of disasters and mishaps.
“Cabiria” is based on a sharp script, penned by Fellini, regular collaborators, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, and the young Pier Paolo Pasolini, before he struck on his own as a major director.
Among the men she meets is a handsome movie star (Amedeo Nazzari), who picks her up during a brawl and brings him to his gorgeous estate, only to discard her when she is no longer of use to him. But eventually she meets a shy and withdrawn accountant (Francois Perier), who shows genuine interest in her.
Though she doesn’t conform to our expectations of a screen prostitute, Masina, with her childlike innocence, renders yet another great performance as a prostitute with the heart of gold, who takes life as it comes, never losing faith that life can be better.
Made back to back with the 1956 Oscar-winning “La Strada,” also with Giulietta Masina, “Nights of Cabiria” placed Fellini at the forefront of international directors, and is part of an amazing string of innovative hits, such as “La Dolce Vita” and “81/2.”
“Nights of Cabiria” is joining the distinguished company of “Spartacus,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “Vertigo,” all of which have been restored and presented on the big screen before getting a second, longer life on video.
In what is considered to be one of her most heart-breaking performances, Masina, Fellini’s wife (who died just months after her husband in 1993) plays an extremely naive prostitute who endures an endless series of devastating misfortunes. 
The film was restored in Rome by Canal Plus, the French TV and film company, after finding a reasonably clean print in a French fine grain labeled, “Les Nuits de Cabiria–Version Longue.”   New footage includes a 6-minute sequence, which had never been seen in the picture’s theatrical Lashowings. Labeled by scholars as “The Man with the Sack,” scene describes an encounter on the shabby, poverty-stricken outskirts of Rome between Cabiria and a mysterious man who dispenses food to the needy from a bag on his back.    
Various reasons are given for the deletion of this crucial, harsh scene–despite Fellini’s strong protests. According to some, the Roman Catholic Church had objections to the portrayal of the church as ignoring the needs of the homeless. But other sources claim that producer Dino De Laurentiis felt that the ultra-realistic sequence, which appears in the middle of the film, was too cruel and slowed down the proceedings. No matter what, cinephiles will rejoice at seeing “Cabiria,” as it was originally intended by its master, then at the peak of his form.
Long in the public domain, “Cabiria” was released theatrically in New York and L.A. by Rialto Pictures, a new company established last year by Film Forum’s Bruce Goldstein and former Strand co-president Mike Thomas. Rialto’s first venture, Jean-Luc Godard’s classic, “Contempt” (which was co-presented with Strand) scored a major theatrical success last summer. The adventurous company intends to release in the future classics by Bunuel, Carol Reed, Michael Powers and other auteurs.                      
The new “Nights of Cabiria” also includes revised, more accurate subtitles, new optically reprinted credits and restoration of numerous frames. 
End Note
“Nights of Cabiria” served as the inspiration for Bob Fosse’s musical “Sweet Charity” (1968), starring Shirley Maclaine.
   
Cast
Cabiria (Giulietta Masina)
Oscar D’Onforio, accountant (Francois Perier)
Alberto Nazzari, movie star (Amedeo Nazzari)
Hypnotist (Aldo Silvana)
Wanda, Cabiria’s friend (Franca Marzi)
Cripple (Mario Passante)
Matilda, the prostitute (Pina Gualandri)
Polidor, the monk (Ennio Girolami)