Featured: Helplessly Cool Mastroianni Defined Style

Helplessly Cool Mastroianni Defined Style

By Benjamin Shahrabani
February 20, 2015
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If an actor ever truly embodied the word ‘style,’ Marcello Mastroianni was that man. The suave Italian and the word became one and the same after his career-defining turn as playboy journalist Marcello Rubini in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, an exposé of Rome’s wealthy socialites and partygoers. His other work includes 8 ½; Divorce, Italian Style; Marriage, Italian Style; and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. He is one of only three actors to win Best Actor twice in Cannes and was thrice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

For an actor so accomplished, Mastroianni preferred the theater to the screen.

“The stage—I love it!” he declared. “Film is bad for actors—we go soft. I do plays to clean myself. Inside and out. It’s like a cure.”

Further to his point, Mastroianni once observed of studio films: “They come for you in the morning in a limousine; they take you to the studio; they stick a pretty girl in your arms…They call that a profession? Come on!”

On stage or screen, or off of both, his style wasn’t an act. Legend has it that Mastroianni once owned thirty-seven suits–none of which had he never worn. Just in case, I suppose. But his taste in clothes, whether he wore them or not, was always impeccable, and classic. This taste extended to his automotive predilections as well: Mastroianni drove a number of stylish cars, both on-screen and off.

In La Dolce Vita, Mastroianni memorably drove both a wonderful Triumph TR3A and a Lancia Flaminia Convertible. In Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, Sophia Loren lets Mastroianni drive her 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Convertible. Loren, shall we say, “distracts” Mastroianni when they are out for a drive, and he crashes the car, damaging its fender. Doubtless, many of the ticket holders to those films not only coveted those cars but also the life of the man driving them.

Off-screen, women and cars featured prominently in Mastroianni’ life, and he was particularly fond of Maseratis and Lancias.He owned two early-series Maserati Quattroportes–sedans that were driven by the most important industrialists and film stars of the day. Perhaps his most significant ride was the 1964 Lancia Flaminia 2800 3C SS “Double Bubble.” It was the very first car from the new series and was ordered new by the actor. The car was also the Turin Motor Show display model, but Mastroianni did not like the color when he first saw it and so he had it repainted in a dark chestnut shade of brown.

Towards the end of his career, while performing at Milan’s Teatro Nuovo, Mastroianni was able to sit once again at the wheel of the Lancia and was visibly moved by being in his old car again. Few cars can be considered iconic, but the Lancia, like its former owner, is one of them and is a perfect example of the word style, just like its former owner. 

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Martin James
Martin James

To his great credit he was also one of the few Italian film royalty not drawn in by the seduction [ and marketing on behalf of Enzo ] of owning a Ferrari . Preferring as stated his beloved Lancias along with the occasional Maserati . Back when Maserati was Maserati and not just a detuned rebadged Ferrari .. not to mention Lancias not just being badge engineered FIAT’s , Alfas and .. [ choke ] Chryslers