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Mastroianni Leaves a Memorable, Enduring Legacy

December 20, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marcello Mastroianni, the great Italian star who died Thursday at age 72, left behind a legacy of memorable films on video.

One of his earliest hits was "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (Ingram International), a delightful 1958 caper comedy about a band of inept crooks who try to rob a jewelry store.

Mastroianni teamed with the legendary director Federico Fellini for several acclaimed films. Their best is 1960's "La Dolce Vita" (Ingram), a landmark, influential film about an Italian journalist covering the glamorous show-biz world in Rome. Winner of the best film award at Cannes.

Three years later, they collaborated on the Oscar-winning "8 1/2" (MPI). Mastroianni is perfect as a self-absorbed Italian director struggling with a new project who wanders in and out of fantasies and childhood memories. Claudia Cardinale and Anouk Aimee also star. Nina Rota penned the magnificent score.

Mastroianni and Sophia Loren created magic in the several films in which they starred together.

In 1964's funny "Marriage Italian Style" (Starmaker Entertainment), Mastroianni gets more than he bargains for when he promises his dying mistress he'll marry her if she survives. Vitorrio DeSica directed this fluffy souffle.

That same year, Mastroianni and Loren starred in the equally amusing comedy "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" (JEF Films). This sexy trilogy is best known for Loren's hot striptease for Mastroianni. Thirty years later, Loren and Mastroianni did a variation of that famous scene in Robert Altman's otherwise disappointing comedy "Ready to Wear" (Miramax).

Mastroianni received three best actor Oscar nominations during his career. His first nod was for the wry, sexy 1962 comedy "Divorce Italian-Style" (Ingram). Mastroianni shines as a bored, middle-age man who schemes how to get rid of his wife so he can marry his teenage cousin.

In 1977, Mastroianni scored another nomination for his touching performance as a lonely gay radio announcer who meets a frumpy housewife (Loren) on the day of Hitler's visit to Rome in "A Special Day" (Columbia).

Mastroianni received his third nomination for 1987's "Dark Eyes" (Fox), as a weak-willed man trapped in a marriage of convenience who falls for a mysterious Russian woman he meets at a health spa. Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.

Scrooges Everywhere!: Want a Dickens of a Christmas? Then check out the numerous film and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" available on video.

Seymour Hicks adapted and stars with Maurice Evans in "Scrooge" (Movies Unlimited, [800] 4MOVIES), a version produced in England in 1935.

Reginald Owen makes a fine Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" (MGM, $20), a Hollywood adaptation from 1938, which features Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit. Leo G. Carroll also stars.

One of the best, if not the best, version of "A Christmas Carol" stars the wonderful British character actor Alastair Sim as the infamous miser. Produced in England in 1951, this literate, terrific film (Home Vision, $20) also stars Kathleen Harrison and Mervyn Johns.

Fredric March is in top form as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" (Carousel Film and Video; Movies Unlimited, $15), a musical version originally shown on TV, on the "Shower of Stars" variety series back in 1954. Basil Rathbone is on hand as Marley. Look for a young Bonnie Franklin as one of the Cratchit kids.

Baby boomers should enjoy "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (Paramount, $13), a delightful, animated TV musical from 1962 with the myopic Magoo (the voice of Jim Backus) as Scrooge. Bob Merrill and Jules Styne wrote the sprightly score.

Albert Finney can't carry a tune to save his life but he gives a winning performance as you-know-who in the moderately entertaining musical "Scrooge" (Fox, $15) from 1970. Alec Guinness is quite scary as Marley. Leslie Bricusse wrote the score, which includes the Oscar-nominated "Thank You Very Much."

Chuck Jones produced the Oscar-winning animated version of "A Christmas Carol" (Movies Unlimited, $13) from 1971, featuring the voice of Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Sir Michael Redgrave narrates.

Henry Winkler plays a greedy financier who learns the true meaning of Christmas in "An American Christmas Carol" (Live, $13), a TV version from 1979.

George C. Scott is perfectly cast as Scrooge in an acclaimed CBS-TV rendition of "A Christmas Carol" (Fox, $15) from 1984 that also stars David Warner, Edward Woodard, Roger Rees and Susannah York.

Even Bill Murray can't save "Scrooged" (Paramount, $15), an overblown comedy from 1988 in which he plays a pompous TV executive visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Michael Caine seems to be enjoying himself as Scrooge in the lavish but ultimately disappointing "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (Jim Henson, $15), a musical version from 1992. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy play the Cratchits. Paul Williams wrote the less-than-memorable tunes.

Minneapolis' renowned Guthrie Theater has brought its festive live stage version of "A Christmas Carol" to video (Movies Unlimited).

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