Federico Fellini in conversation with Dave Garroway – The Today Show – April 15, 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
It’s hard to imagine a filmgoer spitting on Federico Fellini, or being challenged to a duel over perceived disrespect of an entire class of people, but apparently when it came out, La Dolce Vita did just that.
Audiences in Italy were divided; you either passionately loved La Dolce Vita or you passionately hated La Dolce Vita – there was no middle ground and certainly no ambivalence.
A film that has gone on to achieve masterpiece status and universally called one of the best movies ever made was once considered to be borderline obscene – mired in an ocean of sleaze, glamorizing characters who were contemptible at best, a thinly veiled slice of Italian pornography masquerading as art.
But Federico Fellini was never one to shy away from controversy. Over a career that spanned several decades, Fellini either contributed to or directed some of the greatest (and most controversial at the time) films in cinema history.
But in 1960, La Dolce Vita was creating an uproar throughout Italy. It hadn’t been released internationally but was already grabbing headlines in the international press. This was the film you had to see in order to find out what the big deal was.
And so The Today Show, setting up shop in Rome in anticipation of Easter Sunday and broadcasting a special program from The Vatican had already heard about the uproar. Interviewer Dave Garroway had seen the film and wanted to interview Fellini about it. The result is a six+ minute interview, with Fellini stating from the beginning that his English was terrible and that he would do the interview in Italian by way of an interpreter. The gist is his surprise that the Italian audience felt so strongly about it, but truths to tell, he was thrilled by the publicity. The end result is a live broadcast of an interview with Federico Fellini.
If you haven’t seen it yet, La Dolce Vita is required viewing for even the most casual moviegoer. In the meantime, here is that interview, as it was broadcast on April 15, 1960.