Obituary: Federico Fellini

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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH I know the 'de mortuis' principles no longer apply to obituaries, I found John Baxter's words about Fellini (4 November, further to the obituary by Gilbert Adair, 1 November) mean-spirited, writes Jonathan Cecil. In his recent critical biography of the Maestro his account of the making of And The Ship Sails On - the Fellini film in which I was privileged to appear - was far from accurate.

Of course Fellini was a showman, a fantasist, a flamboyant line-shooter in the Barnum league. He was also a genius: he had a gift akin, it seems, to Tyrone Guthrie's for galvanising a crowd of wildly disparate actors into a vital, riotous unit.

He was also spontaneously kind-hearted. I can give two examples of this quality. He employed a once-celebrated circus clown whose legs had been amputated after a trapeze fall, although this artist was inessential to the finished film. On New Year's Eve 1982-83 he invited all the cast back to his flat after giving one of his numerous generous dinners, and insisted that all the British actors rang home at midnight at his expense. (He was especially kind to us - finding us more disciplined than Italians and less intense than Americans.)

He was a big man. Alas, there seems to be a yawning chasm between film-makers - be they directors, technicians or actors - and many film critics.